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Lawrence House residents fear vacate order

Tenants of a low-rent high-rise in Uptown and community groups concerned about the loss of affordable housing fear that a building court hearing Tuesday could result in an emergency vacate order.

Though new owners of Lawrence House, 1070 W. Lawrence, have claimed success in relocating tenants of other North Side SROs they’ve redeveloped, a vacate order would let the owners off the hook and leave it up to the city to find emergency shelter for nearly 200 residents, said Mary Lynch-Dungy of ONE Northside.

“We’re basically talking about making 200 people homeless,” she said.

The city is not pushing for an emergency vacate order, said law department spokesman Roderick Drew.

But the owners could propose an order, or the judge could decide to issue one independently.

Lynch-Dungy noted that though Lawrence House has been in building court since 2010 — with over 100 code violations — “no judge has considered the problems serious enough to issue a vacate order.”  But such an order at this time “would be convenient for the new owners,” she said.

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Cappleman: nothing to discuss

After weeks of ignoring an invitation to a community forum, Alderman James Cappleman has informed organizers he won’t be attending the event — which will be held outside his office, after Capplemn apparently pressured a local church to cancel.

The Organization of the Northeast and Lakeview Action Coalition are holding an accountability meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, March 21 at the ward office at 4544 N. Broadway.

It was originally scheduled at the People’s Church, but Rev. Jean Darling said she “got pushback from the [church’s] board and from the alderman.”

She said she didn’t know what the meeting was about when she agreed to host it, and “I don’t like [the groups’] polarizing approach…I don’t care for the Alinsky stye.  We want to be about reconciliation and trying to work together.”

Cappleman has refused to meet with ONE since last summer, when the group objected after he held a “groundbreaking party” for a developer who planned to raise rents at the Lawrence House, an affordable highrise at Lawrence and Kenmore now in foreclosure, said housing organizer Mary Lynch-Dungy.  She said Cappleman had promised to work to keep Lawrence House affordable during his campaign.

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A community platform to stop violence

Violence is up in Chicago, but community leaders say prevention works and deserves support.

Hundreds of residents of Rogers Park and Uptown will attend the unveiling of a comprehensive violence prevention platform by the Organization of the North East on Monday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Sullivan High School, 6631 N. Bosworth.

“We cannot end violence and crime with policing and law enforcement,” according to the platform. “We must address the root causes of violence by employing multiple strategies that build community, support positive youth development, prevent the negative influence of poverty and racism, and provide development-focused interventions when youth make choices that will have a negative impact on their lives.”

Speakers will include young people who have been helped by community programs and CeaseFire interrupters and clients.  “There’s a lot of good work being done that needs to be continued,” said ONE executive director Joe Damal.

Students who have been inappropriately suspended will discuss the need for school discipline reform.  ONE is part of the High Hopes Campaign, which calls for implementing restorative justice practices to reduce suspensions and expulsions in CPS.

Uptown in film

From its glamorous heyday in the early 20th Century, Uptown has been through lots of changes – influxes of Appalachians and Native Americans, urban renewal (and community organizing for and against it), and port of entry for immigrants from every continent.

Those changes are the subject of a new documentary film, The Wilson Corridor: Transitions in Chicago’s Uptown, which will premier at Truman College’s Novar Hall, 1145 W. Wilson, on Monday, December 6 at 7 p.m.

A group of Truman College students with McCormick Foundation Fellowships, guided by Truman political science professor Bettina Maravolo, researched and wrote the film and contacted filmmaker Roxane Assaf to produce the film  A playwright and journalist, Assaf previously worked at Truman as studio classroom director.  Jeff Kelly Lowenstein has more.

Here’s a trailer:

North Siders mark wins, protest ‘slum conditions’

The Organization of the North East expects a thousand members to attend its annual convention Monday night – and after the rally they’ll head over to a local apartment building for a vigil protesting slumlord neglect.

ONE’s annual convention takes place Monday, June 7 at 7 p.m. at St. Augustine College, 1333 W. Argyle; the vigil will be outside Lawrence Apartments, 1020 W. Lawrence.

At the convention, ONE will celebrate a series of victories over the past year – including funding for affordable housing, commitments for local jobs, and organizing wins at local schools – and they’ll launch a voter registration and mobilization drive in response to the “vicious ineptitude” of state lawmakers, said organizer Cory Muldoon.

