Organization of the North East – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 Cappleman protest called http://www.newstips.org/2013/03/cappleman-protest-called/ Wed, 06 Mar 2013 02:51:20 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7015 An ad-hoc group of activists will protest — and offer free soup — outside 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman’s office on Wednesday, March 6 (5 p.m., 4544 N. Broadway), while two community organizations have invited the controversial alderman to a town hall on March 21 to discuss affordable housing and other issues.

Food Not Bombs will be providing soup for anyone who’s hungry outside Cappleman’s office on Wednesday.

Cappleman has been getting plenty of attention lately from Mark Brown and DNAinfo for his attempts to ban low-rent cubicle hotels, kick the Salvation Army soup truck out of his ward, and most recently, make it a crime to be in a bus stop if you’re not waiting for a bus.

On top of it, with a wave of developers  gobbling up affordable rentals across the north lakefront, Capplemen has shown no interest in preserving housing options for his low-income constituents — in some cases, critics say, almost certainly adding to the number of homeless.

Repeatedly citing his background as a social worker, Cappleman has claimed sympathy with the poor and sad he wants more effective delivery of services.

But “it’s not enough to say there should be grants, there should be programs,” said Thomas Weisgard, an Occupy activist and organizer of Wednesday’s protest.  “Here there are hundreds and hundreds of people who now have a place to live, who have a place to get food, and he’s shutting them down.

“It’s winter, it’s Chicago, we’re getting ten inches of snow, and he’s putting people out in the street.”

‘Classic Cappleman’

“It’s classic Cappleman stuff,” said Fran Tobin of Northside Action for Justice.  “He says he’s looking out for poor people by not feeding them — providing them with food makes them dependent.  It’s what he’s been saying for years.”

“We’re seeing a pattern where [Cappleman’s] actions don’t jibe with his words,” said Erin Ryan, president of the board of Lakeview Action Coalition.

A social worker who works with homeless people, Ryan said Cappleman’s assertion that feeding people is a “disincentive” to getting them “sustained help” is “perplexing” and “just not in line with best practices.”

LAC and Organization of the Northeast have invited Cappleman to a community meeting on March 21 on the subject, “Who Is Welcome in the 46th Ward?”

“We want to lay out how we’d like to work together on these issues and give [Cappleman] an opportunity to speak publicly about whether he wants to work with us,” said Jennifer Ritter, LAC’s executive director.

As reported here last month, Cappleman is among the alderman that LAC has called on to help preserve SRO housing where residents are threatened with eviction.  Attention in his ward has focused on the Hotel Chateau, 3838 N. Broadway, where 30-day notices of lease termination are coming due.

Hands off

Cappleman has declined to use his influence to press developers to maintain affordability, or even to make a public statement in favor of preserving affordability, organizers say.  Residents say he’s referred them to agencies that provide homeless services.

“There’s not a lot of room in the homeless system,” said Ryan, who’s executive director of the Lincoln Park Community Shelter.  “You’re taking people who are living independently” — and in many cases accessing social services near where they live — “and putting them in shelters….It’s going to be difficult to get them back in permanent housing.”

She adds: “No one is better off in a shelter.”

Ryan points out that while the city is united behind an amibitous plan to end homelessness — which calls for preserving and expanding affordable housing — Cappleman is “working against that plan, and working to displace people and make them homeless.”

In Uptown and Rogers Park, ONE has been focused on a developer who’s bought up seven buildings with 800 units of affordable studio apartments with plans to make them upscale.  ONE has been calling for a portion of the units to be preserved as affordable.

Cappleman has refused to discuss the matter with the community organization, taking the remarkable position that an alderman has no influence over a developer in his ward, said interim director Angie Lobo.  She said it’s clear that in fact Cappleman is working with the developer.

Safety net

“These buildings provide an important safety-net level of very affordable housing,  and if they are lost, many of their resident will become homeless,” said Ryan.  “We can’t afford to lose them.

