Albany Park Neighborhood Council – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.14 King Day: Occupy the Fed, foreclosures, schools http://www.newstips.org/2012/01/king-day-occupy-the-fed-foreclosures-schools/ Sat, 14 Jan 2012 01:29:58 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5448 The civil rights movement, the Occupy movement, and community organizations will come together for a series of events marking Martin Luther King’s birthday this week, including a demonstration Monday at the Federal Reserve led by African American clergy including Rev. Jesse Jackson.

At the time of his assassination, King was organizing an “occupation” of Washington D.C., and after his death thousands of people occupied Resurrection City there from May 12 to June 24, 1968, demanding jobs, housing and an economic bill of rights.

In other King Day activities, housing rights groups are stepping up the drive to occupy foreclosures, and teachers and community groups are demonstrating against school “turnarounds.”

Over a thousand community activists are expected for an Occupy the Dream event (Sunday, January 15 at 3 p.m. at People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence), where elected officials will be called on to support jobs and tax reform, including closing corporate tax loopholes and instituting a financial transaction tax.

It’s sponsored by IIRON, a regional organizing network that includes Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Northside POWER, and the Northwest Indiana Federation. Occupy Chicago has endorsed the event.

“We are organizing in the tradition of the civil rights movement,” said Rev. Dwight Gardner of Gary, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation.

“In Dr. King’s very last sermon, he warned us not to sleep through a time of great change like Rip Van Winkle,” he said. “This is a moment of great change and we must put our souls in motion to occupy his dream.”

At the Fed: National Day of Action

Monday’s action at the Federal Reserve (Jackson and LaSalle, January 16, 3 p.m.) is part of a national day of action to “Occupy the Fed” by the Occupy the Dream campaign, with African American church leaders moblizing multicultural, interfaith rallies in 13 cities.  They’ll be emphasizing racially discriminatory practices by banks which have resulted in high foreclosure rates, as well as the issue of student debt.

“There needs to be economic equality, there needs to be jobs for all, there needs to be opportunities for the next generation,” said Rev. Jamal Bryant of Occupy the Dream.

“It’s consistent with the Poor People’s Campaign of holding people accountable who have benefited from the labor of working people and used their influence to create inequality,” said Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago coordinator of the effort.

On Tuesday, Northside POWER and other groups will visit Bank of America (135 S. LaSalle) at 3:30 p.m. to demand help for a North Side family facing foreclosure; the bank has refused mediation for the family, which has applied for the Hardest Hit foreclosure relief program, said Kristi Sanford.

They’ll also visit Attorney General Lisa Madigan, demanding she withdraw from the proposed settlement of the robosigning fraud case by state attorney generals and the U.S. Department of Justice.  The settlement would fine banks “a pittance” and absolve them of all liability, Sanford said.  Attorney generals in New York and California have withdrawn.

Sanford said an effort to occupy a foreclosed home and launch an eviction resistance campaign is also underway.

Working the grassroots against eviction

Meanwhile, groups organizing against foreclosure and eviction have come together in the national network Occupy Our Homes, and they’ll go door-to-door Sunday and Monday, reaching out to families facing foreclosure and their neighbors.

Training sessions for canvassers will be held on Sunday, January 15 at 10 a.m. in Albany Park (at Centro Autonomo, 3630 W. Lawrence) and Monday at 10 a.m. on the South Side (Sankofa Center, 1401 E. 75th) and the West Side (a foreclosed property at 2655 W. Melvina and the Third Unitarian Church, 311 N. Mayfield), and volunteers will canvass those areas from 11 to 3 on the respective days.

Homeowners will be connected with legal resources and encouraged to consider staying in their homes after foreclosure, said Loren Taylor of Occupy Our Homes.

The foreclosure process is unfairly stacked toward lenders, banks have engaged in “massive, massive fraud,” and the banks which refuse to help homeowners have received government bailouts in the trillions of dollars, Taylor said.

Participating groups include the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which has worked with renters in foreclosed buildings.

