I was born in Chicago. I grew up there, went to school there, commuted from one side of the city to the other for my undergraduate college years and then left for the USAF when I was twenty-one. I lived in the city, not the suburbs. I watched the city as it changed and evolved. That is why I look at Sen. Obama and his “life-work” of community organizing with such deep skepticism.
Here is an excellent summary of Chicago and the modern history of low-income housing projects:
Chicago and Obama Explained
I was born the same year as Obama’s mother. As I grew up, my family occasionally took me to the Southside “Back of the Yards” neighborhood where my father’s older brother owned a small deli and candy store. He lived in the back of the store and always wore a union button on his tweed cap. It was a rough neighborhood that was immersed in the smell of the stockyards. When I got older, I would know that it was the home of Mayor Richard J. Daley, the father of the incumbent mayor of the city. It was union workers, teamsters and butchers, along with all of the enforcement, corruption and violence that the terms connote in the ‘40s.
Occasionally we visited my father’s older sister. She was an old maid, in the terminology of the period. She lived in the Hyde Park Hotel on 55th Street. It was a formerly “Gold Coast” neighborhood that had fallen on hard times during the depression and now was an oasis of bohemians and University of Chicago intellectuals trying to emulate New York, surrounded by a very depressed, crime-ridden African-American ghetto. Sen. Obama’s neighborhood and district in the Illinois senate.
As I became a teen-ager, the Interstate highways ripped through the heart of the city. Literally. Lines were drawn on a map, neighborhoods were condemned under eminent domain laws and people were unceremoniously displaced. Bull-dozers cut through homes, stores, schools and churches with impunity. But, they didn’t cut through the public housing projects. They were sacrosanct. Homes could be sacrificed, but the projects couldn’t.
By the time I was in college, on the Southside, the collapse of the projects was apparent to anyone with eyes. The first constructions, like Cabrini Green and the State Street developments were jungles of drugs, crime and despair. Despite the evidence, new construction was continuous. Ghetto tenements were bull-dozed and modern high-rises thrust skyward, beautiful and clean…but only for a few years. Then the grass and landscaping was dead, windows on the façade were boarded up and even the police feared to enter. Like the infantryman on Omaha Beach, a white guy had a fifteen minute life expectancy at night in the projects.
Why? Examine the American Thinker article at the link. The dynasty of Daley and the network of community organizers whose very stock in trade is human misery were making money by building. There is no risk in building housing projects. They gain the land through eminent domain. They build under government contracts. They are funded by huge federal grants. Oversight is in on the take. And the end-product doesn’t need to be sold or marketed. It simply is. No investment required. No risks taken. Huge profits rendered. Political control insured. Community dependence guaranteed.
You’ve gotta love it! Let’s franchise the operation and take it national. Yeah, that’s the ticket.