“There’s no question they should be well-managed and safe, but we think there is a way to keep the buildings affordable and make them assets to the community,” she said.

LAC has succeeded in preserving a number of SROs as updated, low-income housing, most recently bringing in a nonprofit developer for the Diplomat Hotel, 3208 N. Sheffield, where Thresholds now operates the building and provides services on site.

In that case Alderman Tom Tunney (44th) took a clear public position that he wanted the building’s affordability preserved, and he worked with LAC and city agencies to make that happen.  “An alderman’s support can be tremendously helpful,” said Ryan.

“We’re trying to work with the developers and the alderman, but there are so many backroom deals, and we have not been welcome at the table,” she said.

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Facing anti-violence cuts, Brighton Park proposes a community plan http://www.newstips.org/2012/07/facing-anti-violence-cuts-brighton-park-proposes-community-plan/ Thu, 26 Jul 2012 23:02:36 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6484 Kelly High School’s auditorium was packed Wednesday night by residents of Brighton Park – the neighborhood where a 13-year-old boy was shot on his front porch while shielding a friend earlier this month – supporting a community anti-violence plan in the face of drastic cuts to programs they say have been working.

“Violence is up in Brighton Park, but it’s not up as much as elsewhere,” said Patrick Brosnan of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.  In nearby Chicago Lawn, killings are up 150 percent, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The gang issue has gotten more complicated this year,” Brosnan said.  “There are a lot of fights, a lot of shootings.”  This spring there was an average of a shooting each week, according to The Gate.  But BPNC’s youth programs have a lot of success stories, Brosnan said.

State Representative Dan Burke and other officials pledged to help BPNC secure funding from the state for youth leadership and mentoring programs, parent patrols, school-based counseling, and gang intervention programs.

Budget cut in half

Most of those programs are currently funded through two state programs.  The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative provides jobs for 80 young people as peer mentors and 50 parents mentors in each of 20 Chicago communities, and the Safety Net Works program supports existing youth services, including school-based counseling and crisis intervention, to collaborate on broad anti-violence efforts.

But the $30 million funding for the two programs was eliminated in the new state budget.  It was replaced by a $15 million allocation to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Agency for community-based violence prevention efforts.

Organizations participating in the two programs are pressing to keep existing programs operating, said Chris Patterson, NRI coordinator at Organization of the Northeast in Uptown.  “How do you cover 20 communities with half the funding?” he said.

BPNC proposed a plan which would step up programs, including new money to bring CeaseFire to the community.

A better path

The group’s youth programming is “very effective,” said Esteban Salazar, who will be a senior at Kelly this fall.  Before getting involved, “I was on a bad path,” he said.  “I was hanging around with gangs, hanging around with crews, involved with drugs and alcohol, doing violence.”

He’s left all those things behind, and he now plans to study auto mechanics for a year after graduating high school, then go to college for mechanical engineering.

“They teach us to be a better person, and they do it by having fun,” he said of the program.  They’ve volunteered at food pantries and other community sites, visited colleges, met with elected officials.  Salazar was surprised to find himself in a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden recently, he said.

The group also organizes an annual violence prevention youth summit.

Back in school

Others have benefited just as much, Salazar said.  “There are kids who are in school who wouldn’t be without the program,” he said.

Wednesday night, Jacqueline Cruz testified about the impact of the youth mentoring program.  “I was a troubled youth,” she said.  “I would cut school and only want to be in the streets.  But I’ve been attending school every day and my grades are A’s and B’s.  And I even have a job.”

She added:  “We don’t want to see a program that has benefited many of us in a positive way to be taken away from us.”

Mark Bachleda, part of the Parent Leadership Action Network, spoke of going door-to-door to reach out to parents struggling to raise adolescents, and called on elected officials who were present to “help us make a difference.”

Hundreds of at-risk students at Kelly High and seven elementary schools have been helped through school-based counseling, said Janeth Herrera.

