Donald Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Tuesday will make his first visit to Philadelphia, to celebrate the reopening of a high school in Sharswood.
Ben Carson, 65, the former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, grew up poverty-stricken in Detroit and ran against Trump in 2016 for the GOP nomination for president before joining Trump's cabinet.
Carson’s inspiring life story and journey from the inner city to a career in medicine is told in his best-selling autobiography, “Gifted Hands.”
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But Democrats and liberals say Carson is a danger to impoverished residents who rely on public housing. HUD is a $46 billion agency that many conservatives loathe as a waste of taxpayer funds, and which Trump has proposing cutting by at least $6 billion.
A protest is planned by the the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities to coincide with Carson’s appearance at the former Robert Vaux High School at 23rd and Master streets, which reopened as Vaux Big Picture High School on Sept. 5, as part of a partnership between the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) and Big Picture Learning, a charter school operator.
“This is the same Ben Carson that suggested that the government had made things too ‘cozy’ for poor people and who believes poverty is merely a ‘state of mind,’” protest organizers wrote on their Facebook page. “Instead of budget cuts, we need to fully fund HUD to guarantee that all people who need them have safe, dignified and affordable homes.”
PHA President Kelvin Jeremiah could not be reached for comment on the protesters’ demands. But Jeremiah, a Republican, has previously indicated an openness to Trump’s agenda, joking to Metro after Trump won the election that he could help the new president with public housing if he were asked to join the administration.
The opening of the school represents another milestone for the Blumberg-Sharswood Neighborhood Transformation Plan that Jeremiah has spearheaded, which involves the demolition of aged high-rise public housing, the construction of some new 1,000 units in a townhome-style development and the relocation of PHA’s corporate offices to Ridge Avenue in the neighborhood.
Carson has proposed a more “business-like approach” at HUD and is currently on a “listening tour” around the nation.
Last week, Carson praised Trump’s bipartisan support of a Democratic debt limit extension plan in an interview with ABC News.
"I'm glad to see the president reaching out to the other side because the fact of the matter is: We’re all in the same boat and if part of the boat sinks, the rest of us are going down, too,” Carson told ABC. "A lot of Americans … have allowed themselves to be manipulated into believing that they're enemies and that they should hate each other, and that they should try to destroy each other, and this is exactly the wrong thing.”
Carson also plans to visit the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Old City during his visit to Philadelphia.