Subscribe to the Blunt Force Truth podcast

Chicago Community Organizers Shaking Down… Obama

Published by: Front Page Mag

By: Daniel Greenfield

Poetic justice just doesn’t get any more poetic than this. And the best may be that opening when Obama calls them out on exactly what they’re trying to do based on his own time as an organizer.

It’s the ultimate in irony: The world’s most famous ex-community organizer is facing a minor uprising from the community where his presidential center is supposed to be built—the same community, in fact, where he got his start in politics.

The center’s troubles became clear last September, when Jeanette Taylor, the education director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, walked into the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago with something on her mind. She was there for a public meeting with officials from the Obama Foundation, the entity that is building the Obama Center—a monument to the career of former President Barack Obama for which construction is scheduled to begin later this year in Woodlawn, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Taylor so wanted to be first in line for the microphone that nearly a dozen of her fellow community organizers had camped out overnight to save her a spot at the front of the line to get into the event.

As she entered the hotel ballroom, Taylor expected to interrogate a member of the foundation’s staff. Instead, she found herself face to face with Obama himself, appearing by video conference from Washington.

“The library is a great idea, but what about a community benefits agreement?” Taylor asked, referring to a contract between a developer and community organizations that requires investments in, or hiring from, a neighborhood where a project is built. “The first time investment comes to black communities, the first to get kicked out is low-income and working-class people. Why wouldn’t you sign a CBA to protect us?”

Measured as always, Obama began by telling Taylor, “I was a community organizer.” Then he said, “I know the neighborhood. I know that the minute you start saying, ‘Well, we’re thinking about signing something that will determine who’s getting jobs and contracts and this and that’ … next thing I know, I’ve got 20 organizations coming out of the woodwork.”

The Politico article is slanted heavily toward the organizers. It sympathetically pushes their “oppressed” narrative. But the guy they’re blackmailing is their own messiah. It’s a shakedown.

Obama knows it’s a shakedown, because he’s been on the inside. Now he’s on the outside because he’s bringing all that money to Chicago. That was always bound to be a mistake. It’s like waving a steak in front of starving rats. And these rats have plenty of media allies to paint a sympathetic picture of their agenda. 

“He got a lot of nerve saying that,” Taylor told me. “He forgotten who he is. He forgot the community got him where he is.”

No, I don’t think he’s forgotten the wealthy white leftists. He never did care about the black women whose turnout got him to the White House. And Taylor knows quite well that all her antics won’t make a dent there. The black establishment lined up behind Hillary Clinton to no avail. So Obama can treat black activists with contempt (remember the Jesse Jackson ‘nuts’ outburst) and know that they have nothing on him. They won’t hurt him with his base. But they might hurt him a little bit with the wealthy white leftists reading Politico.

Taylor is not alone in her complaint. Since 2016, more than a dozen local groups—neighborhood organizations, labor unions and tenants’ rights activists—have come together to form the Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Coalition

There you go. Obama predicted 20. The actual number is over a dozen.

“There are concerns that the Obama Center as currently planned will not provide the promised development or economic benefits to the neighborhoods,” the letter reads. “It looks to many neighbors that the only new jobs created will be as staff to the Obama Center.”

Because that’s what the Obama Center is? It’s the same scam every time. “Community organizations” rally demanding that a new building or company trying to improve the neighborhood create some sort of other jobs… or fund local “community organizations”.

At least when the mafia demands protection money, it’s honest.

Obama now finds himself on the receiving end of the same demands his younger self once made to crusty Chicago politicians he derided as “ward heelers.” …

Woodlawn is one of the birthplaces of community organizing. Saul Alinsky, whose book Rules for Radicals informed Obama’s own organizing, helped found The Woodlawn Organization to battle the expansion of the University of Chicago (which today is proposing to build a 15-story hotel for Obama Center visitors). The campaign for a community benefits agreement is part of a tradition that both predates Obama’s arrival in Chicago and made his career there possible in the first place.

It’s the Chicago way of life.

the real estate website Redfin named Woodlawn the third-hottest neighborhood of 2017, reporting a 23.3 percent increase in home values in the first six months of that year. Woodlawn is a poor, African-American neighborhood adjacent to middle-class Hyde Park, home to the University of Chicago. 

It’s always a terrible thing when your net worth increases by 23 percent in 6 months. Anyone who would like to have that problem, please get in line.

“The community benefits agreement isn’t to stick it to the former president,” says Jawanza Malone, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. “CBAs have been crafted across the country for all types of developments, in places where developers have gone into a community and used public assets.”

CBAs are a shakedown and considering the interaction between organizers, politicians and developers… should be illegal.

“[CBAs] evolved initially because communities couldn’t get traction within the public arena,” Parks said. “The organizing effort put pressure on the city. Elected officials would say, ‘If I’m going to approve this, I’m going to need you to work out some agreement with these people, who are my voters.’”

Or rather, more accurately, the organizers who deliver votes to me and are part of my political organization.

Michael Strautmanis, the Obama Foundation’s vice president of civic engagement, estimates he has held between 300 and 400 meetings with community members—often including the groups campaigning for a CBA. Strautmanis, who has known Obama since they both worked at Chicago’s Sidley Austin law firm and was also a White House aide, shares his boss’ view that a CBA is not “the right tool. He doesn’t want to spend his time negotiating with whatever community organization comes out of the woodwork to claim they represent the community,” Strautmanis says.

Next thing you know somebody out of that woodwork will use his lefty allies to slime his way into some low level elected office, then seize the opportunity to make the leap to the Senate and then give a speech at the DNC, and the next thing you know he’s turning America into Chicago.

At January’s City Council meeting, Alderman Leslie Hairston, whose ward encompasses Woodlawn, held a news conference with other African-American aldermen to praise the Lakeside Alliance contract, but she was shouted down by protesters chanting “CBA! CBA!” Ordinarily, Hairston’s opposition would close the matter. Chicago’s tradition of “aldermanic privilege” gives aldermen final say over projects in their ward. But neighbors angry at Hairston’s opposition are discussing running a pro-CBA candidate in next February’s election.

“Neighbors”. Right. Organizers.

Coalition organizers believe their campaign is exactly the kind of piece Obama himself would have worked on when he was in their position, 30 years ago. But that was then: before Harvard, before politics, before the presidency. For them, Obama has gone from sticking it to the man to … being the man.

Successful bank robbers don’t like being robbed by other bank robbers any more than bank presidents do.


Want more BFT? Leave us a voicemail on our page or follow us on Twitter @BFT_Podcast and Facebook @BluntForceTruthPodcast. We want to hear from you! There’s no better place to get the #BluntForceTruth.