Annual gaps

Constant shifts and annual gaps in program funding create huge difficulties, Brosnan said.  “Last year we had to lay off the whole counseling staff [when funding ran out] at the end of June,” he said.  “We found out at the end of August that funding was restored and we had to hire a whole batch of new people.”

Such gaps can have serious effects, said Patterson, a former CeaseFire coordinator.  “We created a ceasefire between two groups of guys who were doing most of the killings” in Uptown several years ago, he said.  “Now since CeaseFire is no longer on the street, they’ve started shooting each other again.”

ICJIA is aware of the work being done by community groups and sensitive to their concerns, said spokesperson Cristin Evans.  “We’re still working with the governor’s office to determine the most effective use of funds, given the reduction in the funding level,” she said.

An unsafe park

The biggest demonstration of support Wednesday – the audience erupted in chants — was for BPNC’s campaign to restore Kelly Park, across the street from the high school.  “Where are our representatives?” asked Silvia Torres, contrasting the $3 million project to the $30 million TIF subsidy for a plaza at a downtown riverfront development.

(It may be worth noting that the city funding for a wealthy Loop developer is twice the amount of state funding now budgeted for scores of community organizations fighting to keep young people alive.)

Kelly Park’s playing field is studded with rocks and concrete and a portion of it with poor drainage “becomes a swamp in the spring,” said Sara Reschly, BPNC’s Safety Net Works coordinator.  And it’s laid out in a baseball diamond, while the high school needs it for football and soccer.

Kellly High has a championship soccer team, but has had to travel a mile away to McKinley Park to play.  But that’s “not safe for all the players,” because it crosses gang boundaries, she said.

Last year one team member was jumped and beaten while walking with his family in the parking lot before a game, she said, and at another game, a “masked person” threatened to kill the team members and the coach if they came back to the park.

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A community platform to stop violence http://www.newstips.org/2012/04/a-community-platform-to-stop-violence/ Sun, 29 Apr 2012 20:02:07 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6079 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.

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Recruiting LSC candidates http://www.newstips.org/2008/03/recruiting-lsc-candidates/ Thu, 06 Mar 2008 22:24:37 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=110 “The community here takes LSC elections very seriously — just as seriously as Hillary and Barack,” said Darryl Bell of Teamwork Englewood.

The group is one of a dozen around the city working with “minigrants” from the CPS Office of LSC Relations to recruit candidates for April LSC elections. The deadline for candidates to file is March 12.

PURE recently posted an updated guide to LSC elections (pdf).

Bell reports enthusiasm among community residents for the elections — in part motivated by concern over the consolidation of the Miles Davis Magnet and Vernon Johns Middle Schools. He said the change could create trouble by requiring students to cross gang boundaries.

Bob Vondrasek at South Austin Coalition reports a bit more difficulty in recruiting candidates. Organizers have encountered some negative attitudes toward LSCs, he said.

“Some go bad. Some are controlled by the principal,” he said. “But even with all the flaws, they’re still doggone worth having. They’re the only way you can have some kind of voice in the school.

“At it’s best, a good LSC and a good principal are the two key things. You get more parental involvement and more community involvement.”

“It’s extremely difficult motiving parents to run for LSCs when the board continues trying to close or turn-around schools” — acting unilaterally, without consulting their LSCs, said Wanda Hopkins, a parent advocate at PURE and LSC member at Lewis school who’s working with SAC on candidate recruitment.

SAC staff help out every day with traffic control and supervising students when school lets out at May Elementary; the group is also working with others to get a new high school for Austin, Vondrasek said.

Mary Kennedy of the Beverly Area Planning Association goes to community meetings to “give information and a pep talk” and works with community residents to find candidates at schools which don’t have full LSC slates. Most LSCs in the area “run very well,” she said. The group is also running ads and planning candidate forums.