School marches mark King’s Chicago legacy

Also Monday, demonstrations against educational inequality – and against school “turnarounds” – will take place in areas made famous by Martin Luther King’s 1966 Chicago campaign.

At 10:30 a.m., the Chicago Teachers Union and community allies will march for education justice and “quality schools for all” at Marquette Elementary, 6550 S. Richmond, just south of the park where King was hit by a brick while marching for fair housing in 1966.

Today the school is 99 percent black and Latino – and slated for a “turnaround” by Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). CTU argues that all schools should have small class sizes, a well-rounded curriculum, and supportive services.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Blocks Together and other supporters of Casals Elementary, 3501 W. Potomac, will go door-to-door to inform neighbors of parent efforts to stop the transfer of that school to AUSL.

And at 1 p.m. on Monday, North Lawndale residents including members of Action Now will hold a press conference and march from Dvorak Elementary, 3615 W. 16th, past the site where King lived in Lawndale in 1966, to Herzl Elementary, 3711 W. Douglas.  They’re opposing Herzl’s “turnaround” by AUSL – and they fear Dvorak is next, said Aileen Kelleher of Action Now.

Parents maintain that CPS neglects neighborhood schools serving low-income minority children, setting them up for failure so they can be turned over to AUSL or charter schools, Kelleher said

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Championing neighborhood schools http://www.newstips.org/2011/11/championing-neighborhood-schools/ Mon, 21 Nov 2011 23:07:54 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4956 It’s now ten years since the launch of Renaissance 2010, the CPS campaign that closed scores of neighborhood schools and poured resources into scores of new charters.

The result?  Virtually no improvement in academic performance, according to the Chicago Consortium on School Research.  Better-resourced charters performing at the same level as neighborhood schools.  Worse, CPS’s racial achievement gap has only gotten larger.

The response from new city and school leadership?  They say they want much, much more of the same:  many more closings, many more charters.

What’s the alternative?  Nine community organizations are proposing a Neighborhood Agenda for Schools at an event on Tuesday.  They argue that since the vast majority of CPS students attend neighborhood schools, that’s where available resources should be focused.

The endorsers include groups that have long histories of involvement with schools, including nationally-recognized parent involvement, teacher training, community schools, anti-violence and student mentoring work.  Their recommendations flow from their extensive experience.

The groups include Action Now, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Enlace Chicago, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Organization of the Northeast, Southwest Organizing Project, and Target Area Development Corporation.  The College of Education of NEIU has also signed on.

The agenda will be released at a public event with 60 community activists from across the city, Tuesday, November 22, 10:30 a.m., at LSNA, 2840 N. Milwaukee.

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‘An amazing convergence’ http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/an-amazing-convergence/ Thu, 13 Oct 2011 22:34:42 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4821 It’s been a remarkable week in Chicago, a nonstop whirl of protests targeting the financial industry and government collusion with corporations, and demanding action on jobs, housing, and schools.

Coming Friday:  a rally for “jobs not cuts,” with MoveOn, Stand Up Chicago, Chicago Jobs With Justice and Occupy Chicago joining forces, at noon at the Federal Plaza.

Occupy Chicago gets much credit for capturing the public’s imagination – and for their 24-7 commitment and important organizational innovations.  But it was community groups and unions that staged some of the most dramatic and creative actions here this week.

“It’s an amazing convergence,” said Adam Kader of Arise Chicago.

It was activists from National People’s Action who kayaked down the Chicago River, past the Mortgage Bankers Assocation meeting, dressed as Robin Hood, on Monday.

It was Rev. Patrick Daymond of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation and others who “embedded” themselves in an MBA session and took the floor there.  “We asked how they could sleep at night,” Dayden said, according to Progress Illinois.  “We asked how they can show their faces in Chicago knowing the devastation they have brought to our communities.”

On Tuesday, it was Action Now members who dumped garbage taken from a foreclosed, bank-owned inadequately-secured West Side home on the floor of Bank of America (five women aged 56 to 80 were arrested in the action).

