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Update: Zoning and Affordable Housing

by Michael Ibrahem 

Incentives or mandates: which tool will increase affordable housing in Chicago? On the one hand, Mayor Richard M. Daley wants to use density bonuses as incentives for developers to build affordable housing units. On the other side, several alderman are proposing strict mandatory requirements to ensure affordable units and better meet the needs of low-income residents.

At a May 26 press conference, the Mayor announced zoning changes that he says will have an impact on affordable housing in Chicago.
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Residents: “What People Want”

by Gabriel Piemonte 

More than one year ago, We The People Media began a new effort that has recently produced the first of what will be an ongoing series of reports relating to the CHA Plan for Transformation, the agency’s $1.5 billion effort to totally redevelop public housing in Chicago. The creation of “What People Want: The Relocation Information Center Feasibility Study” has expanded We The People Media’s employment of public housing residents in the pursuit of resident-based documentation and analysis of the low-income communities in and around public housing developments.
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Presidential Election Notebook

by Michael Ibrahem 

There was more activity and excitement surrounding the recent presidential election than most Americans living today have experienced in a lifetime. Throughout the nineties, the media presented convincing evidence showing continued apathy among registered American voters. Today, due to the excitement already mentioned, I suspect most of the apathy has dissipated, and that everyone has an opinion. More people were more passionate about the election than ever before.
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Obama’s Visit to Howard Alternative High School

by Josh Kuhnen 

On Nov. 2, 2004, history was made. Barack Obama became the third black senator since the Civil War when he beat Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate race.

On Oct. 29, just before the election, Obama came to Howard Area Alternative High School.

Obama’s mother is a white woman and his father was from Kenya. Obama was born in Hawaii and had a very diverse childhood. He grew up mostly with Asians and white people and was also affected by problems in the Black community. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 1983 and then attended Harvard University, where he was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He also worked as a community organizer in Harlem and Chicago. He was elected to the State Senate in 1996 and has served on the state senate judiciary and review committees. He has received numerous awards for campaigning for better health care.

Obama plans to help increase college grants and make college more affordable for kids like us who graduate and don’t have enough money to go to college. Obama also plans to help small businesses by targeting tax breaks in depressed areas and holding corporations accountable for tax breaks they receive from the state. When Obama visited Howard, he received an Education Champion Award and student leaders asked him questions.

Robert McKinney asked, “What do you see as the correct way to end the war? How would you makes sure our troops aren’t overextended and that the draft isn’t reinstated?” Obama said he was opposed to going into the war in the first place but he said we can’t pull out right away. The best way to end the war, he said, is to vote Bush out of office. He said we need someone like John Kerry because Kerry can create better allies. Obama also said half the troops in the army aren’t qualified and we should take them back and give them more training.

Chris Smothers asked, “What is your vision for creating long-term economic security for all people in our country? What is needed to make that vision a reality?”

Obama said we need to improve access to education because peole need a good education to get a job. He also said high school education isn’t going to cut it; we need college so we can get well-paying jobs, to be better trained than foreigners so they won’t get all our jobs. He said foreigners are paid less, that one U.S. dollar is equal to two of China’s dollars, so that’s why all of the jobs are going overseas.

Pebbles Kearney asked, “How can we get more money so that kids can get back into school so they can graduate? Can we take some money from the military budget and use it better for education?”

Obama said, “We need to spend more time on education and the federal government needs to spend more time, too. We learn more at age three than we do in our whole life.” He said we need “smaller class sizes, more student grants and a system where students can train for jobs.”

Takira Allen asked, “What is your position on the national affordable housing trust fund and what is structurally wrong with our country’s housing policy? It just isn’t working.”

Obama said there is not an area in Chicago where you can get a house if you earn minimum wage. He said when George Bush came into office, affordable housing went down. He also said, “Black folks who are in public housing are getting segregated into bad areas. We need to be everywhere; north, south, east, west, suburbs.”

The last question was Albert Farmer’s about gun control.

Obama said, “They need to ban assault weapons. There’s no reason for regular people to have them. They should also restrict how many guns they give to gun dealers.”

My opinion about Obama is that he was a real down-to-earth person and he really seemed like he cared for us. But I don’t really know if I see him making a difference in our community. Even if he tries to make a difference, Bus is going to make it difficult because he is giving tax cuts to the wealthy and taking it from the poor and middle class communities.