At Lawrence Apartments they’ll support a tenants association that has been working with ONE over the past year to raise concerns about building code violations and security issues.  The affordable rental building has over 300 units and tenants include people with disabilities and others on fixed incomes.

According to Muldoon, landlords Don and Sam Menetti have refused to meet with tenants or with community and religious groups.  He said court records show the owners are currently responding to complaints over numerous violations including fire code issues.

In a tense confrontation last month, ONE and other community groups picketed the Wicker Park Tavern, owned by the Menettis, and tried to give them a letter asking for a meeting with the tenants association and its allies.  Sam Menetti “crumpled it up and threw it at me,” Muldoon said.  He said Menetti yelled a threat at him.

In a Medill report on the event, ONE executive director Jamiko Rose said she “definitely fear[s] for my staff’s safety,” and the Menetti’s did not respond to requests for comment.

ONE members have held scores of house and block meetings – dubbed “CommuniTea Parties” – leading up to the annual convention, discussing problems in the community and ideas for addressing them under a framework of “community values in action.”

Election results

Bronzeville voters backed a referendum (with 87 percent voting ‘yes’) calling for affordable housing on city-owned vacant lots; Uptown voters backed referenda calling for devoting 40 percent of the city’s TIF funds to affordable housing, and requiring local hiring, living wage and guarantees of the right to organize from recipients of TIF subsidies, Chi-Town Daily News reports.  In Hyde Park, residents of one precinct blocked the University of Chicago’s hotel development plans by voting the precinct dry by a narrow margin.

In Oak Park, Berwyn and Riverside, voters supported by a 2-to-1 margin a referendum to phase out nuclear power in Illinois, replacing it with wind and solar power, according to the Nuclear Energy Information Service.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Asian-American Institute reported on exit polls showing overwhelming support for Barack Obama’s candidacy by Latinos (by an estimated 90 percent statewide) and Asian-Americans (81 percent in seven precincts in Chinatown and Bridgeport).  ICIRR and member organizations registered and mobilized thousands of voters in the region; the Chinese-American Service League mobilized 3,000 voters, including 1.600 new voters, according to AAI. 

New American Media reports that nationally the Latino vote increased by one third over 2004, and went 2-to-1 for Obama.  Nearly 1.5 million Latinos became citizens in the past two years. Together with African-Americans, Latino voters “decided the destiny of our country,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro of the National Council of La Raza.

Kids vote in Uptown

Young people from three Uptown groups have set up homemade ballot boxes at schools, residences and sites with youth programs, and under-18 voters are voting for their preference for president as well as which issues are important to them.

“We recognize that the next president will have a critical role in shaping the policies — healthcare, education, or otherwise — that will profoundly impact our individual futures and the health of our communities,” said Steve Hosik Moon of the Multi Cultural Youth Project.  “Instead of waiting until we are 18 to let our opinions be known, we are taking matters into our own hands right now.”

Participants from MCYP, Connect Force and Kuumba Lynx will gather at 4:30 p.m. at Alternatives, 4730 N. Sheridan, for an Election Jam, to count the votes and announce the results.

MCYP was founded by the Chinese Mutual Aid Association to collaborate with other youth agencies to develop youth leadership on local and global issues of social justice.  Connect Force is a youth-driven program at Alternatives Youth Services, exploring creative arts in hip-hop, breakdancing, mural arts, deejaying and emceeing, along with work on math, reading, and life skills.  Kuumba Lynx uses hip-hop culture to promote intergenerational and cross-cultural dialogue, creative expression and literacy, and social consciousness.

Housing referenda in Uptown, Bronzeville

“In Uptown and Bronzeville — two gentrifying lakefront communities on opposite sides of the city — voters will cast ballots tomorrow on non-binding referendums calling for the city to set-aside Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds or city-owned land for affordable housing. Grassroots community groups are backing both measures,” CMW alum Angela Caputo reports at Progress Illinois.

“Northside Action for Justice, a coalition of Uptown and Rogers Park residents, is asking voters to support earmarking 40 percent of the city’s TIF funds for preserving or creating affordable housing.

“Eleven miles south, Housing Bronzeville wants roughly a quarter of the community’s 1,800 vacant, city-owned lots developed and made available to those working people increasingly priced out of the neighborhood.”

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