Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
I Have Seen
the Promised Land!
by David Stanowski
03 May 2012
We received word that 4700 Broadway, aka GHA Headquarters, has been gearing up to help try to get the Mayor re-elected, which should be expected, because all three of the challengers have pledged to halt any new construction. (Whether any of these activities are improper, or not, is an entirely different matter.) After all, how can you build an empire if all you do is administer vouchers?
The new Executive Director (ED), Stanley Lowe, is on a speaking tour all around the Island to spread the gospel according to mixed-income development, and to present grand visions of how it could transform the entire city. Last week, he even substituted for the Mayor at his “Coffee with Joe” session, which seemed a little odd since Mr. Lowe doesn’t work for the Mayor, or the City; in fact he works for a completely independent agency that feels it is NOT subject to any oversight by City Council. But, oh well, it is campaign season, and you have to do what you have to do.
As part of the overall effort, several thousand letters were sent out inviting people to meet the new ED on Tuesday and Wednesday. The GOGP invitation must have gotten lost in the mail, but we did receive an email from someone at GHA, asking us to attend.
After a brief introduction by the Mayor, where he reminded us that HE had decided to appoint a new GHA Board, in order to “go in a different direction”, which is why we were there last night; Mr. Lowe took over.
The session was a cross between a self-help seminar, a motivational speech, and a sales session for time share units, where they aren’t going to let you out of the room until you buy a unit!
What we were there to “buy” last night was the notion that this was a new GHA with visionary leadership, and that there would be no more projects; there would only be mixed-income “neighborhoods”. GHA will not just rebuild Public Housing, they will set up public-private partnerships that will transform entire sections of the City. In order to do this, they must use leverage! (I guess they missed the real estate bubble; but it’s only taxpayers’ money, so who cares!)
There was an atmosphere of telling and selling, in the room; not of listening and discussing.
Mr. Lowe said it was asking a lot, but this transformation depended on developing a sense of trust; trust for the Mayor and his GHA Board, because in order to make this work, the entire City needed to “buy in” and support their vision.
Obviously, I chuckled to myself when I heard this as I marveled at the sheer audacity that it took to make such a statement, since the controversy surrounding this issue had been fueled by a well-deserved lack of trust for those same parties!
Many images came to mind as we sat through the sales pitch: Episodes of the Twilight Zone featuring cities with deserted streets as the survivors, with that vacant look in their eyes, tried to determine what calamity had rained down on them. Would Galveston become a city of 37,000, or less, if this plan is implemented?
I also remembered the movie Glengarry Glen Ross as they discussed how to unload overpriced real estate on unsophisticated and unwitting buyers/marks. (Doctors, lawyers, and engineers will want to live in these mixed-income developments!) Their motto in Glengarry Glen Ross was ABC; Always Be Closing!
Mr. Lowe knows all about ABC!
It seems clear that Stanley Lowe is a perfect fit with Joe and Betty; the Dream Team or Holy Trinity of Subsidized Housing. If you want to transform your city into a captive dependent federal enclave of entitlement, i.e a Poverty Capital, there is no doubt that they can get the job done! There may not be many paying customers who want to live there, but it represents a Utopian dream for the dependent class and the elite who will run and control it.
As he spoke, I couldn’t help but see images of the ghost cities that the Chinese Communists have built just because the government gave them the money. Market forces such as “demand” are irrelevant in their closed and controlled society, and demand for the rental units that the GHA wants to build is obviously irrelevant to the Mayor and his GHA Board, in the controlled city they seek to build, too.
Mr. Lowe was hardly convincing as he tried to sell the idea that mixed-income was no longer a social experiment, as far as HUD is concerned; it is the new normal. But normal at HUD is like normal in Peking! In order to buy into Mr. Lowe’s enthusiasm for mixed-income you have to be totally ignorant of the conclusions of many who have studied this social experiment, like Professor Robert Ellickson, who found mixed-income to be vastly inferior to vouchers, but favored by politicians who can trade development rights for campaign contributions.
Just imagine what the Dream Team could do with $200 million, for mixed-income, along with a land bank, and the ability to use the RDA as their own development arm, and you have an image of the new normal they want for this city! And that would only be the beginning!
Mr. Lowe said several times that their plans were not going to work unless the people of the City supported them. I didn’t know if he was serious, due to their problems with the GLO, and potential difficulty in getting tax credits, so I decided to test him after his remarks were concluded.
DS: Mr. Lowe, why not 529 Moving-to-Opportunity vouchers?
SL: Can’t do that, HUD won’t allow it.
DS: Why would they allow 170 vouchers?
SL: Those people were displaced by the Storm and already had vouchers.
DS: I thought that you wanted and needed the community to support your plan, but the only people who support this plan are the Mayor and his Board.
SL: The Mayor and his Board speak for the community, and the people cannot possibly understand HUD regulations, or hire the legal experts that we can.
DS: Mixed-income might be OK in cities with a housing shortage, but we have over 7,000 vacant housing units, and 3,237 are for rent.
SL: That doesn’t matter, the federal government is going to make us build. If we don’t, they are going to send in the Justice Department. These are protected classes.
DS: We’ve already asked the Justice Department to come in here; they don’t want to.
Then, I was told that my time to meet and greet him was over, and it was time to move on.
Every comment and question was brushed aside.This is Not a man with any interest in a dialog or discussion about his Utopian plan. Mixed-income is their cash cow, and their entree into bigger development schemes. No matter what adjustments have to be made to allow them to move forward; mixed-income must be protected at all costs.
Mr. Lowe’s responses to my questions were well-rehearsed rationalizations for what they want to do, and are complete BS, as was pointed out in Wednesday’s guest column. He had absolutely no interest in listening to the other side; he was there to tell us what we have to do. There is no doubt that if the Mayor is reelected the Dream Team has grand schemes on how to transform and control this city well beyond the scope of Public Housing!
It is a horrifying thought!
Last night’s meet and greet was time well spent. It offered the chance to see just how scary this guy's plan really is.
Be afraid; be very afraid!
Leon Phillips expressed his unhappiness with the progress of “bringing people home”, even as Mr. Lowe admitted that some may be better off where they have relocated, and may not want to return to the Island. (Obviously, it was not mentioned that only about 1/3 of the former residents want to “come home”, but they make convenient pawns in this drama.)
“If we don’t elect Joe Jaworski this building may disappear.” Leon Phillips
“If the administration changes; the whole Board is gone”. Stanley Lowe
In about four months, it will be four years since Hurricane Ike, and not one unit will have been rebuilt. (The 40 units at the Oaks were planned and funded BEFORE IKE.)
The GHA Is expecting to get $109 million from the federal government; the balance coming from tax credits and other sources such as insurance.
Construction is scheduled to begin in November 2012 and be completed in five phases by November 2014. (I thought Betty said that construction had to begin BEFORE the four-year anniversary date, 13 September 2012, or they would lose federal disaster recovery funding. Another change in their story as it suits their purposes?)
They are looking for more land; they need at least 1-2 city blocks.
They won’t know the outcome of their 9% tax credit applications until July.
They have NOT applied for the 4% tax credits, yet! They are waiting until they resolve their differences with the GLO on financing.
Mr. Lowe has a meeting with the GLO today.