Sunday, September 23, 2012

The OBAMA You Don't Know: Slumlord Defender

Writing in his 1995 autobiography, ''Dreams of my Father,'' Barack Obama said he became ''a civil rights lawyer'' because ''to lend meaning to a community's suffering and take part in its healing -- that required something more.''  There was indeed something more to Obama's legal career, but it wasn't civil rights litigation at the Chicago law firm of Davis, Miner, Barnill & Galland, where he was employed for a decade. Most of the entries on Obama's client list for the firm were in real estate, construction and finance.

In March 1994, a year before ''Dreams" was published, Obama was the lead defense attorney on an obscure case in Cook County Court that has heretofore escaped examination by the national media. In this case, Obama defended the Chicago slumlord and powerful political ally who was charged with a long list of offenses against poor black residents. The defendant was the Woodlawn Preservation & Investment Corp., controlled by Bishop Arthur Brazier, a South Side black preacher and political operator. (See photo of this hypocrite)

Brazier, who liked to brag that he was a tireless advocate for the Woodlawn neighborhood, had a burgeoning real estate empire including the low-income housing project at 6223 South University. Today MapQuest describes the Woodlawn area as ''quaint and sedate.'' But in the winter of 1994, it was a frigid hell. Bishop Brazier was closely allied with Obama and his firm, not least because partner Davis was on WPICs Board of Directors. It was Davis that received the summons when the city filed suit on the South University apartments. The charges were shocking!

Brazier's WPIC had failed for nearly a month to supply heat and running water for the complex's 15 crumbing apartments. On Jan. 18, 1994, the day the heat went off, Chicago high temperature was 11 BELOW zero, the day after it was 19 degrees below!  Even worse, the residents were then ordered to leave the complex in the winter chill without the due process they would have been afforded by an eviction procedure. The commissioner of Chicago's Buildings Department slammed WPIC for multiple code violations, including ''failure to maintain adequate heat for every family,'' and ''failure to provide adequate supplies of hot or cold running water.''

Things were so bad that the city's outraged council declared that ''the levying of a fine is not adequate'' and asked the court for a permanent injunction against WPIC, appoint a receiver and impose a lien to pay for repairs and court costs. But Obama did his work so well that in the end, on March 3, 1994, the court simply fined WPIC $50! Only then did Obama tell the court of the forcible removal of the tenants in the bitter cold. A lawyer, who currently works for the city, termed this forcible removal in the frigid Chicago winter ''outrageous'' and said it looked like ''a way to avoid a lengthy eviction process by law. And if the tenants had leases, they should have been bought out with a cash payment in return for leaving the premises early.''

Obama also helped negotiate a real estate deal where the South University apartments became part of a syndication. Brazier remained as the controlling general partner, while the syndicated investors became limited partners. A housing expert with direct knowledge of WPICs real estate dealings told the Washington Examiner that the syndication deal involving the apartments likely was being negotiated when the build lost heat. ''The property was one of five that was bundled together into a partnership and syndicated with tax credits.''  Getting rid of the tenants was the ''prelude to being put into the partnership, which ultimately was for refinancing and syndication.''

The WPIC case illustrates how Obama functioned at the centre of a historic accommodation then developing between the Daley machine and its traditional opponents among the city's liberal reformers. Lubricating the deal was a flood of public, state and federal tax credits and funding for low-income housing projects that would enrich developers and empower ambitious politicians like Obama at the expense of taxpayers and, especially, the poor black people.

Brazier was not merely an Obama legal client, he was a brother-in-arms.. A disciple of Chicago's infamous radical activist, Saul Alinsky (see previous posts), Brazier was also a close political ally of Daley's and one of the key movers and shakers among the city's progressive (commie) political elite who in years ahead would advance Obama at every turn. Obama continued to do legal work with Brazier involving the establishment of four limited partnerships with a crooked developer named Tony Rezko. When Obama became a Senator, he was a champion for pushing for government subsidies targeted directly at Rezko's businesses. Their 15 year relationship is much reported and little understood. Over that time Mr. Rezko continued the corrupt tradition of making faulty apartments for the poor and was finally stopped. Good old Tony is now serving, from 2008, a 10-year federal prison sentence for fraud and attempted bribery on state government contracts.

The Way I See It....Obama surrounded himself with people who got rich on Chicago's $1.6 billion neighborhood demolition program known officially as the Plan for Transformation. Robert Stark, director of Harold Washington Institute for Policy Studies, says, ''When you're talking about demolition of housing, there was a great deal of controversy because the evicted poor people were not given the opportunity to come back to the housing that replaced the demolished housing.'' At least 25,000 low-income apartments in were destroyed under the program, which forced thousands of poor black families -- many of whom lived in Obama's state Senate district -- to move out of the city. Obama's political allies directed the effort without one word of complaint from him.

''What we see is that the Chicago core of the Obama coalition is made up of blacks who've moved up by moving poor blacks out of the community,'' stated the late Robert Finch, freelance journalist. He claims that Obama sold out to a corrupt Chicago establishment."Obama's political base comes primary from Chicago FIRE -- the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate industry. It's also true that key black members of the Obama inner circle (now in the White House) are Daley administration alumni, but they moved up as Obama did.'' Finch singled out Obama's most trusted aide, Valarie Jarrett (see previous postings) as one who stood out among those who made fortunes as real estate operators. Jarrett once worked for Mayor Daley, then later became CEO of the Habitat Co., one of the city's largest real estate development firms. "These political insiders became wealthy while cloaking themselves as reformers. They are people who wear halos when in fact they are predators." Finch summarised, ''I don't think this tiger will ever change his spots now that he has even more power.''

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