Talking about hope and change is easy; doing something about it is hard work. The residents of Englewood found this out after Barack Obama pledged to help renovate the neighborhood in 2000, including an earmark of $100,000 for a botanic garden and raising an additional million dollars for other efforts to reclaim Englewood from blight. Neither the garden nor the fundraising ever materialized, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports:
As a state senator, Barack Obama gave $100,000 in state money to a campaign volunteer who failed to deliver on a plan to create a botanic garden in one of Chicago’s most blighted neighborhoods.
Obama — who was running for Congress when he announced the project in 2000 — said the green space in Englewood would build ”a sense of neighborhood pride.”
Instead, what was supposed to be a six-block stretch of trees and paths is now a field of unfulfilled dreams, strewn with weeds, garbage and broken pavement.
Obama’s campaign says that the execution of the project was the responsibility of Governors Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, and that is true — in part. Legislators who pass bills rely on the state to enforce and execute them. However, Obama’s direction of the state funds to one of his campaign workers gives him additional responsibility to make sure that the funds got used properly and that the work got performed, neither of which appears to be the case at Englewood. Besides a plywood gazebo, the only evidence of a botanical garden is a large variety of wild weeds indigenous to Chicago.
Furthermore, when promising hope and change to Englewood, Obama pledged to remain at the forefront of the effort by raising a lot more money for the renovation. At the time (January 14, 2000), Obama had embarked on his effort to unseat Bobby Rush for his Congressional seat. He promised to add more than a million dollars to the effort in the launch of the project, which the Sun-Times notes was outside his state Senate district but within Rush’s Congressional district. It’s obvious what happened — Obama lost interest in Englewood as soon as Rush beat him in the primaries, and simply reneged on his promise of assistance.
Jim Geraghty recalls Obama’s failure with another big plan to assist a low-income housing project covered by the Boston Globe, and says:
Big promises. Little follow-up. Once again, one of the problems of constantly moving on to the next promotion is that you never get to see the consequences and ramifications of past actions.
For a man with such a thin track record, the number of failures is rather shocking — but that’s not the most significant part of this story. It’s quite obvious that Obama has a pattern of talking about hope and change, and caring less about it when it doesn’t boost him politically. As soon as Englewood stopped being significant to his electoral hopes, he turned his back on the neighborhood. That speaks to character more than competence.