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CHA Chiefs Come and Go as Plan Stalls

by Mary C. Piemonte 

 

New CHA CEO Michael Merchant at a Nov. 19 CHA Board meeting in the ABLA Homes public housing development. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Michael Merchant, previously the city’s buildings commissioner, recently became the fifth CHA CEO since the inception of the Plan for Transformation, a multi-billion dollar effort to overhaul and redevelop family and senior public housing stock into mixed-income communities that began in 2000 and is now projected to conclude in 2015.

Merchant told RJ after the Nov. 19 CHA Board meeting at the Fosco Park Field house in the ABLA public housing complex that he was confident he would complete the Plan during his tenure.

“I have every intention of being here to finish out the Plan,” Merchant said. “With respect to the fact that there has been turnover in this position, there’s still consistency within the staff, consistency with what the mission is, and what the goal is. Our goal is to make sure that we have vibrant communities and safe and affordable housing. So, I’m here to push full forward.”

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Lawsuit Underway after Guilty Verdict in Burge Trial

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Former death-roll inmate Mark Clements and his attorneys are filing a civil suit next Tuesday against the city of Chicago in the aftermath of the guilty verdict of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.

Mark Clements consoles the mother of incarcerated allege torture victim Marcus Wiggins, during a rally to jail former Chicago Police chief Jon Burge outside City Hall on May 24. Wiggins was allegedly tortured while in police custody at the age of 13. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“We are currently suing [for] an unspecified amount. We will most likely be filing a civil lawsuit in the federal U.S. District Court this Tuesday,” Clements told Residents’ Journal on June 29, the day after a federal jury found Burge guilty of all three counts of obstruction of justice and perjury for lying in a civil lawsuit about the torture of murder and robbery suspects in his custody in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.

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The CHA Plan Is Dead

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

Janice Patton gave up on the Plan for Transformation a long time ago. Patton moved out of Robert Taylor Homes in 2000, the same year Mayor Richard M. Daley announced the Plan. The mayor promised that residents who moved out temporarily could return shortly, after the high-rises were demolished and replaced with new, ‘mixed-income’ communities. Patton didn’t go too far from Robert Taylor, settling in the neighborhood just south of where the development stood. Like most of those who moved out, she used a Section 8 certificate – now known as Housing Choice Voucher – to subsidize her rent in a relatively well-managed, new construction development. Unlike many of her former neighbors, Patton never expected to come back.

“I left it and kept on going,” she explained. “I thought, ‘Let me get into a good building so I don’t have to move from place to place.’”
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The Times They Are A’Changing

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

The indictment and arrest of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge on October 21 is yet another indication that a complete transformation of American life is underway. Along with the presidential election, the indictment of Burge, who has long been suspected of torturing and abusing suspects in the 1980s, shows that the way politics have been conducted in this country for the past 30 years is over. Or to put it in other words, a new generation is stepping up, kicking tail and taking names.

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (at podium) speaks about the indictment of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge on Oct. 21 while Robert Brent (from left), special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office; Mark Templehof, chief of the criminal section of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice; and Jeffery Cramer, assistant US attorney, look on.
Photo by Anjuli Maniam

Saying that Burge “shamed his uniform and his badge,” Fitzgerald explained that he was charging Burge for lying in court in a 2003 civil case:
“For his lies about torture and abuse, we intend to hold him accountable.”
“Police are sworn to uphold the law when others break it,” Fitzgerald added. “Burge broke the law when he was supposed to uphold it.”
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Deadly Moves: Troubling Development

by Mary C. Piemonte and Brian J. Rogal

While Mayor Richard M. Daley is touting his plans to remake Chicago Housing Authority developments into mixed-income neighborhoods, a firm that manages one of his showcase communities is charging that the city is not doing enough to stop open drug dealing on its site.

The city has a lot riding on the Near West Side’s Westhaven Park. A failure to attract market-rate renters and buyers could set a bad precedent for other public housing redevelopment efforts.
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Debating Affordable Housing

by Michael Ibrahem 

On April 9, the Chicago City Council passed Mayor Richard M. Daley’s version of an affordable housing ordinance. Many activists are concerned that the mayor’s ordinance does not go far enough to alleviate the affordable housing crisis in Chicago.

According to Fourth Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, “We think that this is a good beginning and we’re looking for consideration of our [alternative] ordinance which would apply to the private development community and involve the creation of a lot more units.

Our ordinance is still in committee and we are hoping there will be a point at which it is heard, and we will have an opportunity to provide testimony for its support.”
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Housing on State, City Agendas

by Michael Ibrahem 

All I can say is that it had to happen. Finally, one of our local aldermen came forth to do something positive about affordable housing. It also looks like we are going in a positive direction statewide with the establishment of a body to which activists will finally be able to address directly their concerns about affordable housing. In the last RJ, I tried to direct your attention towards some of the problems we’re up against regarding the zoning code re-write.

What we are expecting now is that the new re-write will appear for a vote before the Chicago City Council this summer, around June 2003. Pete Skosey from the Metropolitan Planning Council chimed into the process with these words, “What we have to understand is that zoning cannot be the solution for everything. Zoning cannot affect the economics of the property. Read more »

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Chicago’s Hottest Elections

by Beauty Turner Assistant Editor

I‘m hot on the trails of the hottest candidates in this lukewarm election. Though many incumbents are running unopposed, some sparks are flying in the Windy City wind when it comes to this year’s municipal race. One of the races that is sure to be hot and sizzling and may cause a Chicago fire is the mayoral race. Mayor Richard M. Daley announced his bid for re-election in the last year, according to his campaign spokesperson, Julian Green.

“Our platform is called working together. Mayor Daley has been working with elected officials, city and community groups, reverends and the like to move Chicago forward,” Green said. “For many years, the city was divided but for the last 14 years, Mayor Daley has been bridging the gap.” Read more »
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Cold War Echoes

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

The last battle of the Cold War is being fought in the neighborhoods of Chicago. Echoing the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the victorious forces of freedom are tearing down the last bastion of failed New Deal and Great Society pseudo-Socialist programs – the city’s infamous public housing high-rises.

Lost in the general acclaim for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s $1.5 billion redevelopment effort, however, is that the tens of thousands of low-income families who will be displaced by this effort will likely end up in circumstances even worse than those they are leaving behind. Read more »

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