Monday, February 4, 2008

Merely one exemplar of the privatization racket

If those pesky housing authority directors refuse to sell state property to some crony contractor at a fraction of their market value, punish them until they have practically no other choice:
Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson demanded that the Philadelphia Housing Authority transfer a $2 million public property to a developer at a substantial discount, then retaliated against the housing authority when it refused to do so, a recent court filing alleges.

The authority's director, Carl Greene, contends in a court affidavit that Jackson called Philadelphia's mayor in 2006 to demand the transfer to the developer, Kenny Gamble, a former soul-music songwriter who is a business friend of Jackson's. Jackson's aides followed up with "menacing" threats about the property and other housing programs in at least a dozen letters and phone calls over an 11-month period, Greene said in an interview.

Greene and his colleagues have alleged in the court filing that Philadelphia is now paying a severe price for disobeying a Bush Cabinet official. The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently vowed to strip the city's housing authority of its ability to spend some federal funds, a move that the authority said could raise rents for most of its 84,000 low-income tenants and force the layoffs of 250 people.

The housing authority responded by filing a civil suit in December against HUD and Jackson, in which Greene claimed that the actions by Jackson's department are "retaliatory" and that the Bush administration has exaggerated the troubles it cited as grounds for stripping the funds. Greene said the developer failed to deliver on contracts, leading the housing agency to conclude that the transfer would be improper.

"The secretary was determined that we turn over this land to this specific developer," Greene said in an interview. "I refused. . . . He didn't have the ability to remove me. So he resorted to these extraordinary measures to extract what he wanted." The allegations regarding Jackson's role have not previously been reported.
For those drinking the privatization kook-aid for a while, keep one thing in mind: you're still paying taxes - albeit this time to subsidize contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors to do the same job more poorly with even less oversight. The hollowing out of government, as some will point out (Naomi Klein springs to mind almost immediately) is nothing entirely new and certainly not unique to Bu$hCo - go back to the early 1980s and one can see the beginnings during the Raygun years, continuing unabated through the Clinton 1990s (why so-called progressives would even pine for a return to the Clinton years continues to vex me). All Bu$hCo did was take the trend to its next level. Apparently it's a great scheme if you are on the top of the pyramid.

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