Despite seasonal torpor hellzapoppin on many a home front.
Home is where the heart is. But sometimes, less lovesome
things can be found there too.
"Eminent domain" refers to government's right to claim private
property in the name of the public good-- typically in relation
to things such as roads. Just compensation supposedly paid. ED
has reasonable uses. But there's growing concern about overuse--
particularly when the rationale is urban blight. Some believe
that not only does ED kill to cure, but that it enables
government sponsored land grabs with the prime beneficiaries
being politicians and assorted cronies. But why be cynical? Many
cities have neighborhoods that just don't respond to treatment.
Even after tubs of taxpayer posies have been placed on corners,
garbage still refuses to haul itself to the dump and discarded
mattresses lounge in alleys saying we ain't going nowhere. Except
maybe up in flames. Codes and ordinances resist enforcement and
though Weed & Seed greens up odd pockets, the occasional cop
can't keep crime down. Sour apples say it's because charitable
slumlords with social service contracts fill rotting open door
buildings with drug thugs. For whom HUD pays more than market
rents. But hey, crime is a complex issue. So complex there's no
solution. So sez Mister ED. When in doubt, rip it out.
A municipal administration with ED in mind shops for a hired gun.
Aka The Consultant. One with a final solution rep. Since federal
dollars will fund a big part of the package, a few sessions of
legally required public input are staged. The results pruned into
shape via advisory committees packed with conflict of interested
parties. Plus flacks who play "voice of the community" and pimp
the project to the media. An oxymoronic non profit developer
revs the bulldozers. Taxpayer jack rains down. A wrecking ball
is had by all. Slumlords who did so much for the neighborhood
get properties appraised as Taj Mahals. Which puzzles block
busted homeowners who fled the nabe: their places next to the
palaces brought enough for a night at Motel 6. OK. I exaggerate.
Some got trailers on lost highways.
Eventually new buildings rise atop the graves of the old.
Construction costs for the cement block townhouses with historic
mock brick facades were high. But so are sales prices. Yet
"affordable" thanks to no down payment, no job, no savings,
no pulse, predatory mortgages. Even if half the buyers default
or are made of straw or turn out to be the same old slumlords
under another name, who cares? With some luck and no city
services, the new "neighborhood" will slide downhill fast and
another revitalization can begin.
Which reminds me-- have you heard of the Asset Control Area
Program? Alternately acronymed ACA or ACAP. Though not originally
hatched by HUD, it operates within HUD's approved revitalization
areas and is subject to HUD oversight. Launched in 1999 in 16
cities and counties, ACAP requires that HUD enter into agreements
with local partners (either units of local government or non
profit organizations) to let these partners acquire all
distressed HUD properties in revitalization areas. Most are
foreclosures-- on federally insured mortgages. By HUD's own
admittance, fraud and mismanagement often contributed to the
foreclosures. Under ACAP, the properties are sold to the approved
local partners at well below appraisal value. The savings to pass
into rehabs and discounted sales. If you wonder how the more
strapped cities can buy and rehabilitate such properties, the
answer is they don't. For instance, the city of Rochester, New
York, when partaking of ACAP in 2000, bought 666 HUD homes in 11
zip codes, yet only spent $256,000 for staff. 4.6 million dollars
came via the federal government in community-development grants.
If the grants were Community Development Block Grants, they came
In 2002 ACAP was suspended by HUD nationally. Citing a need
"to ensure program integrity and success". Seems not enough
discounts were passed along to buyers, too many properties were
being sold by for-profit entities and not enough rehabbing was
happening. Now, after a lot of lobbying pressure, ACAP is back.
In more areas. Presumably, after tweaking the program, HUD's
Inspector General has "found no instances of potential program
requirement violations". Instances of potential events are indeed
hard to find. But not hard to imagine, based on prior experience.
ACAP is not some small, targeted experiment, but a huge program
with extensive reach. Think of those 666 properties in a medium
size city like Rochester. The 16 original ACAP areas stretched
from Vermont to California and included cities such as Cleveland,
Miami, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. ACAP puts a whole lot
of real estate into a whole lot of select hands. Real estate
essentially owned by the taxpayer. Given HUD's less than stellar
record with overseeing single family home programs (the initial
rationale for ACAP's inception) one can't help but envision some
pretty extensive "potential program requirement violations".
