Media Blog

Valerie Jarrett Named Senior Obama Slum Lord Adviser

Sun Times reports:

WASHINGTON — Friday night, President-elect Barack Obama and wife Michelle headed toward Chicago’s Gold Coast to attend a birthday party for Valerie Jarrett hosted by another pal, Desiree Rogers. Earlier in the day, she got her gift: In Obama’s White House, Jarrett will be a senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernment relations and public liaison.

Jarrett, who turned 52 Friday, gets a portfolio that will allow her to advise the Obamas while overseeing the administration’s relations with other elected officials, traditional interest groups and the “movement” that Obama nurtured during his presidential campaign and wants to keep alive during his tenure.

The Boston Globe in June had a slightly less favorable write-up on Valerie Jarrett, however. An excerpt:

CHICAGO – The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can’t afford to live anywhere else.

But it’s not safe to live here.

About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale – a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.

Grove Parc has become a symbol for some in Chicago of the broader failures of giving public subsidies to private companies to build and manage affordable housing – an approach strongly backed by Obama as the best replacement for public housing.

As a state senator, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee coauthored an Illinois law creating a new pool of tax credits for developers. As a US senator, he pressed for increased federal subsidies. And as a presidential candidate, he has campaigned on a promise to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that could give developers an estimated $500 million a year.

But a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies – including several hundred in Obama’s former district – deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.

… The campaign did not respond to questions about whether Obama was aware of the problems with buildings in his district during his time as a state senator, nor did it comment on the roles played by people connected to the senator.

Among those tied to Obama politically, personally, or professionally are:

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this winter and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.

And for those who bought The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media’s Favorite Candidate, David Fredosso covered all this in Chapter 11.

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