Perhaps Now Barack Obama Can Be the Sheriff We Deputized in 2008
Last night, when those final electoral votes rang up on my CNN app, I suddenly thought of Curtis Lockey and Craig Mackenzie, two guys who have been missing from the news for a while.
I told you about Lockey and MacKenzie two years ago. They are developers who brought a formal administrative "false claims" complaint against Dallas City Hall over alleged illegal diversion of HUD money.
They allege that for decades Dallas took hundreds of millions of dollars in federal low-income housing money -- money dedicated by law to racial desegregation -- and diverted it instead to housing for rich people downtown. In the process, Dallas had to provide the feds every year with an official certification every year that it was doing the right thing.
Lockey and MacKenzie gave HUD reams of what they said was evidence that those certifications were fraudulent. The legal term is false claim, a very serious offense, sometimes criminal, in a law that dates back to the Civil War.
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Why was I thinking about them last night? Because I have been thinking about them during this whole Republican jihad against Obama.
Dallas was able to do pretty much what it wanted with HUD money all those years because officials in Washington, both Republican and Democratic, looked the other way. But when MacKenzie and Lockey lodged their complaint, the people I talked to about it all used a phrase they had picked up from Westchester County, New York, where a similar false claims action had pretty much turned that entire county upside down.
The phrase was: "There's a new sheriff in town."
That's what everybody said. No more nudge-nudge wink-wink. No more swearing an oath that you're spending the money for what the law says it's intended for and then sliding it under the table to your buddies instead. The new sheriff wasn't down with that.
Everybody knew who that sheriff was. Barack Obama. No more Mr. Winky-wink. President Obama, through Ron Sims, his secretary of housing and urban development, was going to put this housing question in order and a whole bunch more stuff, too. This was just about the time the White House was making it clear it intended to take the same kind of new broom to Wall Street and to the banking industry and to federal disaster contracting and to a lot of smelly corners in America.
Not quite. Right about then was when we began to see the really big money clouds gathering over America, the mobilization of the top-tenth-of-a-percenters, the cynical co-opting of the old white fools in the Tea Party and the angry ginning up of the Fox News Ministry of Disinformation.
As the forces of reaction gathered strength, I kept remembering that phrase in my head, new sheriff in town, worrying that it had been too triumphal too soon. So last night when those final electoral votes rang up and the talking heads all started talking about the need for reconciliation, my first thought was simple.
Screw that. Reconciliation? Hey, this was High Noon. That new sheriff didn't abandon us after all. He met that bad man in the street and took him out.
So now he's not the new sheriff any more. He's our sheriff. We put that badge on him twice. And we need him to get back to sheriffing, not reconciling.
I need to get back in touch with Lockley and MacKenzie. I sure hope they're still in the game.