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.
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.