Important Call to Action for Central City High School, and Roosevelt Branch Library Update

Please plan to join your neighbors in the West Loop at a meeting to discuss a community call to action to obtain a new high school for the central city community to be built on the property where the existing Chicago Police Academy at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd. now sits. The Academy will relocate to West Garfield Park.

Connecting4Communities and the West Central Association will host the meeting on Monday, August 28th at 6:30 p.m. at Built World Chicago at 1260 W. Madison St. There is a large parking lot for those who need to drive, but the location is only a few minutes by Divvy bike, or 15 minutes or so on foot.

C4C’s Central City High School updated proposal will be reviewed, and discussed, as will a letter writing campaign to the Mayor, and select members of the City Council, similar to the one I organized when I led the effort to open Chicago’s first public STEM school, the STEM Magnet Academy.

In 2010, after I discussed with then Mayor Daley reopening the unused CPS Jefferson School in our community, closed during the CHA’s ABLA revitalization planning for Roosevelt Square, a small committee consisting of community residents came together to help guide subsequent negotiations I had with the Mayor in his office, and with CPS executives for opening STEM Magnet Academy. That committee consisted of two C4C Board members, Jeff Rosen, Ph.D., and Shelley Brickson, Ph.D., along with West Loop resident, Armando Chacon, who is now president of the West Central Association, David Nichols, Paul Dravillas, and Terry Barton of University Village, and Little Italy resident, Jackie Marolda.

At one meeting with CPS executives, a resident of University Village, with two children entering kindergarten who did not get into an acceptable grade school, brought along his $20,000 property tax bill, and expressed regret that he, and his wife would, in addition to paying property taxes, also be spending over $20,000 for kindergarten at a private school. It made quite an impact. A similar organizational structure, broader in scope to include West Loop residents, will be developed in our efforts to obtain a new high school.

Regarding the proposed new Roosevelt Sq. Branch Library & Housing, and mixed-income housing for Taylor St., there is a small group of residents circulating a petition apparently in attempt to delay or defeat the development, and some of this group are falsely, and very naively claiming that the June, 1998 federal district Gautreaux Court’s ABLA Revitalizing Order can be altered to reduce the number of CHA low-income units required as set at 1,048 in the Order. One person making this claim confuses amending the U.S. Constitution with amending a federal district court order, claiming that if the Constitution can be amended so can a federal district court order. The Constitution, and a federal court order are two vastly different things, as are the processes to amend them.

Amending the ABLA Revitalizing Order in order to reduce the number of low-income CHA units would require that someone with standing to file a law suit– it’s a very high hurdle to meet requirements of standing–demonstrate, in what would be an exceedingly expensive case, if a lawyer could even be found who is qualified who would take what would be a frivolous case, that the Gautreaux civil rights attorneys, the CHA, HUD, and the Gautreaux Court made a mistake in setting the number of low-income CHA units at 1,048, and that it should be reduced in number. There’s no basis to make such an argument, particularly since the CHA, and HUD are obligated to provide housing for low income people, and because ABLA, which was once over 3,000 units of CHA housing, had only 1,050 valid leases at the time of the HOPE VI Revitalization Plan, and ABLA Revitalizing Order. Thus, the 1,048 units is approximately the number of valid leases at ABLA in the late 1990’s, which is a reduction by two thirds the original number of ABLA units.

Furthermore, this small group of people, beside running the risk of being perceived as fomenting fearmongering, entirely misses the point of a strategy that C4C developed, and successfully implemented to have 500 additional market-rate units added to the Roosevelt Sq. development in a new Roosevelt Sq. Master Plan, the development of which had extensive community engagement, the meetings for which were announced to our community by C4C. That strategy was developed because of the impossibility of reducing the low-income housing requirement, and in order to obtain what some academic survey research data seems to indicate residents of any given community in Chicago, and its metro area would deem a more desirable socioeconomic mix of housing.

The Gautreaux civil rights attorneys have told me that they are in support of, and committed to having these 500 additional market-rate units added into an amended ABLA Revitalizing Order, and C4C will work with them to convince the CHA that this is the right thing to do, and that Related Midwest should develop them. Additionally, this small group also misses the important point that a new, larger Chicago Public Library Roosevelt Branch was something that received overwhelming support from the hundreds of community residents who attended the master planning community meetings. It’s nearly certain that the petition being circulated will have no impact on the library, and housing development, and it is entirely certain that the number of low-income CHA units in the ABLA Revitalizing Order will remain fixed at 1,048. C4C will be reaching out to the community in the future for assistance implementing a strategy to have the 500 additional market-rate housing units added to an amended Order which requires that the CHA go back to court with the City, and with the Gautreaux civil rights attorneys. We will also continue our work to obtain improved management of subsidized housing in our community, and increased access to academically excellent public schools for all residents of our community. We deeply appreciate all the assistance so many community residents have volunteered to these efforts.