The Corner

Dubuque Paper Slams HUD, Says NR Is Right

Last week, when I published a sharp critique of the Obama administration’s outrageous takeover of Dubuque’s housing system, Dubuque city officials and a spokesman for HUD took me severely to task. I am pleased to report today that the Dubuque Telegraph Herald has published a Sunday editorial entitled, “National Review right about HUD.” The Telegraph Herald’s willingness to criticize Obama administration overreach in this case is particularly striking, given that Dubuque is one of Iowa’s most important Democratic strongholds.

Having been bludgeoned by the Obama administration into paying the consequences for out-of-state mismanagement of public housing by HUD and the city of Chicago, Dubuque represents the most extreme example yet of Obama’s “regionalist” housing policies. And very soon, by way of the president’s new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, suburbs, small towns, and medium-sized cities across the country will be forced to adjust their ethnic demography to whatever “region” HUD declares them to be in. So Dubuque is only the beginning.

In its editorial, the Telegraph Herald compares federal pressure on Dubuque to blackmail, while suggesting that HUD’s housing diktat has hurt the city. Hitting out at ham-handed federal meddling in local decisions, the editorial says:

City of Dubuque officials are in a far better position than Washington bureaucrats to know how many [Section 8] housing vouchers the city can successfully monitor. Yet HUD demanded that the city issue more vouchers, even when local officials didn’t think that was the best course, and the federal government doesn’t have the money for them. What sense does that make?

The editorial also argues that in the course of hammering the Obama administration’s high-handed treatment of a financially strapped Dubuque, I give short shrift to the city’s economic turnaround. That’s a fair point. There is no doubt that Dubuque has bounced back impressively, not only from the recession, but from the movement of many of the city’s industrial jobs out of the country in recent decades.

Granting that, I believe it’s still worth noting that a city with plenty of its own economic challenges is being forced by the feds to shoulder the burdens of housing mismanagement by another city in another state.

It’s also important to compare Dubuque to that other great guinea pig for Obama’s new AFFH regulation: Westchester County, New York. Westchester is a prosperous suburban county that can forgo HUD funding with only modest consequences. It would be a great deal more difficult for Dubuque to turn down the millions of dollars in grants it receives from HUD. That has everything to do with why Dubuque remains under the federal boot, as the Telegraph Herald itself points out. Dubuque shows that not only prosperous suburbs like Westchester but even medium-sized, blue-collar cities bouncing back from economic dislocation will be targeted by Obama’s new housing policies.

But the most striking thing about the Telegraph Herald editorial slamming HUD and supporting National Review is that it was published at all. Again, Dubuque is a Democratic town, just as Westchester is a Democratic county. Yet Westchester’s local government flipped to the Republicans after HUD’s interference. With a huge registration advantage for Democrats, Dubuque may not be about to turn to a Republican city government (although that would certainly be a good idea). But I do think that the Telegraph Herald editorial and all the mail I’m getting from Dubuque residents angry at Obama’s HUD are signs of a shifting political wind.

Obama’s AFFH rule is going to seriously hurt municipalities all across this country, just as HUD has already hurt Westchester and Dubuque. But AFFH is also going to pose a significant political risk to the Democratic party once word of its consequences gets out. Dubuque is turning on Obama’s HUD, and soon enough America will, too. (To find out how to protect your hometown, go here.)

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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