How the Progressive Caucus Passed a Bad TIF

June 23, 2016
By Ryne Poelker

On June 22, 2016 the full city council voted to approve the $16 million TIF towards luxury high-rises in the gentrifying Uptown neighborhood directly off of North Lakeshore Drive at Montrose and Clarendon while demolishing the historically significant Cuneo Hospital. Apartments in the development were to have a monthly rent of $1800 for studios, $2100 for one-bedrooms, $2700 for two-bedrooms and over $5000 for the town home units. Less than 5% units of one of the two high rises were on site affordable housing (The other 5% required is then suppose to be paid into the city housing trust fund). When taking into account both high-rises in the single development, the amount of affordable housing percentage in the total development is even less than that. Plenty has been written on the development by Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader as well as local journalists with DNAinfo. For literally years, community residents against displacement have been clamoring against the TIF handout to such a development. Ballot referendum have been voted on, thousands have signed petitions, countless pickets happened outside the ward’s aldermanic office and protests and marches occurred even on the mayor’s own home nearby in an effort to halt this project. All this was ultimately ignored by the city council’s most progressive aldermen.

As Ald. Burke introduced the development for a full council vote, he noted, “There is a particular urgency on this matter”. The politically connected alderman was right. There was an urgency to pass through the TIF development because within a matter of a few days the new ARO rules would come into effect disqualifying the development even more so for approval and requiring the developer to pay several times more affordable housing to be 20% of the total development. Community activists urged alderman who said they would vote no on the ordinance to defer the full council vote past this date deadline. The parliamentary move only required two aldermen to do so and would have stopped the development. Many aldermen were spoken to in person. Many were called. They all refused to make such a move.

In the city of Chicago, machine aldermen often follow a certain code of silence akin to that of the Chicago police. When a development is supported by the alderman of that ward, other aldermen are expected to support it as to get support for developments in their own ward. Well the esteemed alderman of the 46th Ward, Ald. James Cappleman, not surprisingly fully backed this TIF project with zeal. The fix was in and the development was expected to pass. Aldermen then figured that they could vote no on the matter for political cover without actually attempting to stop the project in a serious way.

The development passed the finance committee with only 2 “no” votes and with members of the supposed progressive caucus, like Toni Foulkes and John Arena, voting yes and Scott Waguespack and others not even showing up for the vote. The full council vote passed the TIF with 37 for it and only 13 voting against it. That time around Ald. Arena and Ald. Waguespack decided to vote no. While eloquent speeches on the council floor were made by Ald. Osterman and aldermen are taking pride in their no votes, it all is empty. The real chance to push back the TIF and stop it was squandered. None of those who voted “no” would step up and defer the ordinance. Many had hoped that even the two most progressive aldermen, Ald. Sue Sadlowski Garza and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, would defer the project but alas it did not happen. In front of the council’s finance committee, left-wing activist Andy Thayer proclaimed “If you want your vote to actually mean something then defer and publish this past the deadline for the new ARO to come into effect. Otherwise this all means nothing and we aren’t going to buy it”. After the finance committee vote, Thayer wrote an open letter to the progressive caucus that like so many other pleas was ignored.

Teachers, working people, those in the neighborhoods, the rank and file had sweat and worked hours to get these aldermen elected. They did so out of a real desire for political courage and fundamental change. They did so to stop tax breaks to luxury housing developers like this one. Aldermen of the progressive caucus paid insult to those desires by allowing this development to go through. Though it already happened, these aldermen need to feel the criticism, anger and disappointment. They need to do so because it could happen to another community again. They need to do so because the movements from below need to raise our standards out of candidates who call themselves progressive reformers. It is these movements that made the aldermanic careers of the progressive caucus possible and it these movements that should hold them accountable when poor and working-class people are so blatantly wronged. If there isn’t that kind of accountability in place then we are denied the leaders we so desperately wanted and need.

