Chicago Sun-Times
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Sweet column: Obama boasts about affordable housing experience. After Sun-Times reveals relationship with slumlord

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WASHINGTON -- Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama boasted Tuesday of his experience with affordable housing.
His comments came a day after a story in the Chicago Sun-Times questioned the 17-year relationship between Obama, a former state senator, and a Chicago slumlord, Antoin "Tony" Rezko.


The article, by reporter Tim Novak, said Obama, who worked as a lawyer and legislator to improve living conditions for the poor, took campaign donations from Rezko as Rezko's low-income buildings -- including 11 in Obama's state Senate district -- were falling into disrepair. Many of Rezko's housing deals -- 15 buildings with 400 apartments between 1995 and 1998 -- involved teaming with community development groups, tapping into a mix of private financing and loans from the city or state, federal low-income-housing tax credits and bank loans.

Responding to the story on Monday in Chicago, Obama said he took political contributions from Rezko not knowing he was a slumlord with troubled buildings in his district.

Tuesday in Washington, Obama was asked about a "crisis of affordable housing here in the United States" by an audience member during a presidential forum sponsored by the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Obama said as part of his reply, "I have experience in this area, having worked at the community level."

Obama said the "old models" once used in Chicago -- segregated high-rises that "concentrated poverty" -- were a "mistake."

Instead, said Obama, "What we need to do is get community development corporations and faith-based organizations, synagogues, others that are interested in setting up not-for-profit 501c3's to build affordable housing that is integrated into the community, integrated economically, by the way, not just racially. And the federal government's role then is to properly fund and subsidize those efforts."

QUESTIONED ABOUT ISRAEL, MUSLIM TIES.

Another question at the forum was about Obama's support from the Muslim-American and Arab-American communities and "when push comes to shove, how can you make us as Jews totally comfortable in addressing the issues in Israel?"

Obama has received considerable fund-raising support from the Jewish community, and one of his staff fund-raisers was at the NJDC event. Obama said the "underlying premise" of the question was "false."

"My support within the Jewish community probably has been much more significant than any support that I have received from the Muslim-American community, although I welcome and actively seek support in the Muslim-American community as well.''

9 Comments

Responding to the story on Monday in Chicago, Obama said he took political contributions from Rezko not knowing he was a slumlord with troubled buildings in his district.

Regarding what Obama knew or what he knows, is his nose growing at all?

In regards to Senator Obama;s comments. I find them very unoriginal. Your relationship with Rezko speaks volumes for your understanding, knowledge, and fortitude for developing and maintaining affordable housing. You cannot hide behind the "veil" and say "I didn't know". Not a man as educated and politically savy as yourself. The reference to the veil is from Dubois. The speech you just made is exactly the type of rhetoric that opens the door for people loke Rezko to come in and rape communities and shake your hand and many other Black leaders at the same time. I've often wondered in dismay why so many vacant lots, abandoned properties, and half finished rehabs dot the southside and westside of the city that "works". All the monies and properties were being awarded to individuals that are or were politically connected. I couldn't understand if the different Aldermen and Alderwomen did not know the power of the tool of imminent domain to clear the way for a higher quality of life for affordable housing for the citizens of Chicago? Were the developers actually frightened to develop in these areas? Is the per capita income so low that no one wanted to invest? The answers are easy to see if you want to open your eyes. People like Rezko saw yours and other political leadership weakness to be a part of the "old boys network" and yielded their deceptions against you and the various communities. I only feel sad because Rev. Brazier and his efforts to revitalize the community has been tainted. So get off your high hoarse and that foul smelling rhetoric about who and what needs to be done. How about you take responsibility for your lack of involvement, oversight and participation in the raping of the efforts to improve not only the Black community, but the idea od providing decent affordable housing for all citizens of Chicago. Your begining to soung just like a politician. My faith is waning.

Law abiding, tax paying citizens listen up. Read up above how Obama says integrated and affordable housing that is integrated into the community and subsidized by the federal government is what he wants to do. In other words, he wants to put people who used to live in the projects like Cabrini Green and the Bobby Taylor Homes living next door to you in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Printers Row, Mt. Greenwood, Jefferson Park, Beverly, etc. And he wants you to pay for a portion of their rent because he wants it subsidized by the federal government. Because we all know he means tax payers when he says the federal government. So do you still want to vote for this socialist?

Please read today's (Wed./4-25) Sun-Times. Several good articles, folks. Besides Lynn's fine article. Bill Clinton is now telling democratic donors of Obama's ties with Rezko. He's not even being sneaky about it. Carole Marin wrote an excellent article. Guess what, Barack no longer walks on water. He's just another typical Cook County political hack, when its all said and done. Some of us have been saying all along wait until the Clinton team gets its political and media machine going. They play HARDBALL, all rules out the window. Obama will be lucky if he can win a dog-catchers election when its all said and done. Something else, don't expect Obama to be the vice-president nominee, either. Don't be surprised if Gov. Bill Richardson gets that. Because there are almost TWICE as many Hispanic-Americans as there are African-Americans in our country now.

"What we need to do is get community development corporations and faith-based organizations, synagogues, others that are interested in setting up not-for-profit 501c3's to build affordable housing that is integrated into the community, integrated economically, by the way, not just racially. And the federal government's role then is to properly fund and subsidize those efforts."

Senator Obama

This notion is utterly devoid of substance. What the Senator describes is in part exactly what has been occurring for nearly three decades. The approach has not proven nearly enough to meaningfully combat the issue of a lack of affordable housing. Nonprofit groups have been contending with the issue for years with limited success.

Hardly original. However, the statement does inform us: We know now that the Senator offers little to advance the affordable housing debate or the cause of those in search of decent housing beyond the status quo. If the Senator is inferring that the problem can be solved solely by newly-created, inexperienced nonprofits to the exclusion of experienced and, yes, market-driven developers then sadly the Senator either overestimates his understanding of housing or underestimates the public's ability to unmask duplicity.

Nice populist rhetoric -- but that's all.

There is a mistake in the posted by. I posted the blog that statrted with..In regards to.. not Mr. Olsen. He may have posted the one I have received credit for in error.

to Jerry: Affordable, subsidized govt. housing. Didn't we do that before? Didn't we call it "the projects"? By the way, liberals will NOT put the housing up where THEY live. They only preach, they don't practice it themselves. So Lincoln Park, Lincolnwood, Printers Row, Hyde Park, Lakeview, etc. will not be getting it. They will put it up where the 'blue-collar' working-class folks reside. Afterall, when Robert Taylor Homes were torn down, those folks were not relocated where Daley, Obama, Jackson,Sr., etc., etc., live. They were relocated to places like Hegewisch, Riverdale, Harvey, Calumet City, and Dolton.

John, you are absolutely correct when you talk about the hypocritical liberals. Although I did not know that all of those southern suburbs were dragged into it. I was just trying to make the point that a guy like Obama, with his ideas, is a dangerous individual. Although that is to be expected because he's a liberal, and as we all know liberals are dangerous what with their support of criminals and criminals rights.

Obama makes sense. He's right on about supporting the nonprofit model of affordable housing rather than the high-rise housing project model. Ignore the haters who talk about "liberal hypocrisy" - what, are we supposed to prefer the conservatives because they never even make a pretense at helping poor people? So what if prominent liberals are sometimes compromised - the conservatives are so neck-deep in the sewer of corruption and influence-peddling, they have absolutely no room to talk.
Go Obama!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 25, 2007 6:27 AM.

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