Monday, February 18, 2008

Local Corruption, National Corruption - Same S%#t, Different Day

From The Philadelphia Inquirer. Read the whole article.

The fight over land behind PHA suit
S. Phila. properties are at the nexus of a tangle that has drawn in a Bush cabinet member.

By Jennifer Lin and Mark Fazlollah

Inquirer Staff Writers
On June 19, 2006, Mayor John F. Street called a summit for two powerful players in Philadelphia real estate.

On one side was Kenny Gamble, the millionaire R&B maestro whose local nonprofit - Universal Community Homes - was a developer in the Martin Luther King Plaza public housing project in South Philadelphia.

On the other was Carl R. Greene, the head of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, who was in charge of the redevelopment.

The men were at war over four parcels of land.

Greene refused to give the land to Universal. He said Universal hadn't done any work to earn it. And if Gamble didn't like it, he could get a lawyer to negotiate buying the land.

After Street had left and the meeting had ended, Greene said, Gamble leaned toward him and said, "I don't need lawyers."

"I have friends."

Gamble's contact with one of those friends - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson - is now the focus of a federal lawsuit, as well as an investigation by the inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

PHA alleges that Jackson tried to pressure the authority to turn over to Universal - at no cost - land worth $7 million. And that when the housing authority refused, HUD retaliated.

Last year, HUD declared PHA in default of its agreement to redevelop the Martin Luther King project. Separately, it stripped the authority of any autonomy in spending $300 million in federal funds.

Greene said that would result in fewer new affordable housing units, as many as 240 layoffs, and fewer services for residents....

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