6/22/16 City Council Vote on the Maryville TIF:
Record #: SO2016-4370 Version: 1
Type: Ordinance
Title: Redevelopment agreement with Montrose Clarendon Partners LLC for construction of residential and grocery/retail space and parking facilities at 4400-4424 and 4401-4415 N Clarendon Ave
Mover: Burke, Edward M. Seconder: Beale, Anthony
Result: Pass
Agenda note:
Action: Passed
Action text:
Votes (37:13)
50 records
Group
Export
Person Name
Vote
Moreno, Proco Joe Nay
Hopkins, Brian Nay
Dowell, Pat Yea
King, Sophia Yea
Hairston, Leslie A. Yea
Sawyer, Roderick T. Yea
Mitchell, Gregory I. Yea
Harris, Michelle A. Yea
Beale, Anthony Yea
Sadlowski Garza, Susan Nay
Thompson, Patrick D. Yea
Cardenas, George A. Nay
Quinn, Marty Yea
Burke, Edward M. Yea
Lopez, Raymond A. Yea
Foulkes, Toni Yea
Moore, David H. Yea
Curtis, Derrick G. Yea
O’Shea, Matthew J. Yea
Cochran, Willie Yea
Brookins, Jr., Howard Yea
Munoz, Ricardo Nay
Zalewski, Michael R. Yea
Scott, Jr. Michael Yea
Solis, Daniel Yea
Maldonado, Roberto Yea
Burnett, Jr., Walter Yea
Ervin, Jason C. Yea
Taliaferro, Chris Yea
Reboyras, Ariel Yea
Santiago, Milagros S. Yea
Waguespack, Scott Nay
Mell, Deborah Nay
Austin, Carrie M. Yea
Ramirez-Rosa, Carlos Nay
Villegas, Gilbert Yea
Mitts, Emma Yea
Sposato, Nicholas Yea
Laurino, Margaret Yea
O’Connor, Patrick Yea
Napolitano, Anthony V. Yea
Reilly, Brendan Nay
Smith, Michele Nay
Tunney, Thomas Yea
Arena, John Nay
Cappleman, James Yea
Pawar, Ameya Nay
Osterman, Harry Nay
Moore, Joseph Yea
Silverstein, Debra L. Yea

A Letter in Response: For Housing and Against Displacement

Here is the text of our response letter addressing the arguments put out by other residents calling for the removal of homeless encampments. Copy and paste it into your email and send it to the email addresses listed at the end of it. Let’s show which voices in Uptown are greater in number:

To Mayor Emanuel and to whom it may concern,

Recently, a small group of outspoken residents expressed concern and explicit disdain over the homeless encampments existing under lakeshore drive here in the Uptown neighborhood. Among many things stated in their letter they expressed disingenuous worry over the supposed safety and well-being of those sleeping outside and requested such individuals be removed to “somewhere else”. Those who wrote the letter also claimed that the encampments are somehow an endangerment to themselves as residents. They demanded that supposed laws be enforced, that the homeless be cleared from the sidewalks and that the city should push a really destructive harmful way of going forward when handling our homeless neighbors. They also claimed or implied there’s an overconcentration of low-cost housing in the Uptown area, there’s more than enough shelters beds available for all of Chicago’s homeless sleeping outside and there’s an adequate amount of services that just need to step in more.

These residents and groups behind the letter are dead wrong on multiple fronts. They’re wrong on their stigmatizing fears and narrow vilification of our homeless neighbors. They’re wrong on the laws, which actually protect the homeless having a right to the public sidewalks. They’re wrong on there being an adequate amount of housing, services and shelter beds in the area for everyone sleeping outside. In reality, they offered no substantive long-term solutions to homelessness in their letter other than for general unspecific calls of removal that reflected a petty selfish “out of sight, out of mind” mentality plaguing the character of our neighborhood. As also residents and allies of Uptown, we found much of their letter to be lacking and counter to the altruistic inclusive diverse refuge nature for the dispossessed we believe our Uptown community has long advocated for and should continue to advocate for. ‘Uptown for everyone’ is the simple vision and aim we hope that city officials and agencies consider while interacting with the homeless population here. The only way the homeless should be removed is by their own accord, and adequate housing is their right.

Many of us who live in Uptown have not experienced the kind of fear and paranoia over safety these other residents are claiming come from the encampments. Daily, we walk by and speak to those sleeping under the viaducts. We have not experienced the kind of descriptions that were mentioned by the other letter being sent out. Of all the gang shootings in Uptown, not one has come from these encampments. Of all the homicides in the neighborhood during this past record-high year, not one has come from these homeless encampments. Of all the muggings in the neighborhood, not one has been documented to come from those under the viaducts. Needless to say, there really is a lacking in objective evidence that those sleeping under the viaducts are a threat to other members of the community as the complaining neighbors claim. Perhaps if safety is a concern, there are more urgent priorities that should be tended to rather than harassing the homeless? Moreover, removing the encampments without putting homeless folks in stable housing endangers their lives more not less. Forcing the homeless to go off as individuals, separated from their new communities and networks into less lit, less visible areas makes them more prone to robbery, battery and sexual violence. As a report provided by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty demonstrates, criminalizing and harassing the homeless to constantly move physically endangers such individuals to less safe areas, negatively impacts their stress and emotional mental health as well as makes it more difficult for service providers to keep track of such individuals and put them into stable housing. As a long term solution to homelessness, we urge you to end the criminalization and harassment of the homeless as a means to more effectively get them into stable housing.