Also Tuesday, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council members boarded up a vacant home owned by JPM Chase and brought a bill for the work to the bank’s downtown office; Albany Park Neighborhood Council members protested at the Chicago Association of Realtors.

Outside the MBA meeting, members of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs erected a sukkah, inviting MBA participants inside the ritual shelter (constructed for Sukkot, the holiday which marks the Israelite’s period of homeless wandering in the desert) to hear personal testimony from victims of the housing crisis.

Members of SOUL were arrested trying to enter the MBA conference.

On Wednesday, it was the Grassroots Collaborative which set up a giant Slushie – symbolizing the use of TIF as a corporate slush fund – and then held a “corporate welfare” trolley tour of downtown TIF subsidy recipients.

Also Wednesday, 100 teachers marched through the lobby of Bank of America, demanding the bank renegotiate “toxic rate swaps” they say are robbing Chicago schools of millions of dollars.

Thursday there was a series of protests at low-wage employers – and in the afternoon, Stand Up Chicago set up a casino outside the Chicago Board of Trade while demanding a financial transaction tax to pay for a Chicago Jobs Fund (discussed here last Saturday).

“It feels different,” said Kader, who’s been involved with Stand Up Chicago in planning the week’s actions – timed for two financial industry summits – for several months.  “In the past we would turn out our members,” but this time he’s been struck by the number of unaffiliated folks and passersby joining in.  “There’s something out there, and we just have to say here’s a time and place to come together.”

Media attention was notably greater than past protests – for example, see this Newstip on “anemic” local coverage of NPA’s 5,000-strong demostration at the American Bankers Association here in October 2009.

Only Mary Bottari of the Center for Media Democracy notes another convergence, tying the week’s protests to Mayor Emanuel’s efforts “to balance budget deficits on the back of public workers.”  (She also notes the recent revelation of Emanuel’s role as White House chief of staff in dissuading President Obama from his initial inclination to break up big banks, which progressives argue became dangerously oversized after the wall between commercial and investment banking was torn down in 2000.  Since then they’ve gotten bigger.)

What happens now?  Van Jones of Rebuild The Dream sees a period of “innovation and improvisation.”  He tells Alternet that Occupy Wall Street “is a huge, big deal; there will be other huge, big deals. There is a big thaw happening.  People have gone through a grieving process, and people want to fight.”

“The economic crisis [will get] worse,” says Jones, and “you’re going to have a lot of people suffering due to the economy.  That’s going to create a need for a response….That’s going to be a driver of innovation, the economic crisis.  People have to eat.  People have to live indoors.  People aren’t going to just lay down and die because Wall Street wants to hold up the economic recovery.”

His group has called for nationwide actions – leaving the details up to local groups – on November 17 on the theme of “jobs not cuts.”  Before that, according to Think Progress, a new group  has called for actions around the world to “demand true democracy” – on Saturday, October 15.  They report actions planned in over 800 cities in 71 countries.

And they’ve posted a short video highlighting the year in protests: Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, Greece, Israel, New York.  Who knows what’s next?  And as Phil Rosenthal points out in the Tribune, “one can only imagine what will greet visiting leaders in Chicago for the G8 and NATO summits next May.”

Take Back Chicago shows what can happen when diligent, energetic organizing, rooted in communities, aligns with the zeitgeist.

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On TIF reform, Bronzeville has ideas http://www.newstips.org/2011/08/on-tif-reform-bronzeville-has-ideas/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/08/on-tif-reform-bronzeville-has-ideas/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2011 21:57:47 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4639 Bronzeville residents turned out in impressive numbers for last Thursday’s public forum of the Mayor’s Task Force on TIF Reform, which was held at the Bronzeville Chicago Military Academy.

Other communities were represented, but more forums in additional communities would certainly offer the task force greater breadth of public input.  But last week’s was the only hearing that is planned.

Bronzeville is one of the city’s most heavily TIFed communities, with thirteen TIF districts covering 80 percent of the area, many created to finance CHA redevelopments – with more in the works had Mayor Daley won the 2016 Olympic games, according to Housing Bronzeville.