The assistant principal at Howard Area Alternative High School, Ben Churchill, said he was impressed with Obama’s honesty and that he kept his promise to come to Howard.

“I think he has a good chance to become the first black president,” he said.

Chris Smothers said, “He was a real down-to-earth person just like us. He is a real person and a real person is hard to find. That’s why I think he will be a good senator.”

Pebbles Kearney said, “I was really happy that he came and that he became the third Black senator since the Civil War. I believe he is going to be a great senator because he really looks at the issues that are going on in the Black community today.”

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Rockwell, LeClaire, ABLA Elections

by Beauty Turner Assistant Editor

Strange Tales from Rockwell

On a dreary, rainy November day, a large Maroon van pulled up to the polling place located at 2540 West Jackson by the Rockwell Gardens development. A short, older man adorned with a gray cap and glasses opened up the door like a gentleman for six young women who exited out of the van. I motioned for one of the young women to come over to talk to me.

Yolanda Buchanan, a resident of Rockwell and a young, single mother of five came over for an interview.Are you a resident, I asked.

“Yes, I’m a resident, I have been a resident for about six to seven years now,” Buchanan said.
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A Taylor-Made Election

by Beauty Turner Assistant Editor

Residents from Robert Taylor A who relocated into the Quincy and Langston Homes were upset when they found out they could only vote for the B side of the development.

“I lived on the Robert Taylor A side for 33 and a half years,” David Wilson, a relocated resident from 4410 S. Federal said.

“I don’t think that that is right that I have to vote for whoever is down on the south end of the development when I have lived most of my life down on the north end.” Wilson said. “I know the people running there, why should I have to vote for an area that I didn’t live in?”
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More CHA Residents Voting Woes

by Mary C. Piemonte 

For more than 30 years, residents using project-based Section 8 Housing Vouchers within the City-State properties have participated in Tenant Council Elections along with the residents living in public housing units at the sites, according to Robert Whitfield, an attorney representing the CHA resident councils. But, for this election, the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development put a stop to that before the November 2004 resident elections.

These residents living in the CHA City-State properties were stripped of their voting privileges because they were not developed under the United States Housing Act of 1937 and are not eligible for operating subsidy because they do not qualify as public housing developments, according to HUD.
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Wipe Out

by Mary C. Piemonte 

The families living in the remaining buildings at Madden Park Homes on the South Side were wiped out of the Tenant Council Election this November. They received no official notice of the change that the Chicago Housing Authority made just prior to the resident elections.

Residents allege that, without the residents’ knowledge, CHA replaced their leadership. Eunice Crosby, the Local Advisory Council president for Madden Park and a resident of the community for the past 12 years, was dumped for Mary Wiggins, the LAC president for Washington Park Scattered Sites and president of the Central Advisory Council, the body of public housing residents to which the city negotiates directly. This unexpected move on the part of the CHA denied the residents – and the LAC president – the opportunity to vote or run in the elections. It also means that the relocated residents of Madden Park have no official, elected representation in returning to their mixed-income community. But Crosby is challenging that notion.
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Cabrini-Green Election

by Beauty Turner Assistant Editor

In the North Side development Cabrini-Green, residents were busy going to vote and expressing their views on the election when I stopped by on the morning of Election Day. The question was simple: who would penetrate the hard concrete public housing walls, a Cannon or a Steele? Which one would be the winner?

Residents that reside in Cabrini live in potentially the most valuable properties in Chicago. Kelvin Cannon, who has resided in a Cabrini-Green high rise for over 38 years, challenged community activist Carol Steele for her seat.
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Election Report: Harold Ickes Homes

by Jacqueline Thompson 

The day opened to a dreary sky, which probably was the cause for the slow early morning attendance at the local polling place for the 2004 Local Advisory Council elections at the Harold Ickes Homes. After opening on time at 9 AM, by 9:45 there were only 9 voters’ ballots registered.

This year’s election was carried out by a new organization, the Black United Fund Institute and the Institute for Government Research. The judges were workers hired from the 71st and Jeffery office and their supervisor, Rexford King, was knowledgeable and welcoming to the residents, which made all transactions go smoothly and quickly. The security company was Houston Associates, and their guard, Officer Shabazz, was considerate to the residents, reflecting a calm demeanor that is so important for the conduct of the election.
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