Plus the potential for extension and abuse of political power in
myriad municipalities. Add ED to the equation and one can imagine
a potential for some cities to end up with very little real
private property, no reliable property values and few organic
neighborhoods. Just endless rounds of taxpayer funded, crony
rigged real estate games. With city services reserved for those
who play best.
Speaking of games "terror broker" Kevin Ingram was released from
prison a few months ago. The former head of the mortgage backed
securities desk at Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank was arrested
prior to 9/11, while arranging to launder 2.5 million dollars
for friends engaged in buying illegal weapons. Specifically
Stinger Missiles. They were also seeking, but had not obtained,
nuclear related materials. The weapons were intended for what
were at first called "undisclosed" Mid East terrorists. By last
August, Dateline NBC and the Washington Post were reporting that
the weapons were slated for either Osama bin Laden, the Taliban,
or Kashmiri terrorists, via sympathetic elements in Pakistan's
Intelligence Agency. After 9/11, Pakistan was an important U.S.
ally. Compared to other terror cases, Ingram & crew got a soft
pedal. Or as an acquaintance of his wrote QT: they threw the
booklet at him. In his Wall Street days, Ingram was a high flying
bird-- a one time protégé of ex Goldman Sachs CEO and now New
Jersey Senator Jon Corzine. The Reverend Jesse Jackson helped
negotiate Ingram's highly profitable dismissal from Deutsche
bank. To many, Ingram's high life lent his other life an air of
the unreal. His actions were inexplicable. Hence, unbelievable.
Kevin Ingram did 18 months. Perhaps "terror slacker" John Walker
Lindh, as he looks ahead to decades behind bars, wishes he'd
helped facilitate Stinger Missile sales to the Taliban, rather
than tote a rifle amidst them. Or that he'd spent less time
collecting hip hop music and more time skipping out on HUD deals
in Harlem. Which was another page from Ingram's resume.
Ingram's weird tale touches many places. In Jersey City, New
Jersey, he was part of a small construction company. One of his
partners was doing arms deals and wanted to launder the cash.
Through him, Ingram also got to know Mohammed "Mike" Malik,
originally from Pakistan and a long time Jersey City resident.
Along with selling arms and being an "associate of Middle Eastern
terrorists" Malik had a number of business interests. Including
a long distance, phone card company and a deli/liquor store
across from city hall. Malik was public spirited. When the nabe
was heavily Hispanic, his One Stop Shop raised beer prices in
honor of Puerto Rican Day Parades. Malik was also on the zoning
board, under two Democratic mayors including convicted bank
fraud Merry Jerry McCann. Malik later contributed $1000 to the
gubernatorial campaign of Republican Mayor Bret Schundler. After
the arms case broke, McCann described Malik as a political
hanger-on and Schundler said he wouldn't know him if he met him.
In Jersey City developers rule. Odd that a political Pupkin could
hang-on at the zoning board. And that a campaign contribution
from an ultra local businessmen bought no face recognition at
city hall. Equally odd is that at the time of the Dateline NBC
story, "terror deli man" Mike Malik still strode the streets--
jailess in Jersey City.
From Montana, Lance Olsen sent quotes by Professor Louise
Shelley, Director of the Center for Transnational Organized Crime
and Corruption at American University. In 10/97 Dr. Shelley
predicted that "...transnational organized crime would be a
defining issue of the 21st century". Huh. Lance Olsen writes on
related topics. At bottom appears a link to an article of his
dealing with organized crime in Japan's construction industry
and its wider environmental impact. With a particular emphasis
on deforestation. It's an original, perceptive piece. Well
researched and sharply written. It's archived with Transparency
International and the link provided is to a Tidepool posting.
Meanwhile, back in Jersey, Sergio Bichao at DaHiller in Hillside
continues to bust corruptoid chops. He recently posted a killer
analysis of what local political coverage should be-- but
seldom is. DaLink below.
Remember-- Mi Casa Su Casa. And vice versa..
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Lance Olsen, Organized Crime & The Forest: Could the Japanese Mob be Linked
to Deforestation? http://www.tidepool.org/features/olsen3.cfm
Sergio Bichao, INFORMATION: ANATHEMA TO CORRUPTION http://dahiller.tripod.com/nj_press.html
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