Sheila Carter testified on behalf of the group that TIFs have “failed local taxpayers” in their lack of transparency and accountability.  It’s been “virtuallly impossible for local residents to understand how TIF monies were being raised and spent in our area,” she said, suggesting “this confusion and lack of documentation was intentional.”

She slammed Daley’s skimming of $10 million from the King/47th TIF to help fill last year’s budget gap, saying it was done without community consultation.  “No TIF money is ‘surplus’ in Bronzeville when our development needs are so great,” she said.

And TIF projects driven by outside developers and downtown planners have ignored long-range planning by local organizations, she said.

A housing plan for Bronzeville

In referendums held in 2004 and 2008, Housing Bronzeville won overwhelming voter support for a proposal to create a Bronzeville Housing Trust Fund to develop affordable housing on 500 of the nearly 2,000 city-owned vacant lots in the area.

The group was in discussions with the city over a pilot project along those lines, possibly using TIF funds to cover some costs, but talks are on hold since the new administration entered office, Rev. Jeffrey Campbell, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center, told Newstips.

Among many other Bronzeville residents who spoke, Sandra Bivens of the 51st Street Business Association proposed using neighborhood business groups which serve as delegate agencies for the city to monitor TIFs and conduct outreach to residents. “The community has yet to see a report on the number of jobs and small businesses created by TIF,” she said

Bernard Loyd, a local entrepreneur who’s getting TIF funding for a commerical development at 51st and Prairie, pointed out that Bronzeville TIFs have heavily favored residential projects and done little to create local jobs.  The program is geared toward large corporations, and approaches aimed at small businesses should be included, he said (more below).

Pilsen, Englewood, Austin

Other communities were represented.  “In Pilsen, TIF has been used as a tool to eliminate affordability and displace working-class families,” said Rosalie Mancera of the Pilsen Alliance.

“In Pilsen, TIF has not benefied the larger community; it has benefited private developers.,”  she said.  “We are subsidizing our own displacement.  This is wrong.”

Cherice Price of the Residents Association of Greater Engelwood called for training elected officials so they can promote TIF opportunities to district residents.  “People in our community may not even know there’s a TIF, and they don’t know how to go about applying,” she said.  “It’s people outside our community who are taking advantage of the opportunities.”

She called for a single advisory committee that would provide local oversight for several TIFs in Englewood.

Dwayne Truss of the South Austin Coalition challenged task force chair Carole Brown’s assertion that “TIF collections do not come at the expense of other taxing bodies.”  (In fact, as all readers of Ben Joravsky know, TIFs freeze property tax revenues going to the city, county, schools, and parks, and divert any additional revenue to a separate development fund.)

“We know that the money you give to corporate welfare comes out of our communities,” Truss said.  He called for an emphasis on jobs, pointing to a $3 million subsidy to Coca Cola to move a bottling plant from Little Village to Austin (AustinTalks recently reported the plant employs only 28 residents of the Austin area).  “How many teachers, how many park district jobs, would that money have saved?” he asked.

Community leaders representing the Albany Park Neighborhood CouncilLakeview Action Council, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Action Now in Englewood – and Melody McCorey, a young homeless mother of four small children, for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless – testified in favor of Sweet Home Chicago‘s proposal to devote $100 million in TIF funds for rehabbing foreclosed properties as affordable housing.

Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative called for shutting down the LaSalle Street TIF district, calling it an “egregious misuse of public funds.”  The city should declare a TIF surplus and return $200 million from downtown TIFs to the tax base, she said.

She called for dedicating $100 million to affordable housing and pulling CPS out of the TIF program.  “Given the economic crisis that we are in, it makes no sense that the city holds on to over $850 million in tax dollars, while our communities are struggling,” she said.

TIF funds “shouldn’t be going to make rich corporations richer” while class sizes are increasing, said Kristine Mayle of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Wendy Katten of the Raise Your Hand Coalition expressed disappointment that, despite promises of reform, the city just approved $7 million for an upscale grocery store in Greektown. CPS’s share of that money would have provided music or language programs for 50 elementary schools with 25,000 students, she said.

