Three days after Chicago's historic Pilgrim Baptist Church was gutted by a fire in 2006, Gov. Blagojevich pledged $1 million in state funds to help rebuild the Bronzeville architectural gem.They'll spin it all day long to say they've fulfilled their promise but the bottom line is that they haven't! The governor has never been a man of his word from what I read of statehouse politics they've learned that the hardway down there. He has to be this big hero and he has nothing to show for it because there's no follow up. Why can't landmarks be exempt from his broken promises?
Blagojevich made his election-year commitment to the ''rebuilding of the Pilgrim Baptist Church'' by stressing the money would have to go toward fixing a destroyed, adjoining church building that housed offices and classroom space but wasn't used for religious services.
But in March 2007, that money instead went to a private school that leased space from Pilgrim Baptist but has no other church affiliation. No state money has come to rebuild the charred administrative and school building, as Blagojevich promised, prompting church leaders and at least one state lawmaker to question whether Blagojevich had lived up to his word.
''I still can't believe it. We aren't trying to have a fight with the governor or anything like that, but how can he let this thing happen?'' said Robert Vaughn, chairman of Pilgrim Baptist's board of trustees, who didn't learn of the school grant until after being contacted by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity routed the $1 million grant to Loop Lab School, a private, pre-K through eighth-grade school that has since moved from its burned-out quarters, taking with it money intended to rebuild the destroyed church complex.
''What it says to me is that it gets to the point where promises really don't mean anything,'' said Rep. Elga Jefferies (D-Chicago), whose South Side district takes in the charred church.
''That's about the bottom line. If you don't produce, then you come to be labeled as a person not of your word,'' she said.
Blagojevich's administration said last week the allotment to Loop Lab School fulfilled the governor's pledge to help the church.
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