Furthermore, the argument in the other letter that the law warrants the removal and eviction of the homeless under the viaducts is simply untrue. As long as there is space to walk through, the homeless have every legal right to be where they are. The Bryant agreement between the city and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless clearly states that the homeless are legally protected under the viaducts. Moreover, the Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights also protects our homeless neighbors to be free from excessive harassment and criminalization in public spaces. Regardless of such legal protections though, we ask you to hear the words of Dr. King who rightly said in the era of legal segregation, “An unjust law is no law at all”. Laws used to criminalize the homeless for being homeless are simply unjust laws that should not be enforced. They run in contradiction to every faith, creed and democratic ideal. The law is in fact on our side, but real morality and human justice must rise up.

Another component that needs to be addressed in the increase to homelessness and how to respond is the cuts to mental healthcare. For years these community groups and anonymous blogs now complaining about the homeless under the viaducts remained silent on the cut backs to mental healthcare, substance abuse counseling, transitional housing programs and really the kind of funding that was keeping people out of homelessness in the first place. Perhaps it shows a lack of long-term concern for the homeless? That complaints only arose from them when it impacted only them? For example, not a single word has been publicized from The Beacon Block Club over the lack of mental healthcare in this country. Not a word from Uptown Update when services have had to close. Not a word from any of these groups when Alderman Cappleman voted to close half of the city’s mental health clinics. One solution that could curb the rising tide of homelessness in our city that we believe should be immediately taken is to re-open every mental health clinic that has been closed, restore every dollar of funding to these programs that has been lost over the decades and better yet aggressively expand more not less funding for all these programs dealing with mental healthcare and substance abuse counseling.

It is also undeniable that more low-cost housing within the immediate area is needed to curb the increase of homelessness. The closure of several low-cost SRO’s (Single Room Occupancies) played a huge role in the spike of people sleeping outside. These same groups and anonymous blogs who promoted the closure and gentrification of these needed housing options are now the same ones complaining the loudest about how people sleeping outside need to be removed. We find the disconnect simply astonishing. Buildings like the Hotel Chateau, The Lawrence House and the Norman Hotel provided over 1000 units of low-cost housing that was primarily used by people who were on the risk of being homeless or who were formerly homeless. These buildings were flipped into units with rents 2-3 times higher, all of which was celebrated by the areas block clubs and Uptown Update. The miracle today is that there aren’t 1000 people sleeping under the viaducts instead of the mere handfuls who are there. Despite claims in other letters, the neighborhood has no more units of subsidized housing than the thousands of units of condo housing. The argument that there is an overconcentration of low-cost housing in Uptown is based on a double standard when looking at the numbers of high-income condo housing in the area, which make up over 20% of the 46th ward. The need to replenish the 1000 units of low-cost SRO housing obviously exists in Uptown with scores of people sleeping outside. Through the use of Tifs and other government funding mechanisms- the ability is also there. Rather than subsidizing 700 units of luxury housing that isn’t needed with the Montrose Clarendon Tif, that money should be used instead to provide more low-cost housing options for those facing the risk of homelessness. Moreover as a way of actually saving city tax money on hospital expenses and jail expenses, the city should build enough low-cost housing to provide a housing first model. Such has been successfully implemented in other cities across the country that have both ended homelessness and saved millions of tax dollars by putting people into housing as a pre-condition before all other steps in getting the homeless into stable conditions.

While there are shelter beds in the city of Chicago, there are not enough for Chicago’s estimated 140,000 homeless individuals. Despite the claims of the letter demanding removal under the viaducts, every shelter bed could be filled but there would still be tens of thousands of people sleeping outside. This doesn’t count for the fact that there are stay limits in Chicago shelters as well and individuals can only sleep in a shelter for a certain amount of months. The letter also doesn’t consider that many shelters are gender-segregated and couples rightfully don’t want to be separated. Consequently many sleep outside together. The implication behind the argument put out in the other letter is very clearly about vilifying the homeless outside. The complaining residents are very blatantly trying to blame the homeless for the realities that people in many ways are forced to sleep outside of shelters.