“Our schools are in dire need of the tax money that is being diverted from them, and our children can no longer afford to lose teachers and programs,” she said.

Katten called for sunsetting TIFs “that have served their purpose” and restricting new TIF designations to blighted areas.  She urged the task force to consider removing CPS from the TIF equation.

In the 47th ward, where she lives, “we have million-dollar homes and six TIFs diverting money from schools,” she said.  “It’s a shame.”

One size doesn’t fit all

Bernard Loyd’s Urban Juncture is developing a “culinary destination” in a large turn-of-the-century building at 51st and Prairie – four restaurants, each featuring different aspects of black cuisine, and a produce market, with 140 jobs projected.  TIF funding has been approved to cover $3 million of the project’s $9 million cost.

As a former partner at McKinsey and Co., a major management consulting firm, he’s become well-versed in the differences between big and small business.  The way the TIF program is structured and administered is fundamentally geared toward large corporations and developers, he said.

Businesses don’t operate that way, he points out.  “When GM is selling to Avis or to an individual consumer – they want to make the sale in either case – but everything is different, the sales effort, the terms – even the car will be different.”

With TIF, it’s the same application process, the same basic deal structure.  “In the vast majority of projects outside of affordable housing, a developer or a corporate entity has brought it to the city, and the city is reacting,” he said.  “That reactive posture puts the onus on the community to generate opportunities, and that’s part of the reason you have very skewed usage of TIFs.”

In Bronzeville that means five TIFs with nearly $100 million in revenues have generated only nine projects, seven of them residential, and only one (Urban Juncture’s) commercial.

The city needs to develop “a much more proactive and streamlined approach” to promote community economic development, he said.  “There’s a huge need to educate business folks and residents about what [TIF] is and how it can be used.”  (At this point, the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development “doesn’t have the resources to do a lot of outreach,” he said.)

Capital rich, capital poor

And while corporations have easy access to capital and residential developers can tap a range of public funding sources, getting private financing for a commercial project in a neighborhood like Bronzeville is a very tough climb.  There may need to be flexibility in the proportion of costs TIF will cover — and in the way deals are structured.

The typical TIF deal is back-end loaded. “For a corporation it’s a sweetener, and they have a hundred other places they can go for cash.  We’re in Bronzeville, virtually cut off from capital,” said Loyd.  “We need money up front.  But the city tells us, hey, great project, we’re going to help, and by the way, when we get a certificate of completion, then you’ll get payment.”

City development staff “really worked with us” to get a TIF note which Urban Juncture could borrow on, “but it was a whole long negotiation,” Loyd said.  And some of the funding is still being held back.  (Loyd’s group has invested $1.5 million in the project and is working with nonprofit lenders.)

“The city is used to working with huge corporations,” said Loyd.  “But a process that will work for United is almost certainly not going to work well for us.”

“We need to realign our thinking as a city to invest in neighborhoods, because it is not trickling down from downtown,” he said.  “Many of our neighborhoods are in bad, bad shape, and we have to do a lot better creating jobs for residents. We’re not capturing the opportunities.”

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A convention for Chicago’s grassroots http://www.newstips.org/2010/12/a-convention-for-chicagos-grassroots/ http://www.newstips.org/2010/12/a-convention-for-chicagos-grassroots/#comments Wed, 15 Dec 2010 22:19:23 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=2504 It had the look and the excitement of a political convention, and indeed it was:  a convention of Chicago’s grassroots.

Markers identified sections for delegations from dozens of community groups, and most sections were filled with people wearing brightly colored, matching t-shirts—blue for Action Now in the back corner, Maroon for KOCO in the front, yellow for Lakeview Action Council, orange for Logan Square Neighborhood Association.  Green for Albany Park, orange for Brighton Park.  On one side was a group of young people from Woodlawn, near a section of people, many in wheelchairs, from Access Living.