Recruiting candidates is an extension of ongoing work in schools for these groups. BAPA holds principal meetings and parent workshops through the year.

Logan Square Neighborhood Association has an extensive array of school programs — including community learning centers, a leadership training program for parent mentors, literacy ambassadors, and a youth-led dropout prevention and college preparation campaign. The organization pioneered the Grow Your Own neighborhood teacher development program, now sponsored by the state.

LSCs and their power to select principals mean that “principals respect the parents and the community because they have to, and they have a real voice and they’re listened to,” said LSNA education organizer Bridget Murphy.

LSNA member Araceli Carrillo is on the Monroe School LSC and running for a second term. She started out as a volunteer in the school two years before her first LSC term.

“I like to be part of this because they let us give our opinions regarding what the school needs, and we talk about what is best for the school and the students,” she said. “The parents, the principal and the teachers talk together…. Everybody wants the best for the students.”

Organization of the North East also has parent mentors with leadership development training and participates in the Grow Your Own program, as well as parent committees, principal and parent breakfasts and parent rountables, said education organizer Astrid Suarez. Parent involvement is their key concern, she said.

“The traditional ways CPS has to facilitate parental involvement are not really helpful,” she said. Members of bilingual committees, for example, don’t like the way CPS controls their agenda. ONE seeks to build “a culture of collaboration,” she said.

Parent mentors are “very important for immigrant parents,” Suarez said. “The system can be intimidating to parents who are immigrants, and parent mentors become their liasons.” It’s also helpful for African-American parents, she said. Parents who volunteer in schools get experience that helps them serve on LSCs.

One of ONE’s main recruiting goals is ensuring the diversity of the school community — dozens of languages are spoken in some schools — is represented on LSCs. Parents are concerned about the quality of bilingual education and want to develop multicultural curricula that are more meaningful, she said.

Other groups with CPS minigrants to recruit candidates include Alliance for Community Peace, Community Lifeline Foundation, Little Village Community Development Corporation, Partnership for Education Growth, South Side United LSC Federation, and West Town Leadership United.

Lawsuit and legislation

A lawsuit by LSCs at three small schools backed by PURE (pdf) is seeking an injunction to order CPS to hold regular LSC elections at schools carved out of old high schools in April. Parents there vote in “advisory polls” and CPS appoints an “advisory” LSC — in violation of the state school code, the suit charges.

After an LSC was established in 2006 at the School of Entrepreneurship at South Shore, it was informed the principal was resigning — “and it was preferred that we not conduct a principal search but accept the interim principal” chosen by CPS, said Valencia Rias, an LSC member and plaintiff in the suit.

Communicating with the principal has been “fairly difficult” for council members, and “there’s been no communication with parents other than report cards,” said Rias, an organizer with Designs for Change and South Side United LSC Federation. The school faces many challenges, she said — very low achievement levels, lack of textbooks, discipline and building facility issues. But the principal is acountable only to CPS administrators.

The lawsuit could be expanded to include other schools created by CPS in recent years without elected LSCs, said Julie Woestehoff of PURE. “CPS has basically driven a Mack truck through a small loophole in the school reform law,” she said.

About 90 percent of CPS students attend schools governed by LSCs, said Don Moore of Designs for Change. “This is a unique institution among cities in the nation, and it’s the largest body of elected officials of color in the U.S.”

Said Moore: “The mayor and the school system for the most part never mention LSCs and behave as if they don’t exist, so it’s important to get the word out that these positions are open.”

Meanwhile, the Mid South Education Association is inviting state legislators to a public hearing April 12 at Kennicott Park on a resolution calling for more support for LSCs. The resolution was passed by the House last year and was introduced in the upper chamber by State Senator Mattie Hunter in February. Organizer Jitu Brown said they’ll be working to close loopholes and require LSCs at all schools in coming months.

[Catalyst reports on declining support from foundations and CPS for community groups recruiting LSC candidates here.]

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