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Home Home On The Range
 
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 from HUD.

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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Copyright (c) 2003 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.


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