Column, Op Ed

Mike Drop: Carson & Capra, by Mike Racioppo

George Bailey confronts Potter.


I’m a devout agnostic, and as we brace for the Trump era my inner atheist has been gaining confidence. However, I admit I’ve got a soft spot for Christmas. Maybe it’s the idea of Christmas, or having been fortunate enough to receive some great presents over the years (Nintendo64 comes to mind). Or, when it all boils down, it could just be that I love Frank Capra’s classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I make sure to watch it every year and would never deny that I get a bit choked up as Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, stands up to Lionel Barrymore’s repulsive and ruthless Potter in the name of affordable housing for the people of Bedford Falls. As Clarence the angel shows us, without George and his father before him Bedford Falls would be under Potter’s complete monopoly, with its citizens paying exorbitant rents for his slums.

As George Bailey’s father notes just before his death, he believes creating affordable housing for working people satisfies “a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things.” For those of us not living in Bedord Falls, we have to push for a government that enacts policies that creates and preserves affordable housing.

In the city, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability are excellent starts. But clearly, changes should be made to overcome some of the community’s concerns.

On the national level we have the humbug prospect of Potter’s fields – Dr. Ben Carson will be Trump’s Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary. When an agency exists to create and ensure access to housing for all people and the person in charge of this (Carson) calls such work social engineering, it’s very hard to be the least bit hopeful.

Now my logic may be as solid as thinking that a Jolly Fat Man visits every gentile house in the world and bestows gifts on all that are “nice,” but I hope that Secretary Carson is visited by his best angels and realizes that the people in our cities who rent, and live paycheck to paycheck, deserve a decent affordable home. At HUD you can do that by supporting expansive funding for new housing while also enforcing fair housing rules.

And my thinking may be as implausible as having a guardian angel come down and show someone why the world is better due to them being born, but I hope that this message (an esoteric update of this great scene) reaches Trump’s nominee to head Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Dr. Ben Carson.

So here goes:

Just remember this, Dr. Carson, that the people in our cities do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this country. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, George Bailey didn’t didn’t think so and neither do I. People are human beings to him, but to your boss, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book George Bailey died a much richer man then Trump will ever be.

Michael Racioppo is the Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation and the Vice Chair of Community Board 6

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