The only way to provide a substantive long-term solution to the homelessness under the lakeshore drive viaducts is to provide low-cost housing and restore social service funding through all available means. As already argued in length, simply telling the homeless to move or criminalizing their existence are not solutions and in fact worsen the rising tide of dispossession and homelessness we’re already seeing. The other letter put out by block clubs and blogs does not represent our community or a viable way of moving forward. With so much wealth and power at your disposal, we implore you to aggressively provide more housing to people here in Uptown and across the city. THAT is our very simple demand.

Sincerely,
INSERT YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS

Email addresses to copy and paste into your message:
rahm.emanuel@cityofchicago.org, james@james46.org, harry@48thward.org, us.rep.schakowsky@mail.house.gov, steans@senatedem.illinois.gov, rep13greg@gregharris.org, michael.rendina@cityofchicago.org

No TIF Handout for Luxury Lakefront Hi-Rises

Monday, March 7, 2015 5:30pm
Wilson Avenue @ Lake Shore Drive

Facebook event signup >>> https://www.facebook.com/events/174294922947540

Even by Chicago standards, the brazenness of this theft is stunning.

In a city already infamous for its taxpayer-funded gifts to the wealthy and well-connected, Alderman Cappleman proposes to build a luxury lakefront hi-rise in Uptown using $16 million of TIF tax money.

The development site sits on prime real estate off Lake Shore Drive, one of the last large parcels of land next to Lincoln Park. In no way do the developers need this tax handout other than to widen their own profit margins. It is a gross giveaway at a time of great financial need for schools, teachers and other areas of the city budget.

That homeless Chicagoans sleep underneath bridge viaducts literally a few hundred feet away is apparently of no consequence. $16M would produce a lot of low income housing in a ward that has lost over 1000 SRO units, which typically house people on the edge of homelessness, since Cappleman came into office.

Political contributions apparently greased the skids for the proposed $16M TIF gift. Rahm Emanuel got a $5000 contribution from James Letchinger, who works for JDL, the developer. Cappleman got a $10,000 contribution from a real estate banking firm and over $7,000 from a real estate agent who does work for Letchinger. In return, these politically-connected real estate manipulators get tax money to fuel the whitening and gentrification of one of the few diverse communities on the North Side.

Time and time again, residents of the 46th Ward have voted overwhelmingly for referenda calling for using TIF funding for affordable housing and human needs, and not to subsidize gentrification. Apparently this matters little to elected officials who have such contempt for the democratic demands of the majority. Let’s make it matter to them!

One week before the City Council Finance Committee will probably vote on this TIF, please come to a community march to demand:

** No TIF for the rich!
** Fund low income housing!
** Don’t subsidize gentrification and ethnic cleansing!

Assemble at the Uptown tent encampment, Wilson & Lake Shore Drive, at 5:30pm, Monday, March 7th.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Feb. 19 viaduct cleaning: Wilson Avenue

I am so glad the city of Chicago gives a one week warning and seems to be aware they are under the public microscope. Compared to the past when they would just line up garbage trucks and throw away everything it’s an improvement. But still…

Viaduct cleanings are horrible and costly events

It’s inhumane, the psychological damage the city causes to the people experiencing homelessness at the viaducts. You would have to be there. These pictures do not even begin to convey the pain inflicted. Imagine if in a few hours you had to move the contents of your home 100 feet down the street so it could be swept with brooms. Imagine the damage it would cause to your possessions and state of mind… Imagine how much worse it is for people experiencing the disaster of homelessness and the many with serious healthcare needs… All for a broom sweeping, not even for a power wash and on a day with gale force winds…

UTC ‘Tents for the Homeless’ GoFundMe spent over $1000.00 fixing the damage the city caused

Day one we replaced about 15 tents and associated tarps. Many thanks to our donors for enabling us to be able to respond to these large scale emergencies. This weekend we will replace around 5 more tents and associated tarps. I can only imagine what the cost of 13 city vehicles and 22 city workers present at the cleaning added up to. Only about 5 workers were doing any kind of work. The city of Chicago needs to clean its own house first. When they do, maybe they will adopt a housing first model instead of the torture first model presently practiced.

These pictures are from just the Wilson viaduct. Irving Park, Lawrence and Foster viaducts also had the same bogus cleanings.

Please join our Facebook page for continuing news and volunteer opportunities. If you can help financially please visit our GoFundMe page:

Update – There is a newer GoFundMe:
https://www.gofundme.com/UTC-tents-for-the-homeless-2016-17

-Thanks!
Yehuda

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