Monday, April 23, 2007


The state housing program in Missouri helps finance places for poor people to live. It also helps some developers make a lot of money, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

An excellent weekend story in the P-D exposes the fact that about 65 cents of every dollar in the "low-income housing tax credit" actually goes to people who buy and sell the credits.

People like Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson, who with developer Mark Gardner runs Carlson Gardner Inc. According to the P-D, the firm "has received tax credits for more projects than any other developer the last three years." Last December, Carlson Gardner was awarded "$1.3 million in annual credits" for a project, according to the newspaper.

Another Springfieldian is quite unhappy with the Missouri Housing Development Commission, the organization that runs the tax-credit program. Sam Hamra wanted tax credits for his older-adult housing development in Lebanon, but he got only $325,000, according to the P-D.

Hamra, a wheel in Missouri politics, wrote to Gov. Matt Blunt and asked him to "correct this blatant inequity," the newspaper reported. No correction, Hamra warned Blunt, would be a very bad idea. As the Post-Dispatch reported:
Hamra pointed out that he had raised more than $400,000 for Blunt's recent campaigns. If his demand wasn't met, Hamra said, he might switch his support to Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat running for governor.
Hamra's been a reliable wallet for Democrats, though he likes to hedge his bets. Records show that in May 2004 he donated $2,000 to the John Kerry campaign, and Open Secrets reports Hamra gave $1,000 last year to the Missouri Democratic State Committee. But those same records show Hamra (through his company, Hamra Enterprises) gave an equal amount to the Missouri Republican State Committee in 2006. As we said, hedging his bets.

But Hamra's ham-handed threat to Blunt is nothing but ugly, and it illustrates what the P-D calls "fierce" competition for the tax credits. The newspaper's story illustrates several things -- the money grubbing that infects politics, the ease of backstabbing, the blatant use of threats. It also shows how much we need more local reporters covering politics.


Anonymous said...

There is too much money at stake in the media as the campaigning begins. It's up to you, Citizen Journalist.

Regarding the tax credits, I did some freelance work a couple of years ago for a downtown developer and was surprised that tax credits were treated as a commodity.

Anonymous said...

It makes me uncomfortable to see our Mayor Carlson ramrodding such things as a moratorium (extended another three months by city council tonight) on new apartment construction in the city when he already has a bunch of housing units built. Seems like a conflict of interest to me.

Busplunge said...

Gee, I shoulda ran against ralph.

Anonymous said...

You may recall that in the early 1990's, Sam Hamra tried to bride a Greene County judge with Wendy's coupons. So, the details of his move here seem like the same kind of tricks, just with a higher value.

Anonymous said...

Note who voted against the moratorium.