CAC Prepares for Battle

by Mary C. Piemonte 

The Chicago Housing Authority resident council is preparing for the many challenges that public housing residents under redevelopment will face.

The first thing on the resident council’s agenda will be to get the federal government to recognize resident leadership after relocation. The next thing on their agenda will be to come to an understanding with the aldermen in public housing areas to secure public housing sites for relocatees from CHA property redevelopment.

Resident Voting Rights After Relocation
Mary Wiggins, the newly elected chairperson of the Central Advisory Council and Local Advisory Council president for the CHA’s Washington Park Homes, said first on the 25 resident leaders’ agenda would be working to get the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to recognize them as leadership after relocation.

According to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development document, “General Guidance on Community and Resident Involvement,” regarding resident and community involvement after relocation, “Residents who relocate and choose Section 8 are not eligible to vote or participate as leaders of the Resident Council of the affected development since they are no longer public housing residents.”

But the document states, “Public Housing Authorities must continue to involve affected residents in HOPE VI activities after relocation from the original public housing site.”

“If you move out of the Central Advisory Council president, you are no longer president, because how can you be the president of a locality when you don’t live there,” Wiggins said. “That’s what is concerning us too. But we don’t have any dialogue to put to that until we hear from HUD.

“We’re going through HUD to get the proper rights to (vote) it, so the resident population would still have leadership. “We said that, ‘We are the only elected body of resident council people that HUD recognizes. We need to know when is HUD not going to recognize us as leadership if we move in the process of relocation.’”

Washington Park Scattered Site Housing Concerns
Replacement units for the 1,504 Washington Park public housing units built between 1961 and 1969 in an area that stretches from 39th to 63rd Street from Cottage Grove Avenue to State Street, has been a major concern for Wiggins. Wiggins, who is also the LAC president for Washington Park Homes, said that the CHA leased out some of the land to a local church. The church’s intentions were to bring back only a small number of public housing units back on site after redevelopment.

Wiggins explained that under Joseph Shuldiner’s administration, the CHA leased out land that holds 57 units of Washington Park scattered site units to St. Edmund’s Church located at 61st Street and Michigan Avenue.

She said the church, which leased out the land from 61st to 62nd between Michigan to Wabash avenues, is proposing to build only 14 replacement public housing units for Washington Park residents returning after redevelopment.

“Ed Moses and Joe Shuldiner signed off on the people leasing the land for 99 years. When they rehab, they are only going to put back 14 public housing units,” said Wiggins.

Wiggins said area aldermen, including Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th ward) and Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd ward), were also making it difficult for replacement housing to be built.

“My scattered area scatters out over 16 square miles of the city, and I deal with three different aldermen. I am not into name-calling but a lot it is because of the aldermen. They are building houses. You saw Preckwinkle’s Houses on Parade. Dorothy put up some too. They don’t want any public housing next to those $300,000 houses. So that’s the deal there. I have to work within the city and with the housing authority to see what we can get opened up in these different areas,” Wiggins said.

The New CAC Officials

Wiggins won the presidency over the six-year incumbent president Mamie Bone on Feb. 28 when the 25 CAC resident leaders voted among themselves for the positions of president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.

Deverra Beverly, LAC president of the West Side ABLA public housing development, is the new vice president, Mary Baldwin, LAC president of the West Side’s Rockwell Gardens and Maplewood Courts, was elected Secretary and Sandra Young, a CHA Board Commissioner and LAC president of Ida B. Wells on the South Side, was elected Treasurer.

Mamie Bone, the former CAC president and LAC president of the West Sides Henry Horner Homes, will finish out her 5-year term as a member of the CHA Board of Commissioners.

People have said that getting things accomplished working with CHA requires strong leadership such as the late CAC president and CHA Board Commissioner Artensa Randolph, who died in 1995.

Wiggins, who worked under Randolph, said she will do the best she can in the office of president with the help of the other public housing leaders.

“I worked under her (Randolph) so I do believe in (strong leadership) and I intend to be a strong leader as I can be,” Wiggins said. “I can’t say if I will do a better job than Ms. Bone because I was her vice-chair. You can only be as strong as the body (the CAC) can let you be. If they vote against you for any reason that you bring something to them, you only got one vote. They’ve got 23.”

Francine Washington, LAC president of the South Side Stateway Gardens’ public housing development, said she voted for Wiggins because she felt Wiggins would better inform the LAC presidents about all aspects of the organization’s dealings with CHA.

“I believe she will do a better job at being the chair. She will hold CHA accountable. She understands the CHA plan better than Ms. Bone. I think the CAC will be informed and she will not make any decisions without us,” Washington said.

Sandra Young, the newly elected CAC Treasurer and a CHA Board Commissioner, said at CAC/LAC Inaugural Ceremonial Luncheon on March 9 that she wanted to be treasurer to learn more about the CAC and CHA budgets.

“I nominated myself for treasurer to better understand the CAC and CHA budget,” Young said.

Young said as treasurer she would keep track of how the money in the CAC budget is spent and give monthly budget reports at CAC and CHA executive meetings.

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