by Sam Hieb
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros was in Greensboro on Wednesday to speak about issues facing cities today. Rhino Times editor John Hammer reports Cisneros praised Gboro for its efforts to become a great 21st century city:
Cisneros said, “Greensboro is poised to participate in the new American economy.”
He added, “This is a city that has the elements, the base, to be a major part of the American economy going forward.
He praised Greensboro for the emphasis on inclusivity saying that the city “had a climate of inclusiveness better than many of the cities in the South.”
Cisneros also said that moving forward cities would not be able to look to the federal government to play the role of mediator between the haves and have nots, because the federal government was running out of money.
He also praised North Carolina for the efforts it had made to create its own future.
No doubt many Democrats would take issue with Cisneros’ praise for North Carolina’s policies, considering they constantly portray our fair state–under Republican leadership —as some sort of redneck backwater. But I would also take Ciseneros’ praise with a grain of salt. Fair enough, he was regarded as a fine mayor of San Antonio, where was overwhelmingly elected to four terms. But, like many local politicians, he got caught up in the spoils of Washington after he was appointed HUD secretary by President Bill Clinton. Long story short, in 2001, as the Clintons were grudgingly leaving Washington, he was the recipient of a presidential pardon alongside other upstanding citizens such as Susan McDougall and Roger Clinton, the president’s n’er do well half-brother.
Cisneros’ pardon was related to a lapse in his personal life–it was discovered he lied to the FBI regarding payment to his mistress. (Where we have heard this before?) But Cisneros’ biggest crime was his role in the the 2008 financial crisis:
After eight years of introducing economic distortions into housing markets, Henry Cisneros spent most of his post-HUD career making money in housing markets, as many ex-HUD officials do. In 2000, Cisneros formed a housing development company in partnership with KB Homes, and he became a KB director. The KB board also included the former CEO of Fannie Mae, James Johnson. The New York Times noted that “it made for a cozy network.” Indeed, Fannie Mae bought or backed many of the mortgages that were in the developments of KB Homes.
In 2001, Cisneros joined the board of Fannie Mae’s biggest client: the now notorious Countrywide Financial, the company that was center stage in the subprime lending scandals of recent years. When the housing bubble was inflating, Countrywide and KB took full advantage of the liberalized lending standards fueled by Cisneros’s HUD. In addition to the money he received as a KB director, Cisneros’s company, in which he held a 65 percent stake, received $1.24 million in consulting fees from KB in 2002.
When Cisneros stepped down from Countrywide’s board in 2007, he called it a “well-managed company” and said that he had “enormous confidence” in its leadership. Clearly, those statements were baloney—Cisneros was trying to escape before the crash.
So while it’s always nice to have a national figure come to town and offer up praise in front of a crowd of movers and shakers, keep in mind that Cisneros has sliced a lot of baloney his career.