Friday, November 25, 2016

Brain Surgery at HUD

HUD stands for Housing and Urban Development. Cities like Baltimore have to care who heads the federal department even if housing and urban development are local issues and largely locally controlled. Retired neuro-surgeon Benjamin Solomon Carson has been offered to run the agency. Casron knows Baltimore very well, this is the place he came to fame.
Ben Carson during the primaries

Baltimore has an ambivalent relation in matters of housing. Traditionally the city has done very well with tapping into federal coffers. The original Dollar House program was fueled by federal block grants. The City received HOPE III funds for Sandtown and an unprecedented stream of six grants to rid itself of public housing high rises and build them with mixed income communities funded under the HOPE VI program. Lately Baltimore has successfully participated in the demonstration program called Rental Assistance Program (RAD) which includes innovative ways of funding public housing upgrades through public private partnerships.

Baltimore received the 1000 unit Uplands housing complex from HUD after it had fallen into receivership. The complex was then given to a master developer for redevelopment. Only a small portion has been developed to date.

Baltimore has also been in the cross-hairs of HUD for misappropriation of housing funds and for its past concentration of poverty policies. Obama's HUD secretary Julian Castro has visited Baltimore on many occasions and has recently pushed Baltimore County for allowing poor residents to live in "opportunity areas".

Any developer who uses affordable housing tax credits has to abide by a complex set of rules and standards to avoid exploitation of low income residents. HUD has a regional office in Baltimore.

Baltimore received large Empowerment Zone grants and recently was awarded a $10 million grant to reconfigure North Avenue as a premier transportation corridor.

For this city which is so close to Washington DC that it presents an ideal policy testing ground it matters who frames federal urban policies and whether they are properly coordinated with other departments such as transportation, and EPA. A collaboration between these three agencies had been innovated by President Obama in the Sustainable Communities Collaborative. That initiative in turn gave money to the regional Baltimore area Opportunities Collaborative which reported its findings in 2015.

Ben Carson is said to consider himself qualified for the fact that he grew up in poverty (he was born in Detroit), that he worked in Baltimore and that from going to work at Hopkins he has seen public housing. He said that the public housing hasn't made East Baltimore any better. He said to Fox: “we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities.” This is certainly true. However, it is very questionable whether Carson, judging by his campaign platitudes, would or could do anything to make disadvantaged areas in the inner cities of America any better.
“some people believe in the Bible, like I do, and don’t find that to be silly at all and believe that God created the Earth and don’t find that to be silly at all...."The current Members of Congress have a combined 8,700 years of political experience. Are we sure political experience is what we need. Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no federal elected office experience. What they had was a deep belief that freedom is a gift from God. They had a determination to rise up against a tyrannical King. They were willing to risk all they had, even their lives, to be free." 
[Americans] "who take the disadvantaged people in our country and say, 'You poor little thing, I’m going to give you everything that you possibly need.'"
"That’s not helping those people, and all that you have to do is look what's happened since the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson. We’ve spent $19 trillion and we have 10 times more people on food stamps, more people in poverty, more broken homes, out of wedlock births, crime, incarceration. Everything is not only worse, it’s much worse. You’d have to be kind of stupid to look at that and not realize that that’s a failure and to say we just didn’t do enough of it. That’s what I call stupid," 
"I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed." (Politico)
 It is clear that those statements endeared the retired surgeon (“His background didn’t prepare him to run a federal agency”) to the now President elect.
Should Ben Carson really become HUD Secretary the Peter Principle would have its best example yet. The principle postulates that people get advanced from positions in which the are competent ("Gifted Hands") until they reached their highest level of incompetency.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

New York Times about the possibility tat Carson could head HUD

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