FEBRUARY 21, 2012
Few Americans probably know that there is actually a National Public Housing Museum that’s funded with taxpayer dollars thanks in part to strings pulled by President Barack Obama when he served in the U.S. Senate.
A Judicial Watch probe has uncovered a letter that U.S. Senator Obama wrote in late September, 2008 to help the Chicago-based National Public Housing Museum get tens of thousands of dollars from the federal government for just one project. It’s not clear how many other federal grants the president has helped the museum score.
The Obama-driven allocation discovered in the course of JW’s probe came in the form of a $40,000 “planning” grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a government agency that funds research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities. Its coffers are filled by the same source that provides for all other government entities; American taxpayers.
In this case the museum used the money, earmarked for “America’s historical and cultural organizations,” to fund a special program about “resident voices of public housing.” What exactly does this mean? According to the NEH grant description: Planning for an oral history initiative to include the voices of residents of public housing and to expand the scholarly perspective on the history of public housing for the museum.
In his letter to the NEH’s grant committee, Obama essentially orders the public housing museum’s application be given “due consideration” and that he be kept “informed of the outcome of the grant selection process.” The former Illinois senator goes on to write that the money will be used to “expand and enrich the existing humanities perspective on public housing.”
Let’s take a closer look at the facility, which opened just a few years ago as a social history museum with the important mission of recreating living spaces of public housing apartments during eight decades. The idea, according to the museum web site, is to have a “cultural asset” for social reflection, public dialogue and education. The museum also offers the history of individual public housing tenants and the social, political and economic forces that shape urban communities.
This is important because government housing has been one of the most important public policies of the 20th century, according to those who operate this particular facility. Why Chicago for this crucial historical site? Because few cities have a more dramatic connection to public housing than Chicago and the city has been home to some of the first urban public housing efforts in the nation, including some of the most significant development for “immigrants” and “migrants.”
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