Saturday, October 18, 2008

Aerial photos of Obama's stunning State Senatorial experience

I don't hear much about Barack Obama's experience. So I decided to do a flyover of the neighborhood where Obama served as a state senator. Specifically, the apartment complexes rehabbed and managed by his biggest backers. Folks like convicted felon and (17-year friend of Barack's) Tony Rezko. And top campaign officials like Valerie Jarrett.

Here's just one of the partially uninhabitable properties called Grove Parc Plaza Apartments, a 1000-unit complex. Quoting from the Boston Globe:

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this [past] winter and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.

Allison Davis, a major fund-raiser for Obama’s US Senate campaign and a former lead partner at Obama’s former law firm. Davis, a developer, was involved in the creation of Grove Parc and has used government subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,500 units in Chicago, including a North Side building cited by city inspectors last year after chronic plumbing failures resulted in raw sewage spilling into several apartments.

Antoin “Tony” Rezko, perhaps the most important fund-raiser for Obama’s early political campaigns and a friend who helped the Obamas buy a home in 2005. Rezko’s company used subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,000 apartments, mostly in and around Obama’s district, then refused to manage the units, leaving the buildings to decay to the point where many no longer were habitable.

Campaign finance records show that six prominent developers - including Jarrett, Davis, and Rezko - collectively contributed more than $175,000 to Obama’s campaigns over the last decade and raised hundreds of thousands more from other donors. Rezko alone raised at least $200,000, by Obama’s own accounting. (This number now exceeds $500,000).

One of those contributors, Cecil Butler, controlled Lawndale Restoration, the largest subsidized complex in Chicago, which was seized by the government in 2006 after city inspectors found more than 1,800 code violations.

* * *

Obama [rewarded his backers with] legislative action as a state senator. In 2001, Obama sponsored a successful bill that increased state subsidies for private developers. The law let developers designated by the state raise up to $26 million a year by selling tax credits to Illinois residents. For each $1 in credits purchased, the buyer was allowed to decrease his taxable income by 50 cents.

The developers gave Obama their financial support. Jarrett, Davis, and Rezko all served on Obama’s campaign finance committee when he won a seat in the US Senate in 2004.

“In the winter I can feel the cold air coming through the walls and the sockets,” said Anthony Frizzell, 57, who has lived for almost two decades in a Rezmar building on South Greenwood Avenue. “They didn’t insulate it or nothing.”

Sharee Jones, who lives in another former Rezko building one block away, said her apartment was rat-infested for years.

“You could hear them under the floor and in the walls, and they didn’t do nothing about it,” Jones said.

The problems came to public attention in a dramatic way in 2004, after a sport utility vehicle driven by a suburban woman trying to buy drugs struck one of the buildings, causing it to collapse. City inspectors arrived in the ensuing glare, finding a long list of code violations, leading city officials to urge the federal government to seize the complex.

In the midst of the uproar, a small group of Lawndale residents gathered to rally against the Democratic candidate for the US Senate, Barack Obama.

The organizers had a simple message: Cecil Butler had donated $3,000 to Obama’s campaign. Habitat had close ties to Obama and Obama had remained silent about Lawndale’s plight.

Paul Johnson, who helped to organize the protest, said Obama must have known about the problems.

“How didn’t he know?” said Johnson. “Of course he knew. He just didn’t care.”

“I’m not against Barack Obama,” said Willie J.R. Fleming, an organizer with the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and a former public housing resident. “What I am against is some of the people around him.”

Jamie Kalven, a longtime Chicago housing activist, put it this way: “I hope there is not much predictive value in his history and in his involvement with that community.”

Sorry, Jamie: there is; and we should all worry.

Source: Boston Globe: Grim proving ground for Obama's housing policy and Ten degrees below zero.

Linked by: American Digest and Dan Riehl. Thanks!

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