At the beginning of the New Chicago 2011 mayoral forum, held Tuesday evening at the UIC Forum, members took turns calling out their organizations from the podium, and in turn each section erupted in cheers.

It’s likely to be the largest crowd for a mayoral forum all season – well over 2,000 people — but for some reason, you won’t hear much about it in the city’s mainstream media. (So far Mike Flannery at Fox News Chicago seems to be the only exception, though his report manages to focus on a candidate who wasn’t there; Progress Illinois has some video clips.)

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Miguel del Valle drew the sharpest distinctions with the pundit’s putative frontrunner Rahm Emanuel — who had declined an invitation and was tied up at a hearing on his residency anyway — and Patricia Watkins emerged as a serious candidate with several specific proposals.

Carol Moseley Braun and Danny Davis stressed their experience with the groups’ issues; for Davis it stretched from his role as the original sponsor of living wage legislation in the City Council long ago to current sponsor of the DREAM Act in Congress.  James Meeks stressed TIF reform and his work for equitable school funding — but didn’t mention the call for vouchers at the heart of the educational program he released Wednesday morning.

Gery Chico drew boos when was asked about food deserts and started talking about Walmart.  He and Meeks left early.

In his opening statement, Del Valle drew the clearest line between his campaign and Emanuel’s, telling the audience, “You understand the need for a neighborhood agenda, not a downtown agenda, not a big business agenda, but a neighborhood agenda.”

When the candidates were asked about immigration reform, Del Valle drew the most sustained applause of the evening, attacking Emanuel as “the one individual most responsible for blocking immigration reform, as a congressman, as chief of staff,” continuing to a passionate crescendo over the rising cheers of the crowd: “How can we expect him to protect the residents of this city’s neighborhoods?”

He also made a clearest distinction with Emanuel’s program for schools: “We can’t continue to set up parallel systems of education, on one track selective enrollment, magnets and charters, on the other track neighborhood schools. It’s time to strengthen neighborhood schools.”

Watkins opened by referencing her background of community organizing, shared with the audience:  “I have marched with you for immigration reform, for criminal justice reform… We have done more as organizers than any politician that you know.”

She called for a program of social investment bonds to encourage “venture philanthropists” to tackle social problems and for a city effort to develop railroad industry jobs.  On immigration she demanded that “ICE stop trolling in Cook County Jail, because we have to keep our families together.”

The candidates were asked about youth issues, immigration, schools, the living wage, and an ordinance devoting TIF funds to affordable housing.

Asked about schools (and school closings specifically), Braun mentioned her sponsorship of school reform legislation that created local school councils, said no closings should happen without community input, and attacked Chico for his record as Board of Education president in the early days of mayoral control.

Chico gave a spirited defense, saying schools were on an upswing when he left his post, and “we built 65 new schools – we didn’t close schools, we built schools.”

Like Davis, Watkins backed an elected school board and an educator to head CPS. “Decisions are being made for us and we are not at the table,” she said.

Her position on school closings and “turnarounds” – “no school needs to close; we can turn around our schools from within” – seemed to contrast with her previous work with groups that turn around schools from outside.  (More here.)

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It was the neighborhood activists who introduced the various issues who gave the most moving talks:  Jessie Belton of Southwest Youth Collaborative talked about a neighborhood youth who was attacked on the street after being turned away from a youth center that was closed.  Cindy Agustin, a University of Chicago senior whose family moved to Back of the Yards when she was three, talked about the impact of her undocumented status on her dream of teaching elementary school.

West Sider Takaya Nelson, representing Action Now, said that growing up, “I never though college was an option,” and now — as a CPS teacher recruited and trained through the Grow Your Own program — she encourages children to expand their ambitions.

Cira Isidiro, from Illinois Hunger Coalition, described her heartbreak explaining to her daughter why there isn’t enough to eat in the refrigerator, and Debra Geirin, a resident and activist with Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, talked about the joy of getting their own place after she and her husband had to live with her mother and her sister’s family for five years.  “A lot of families are doubling and tripling up because there is not enough affordable housing,” she said.

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