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Residents’ Journal’s Coverage of CHA Featured in Rise Magazine

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Dear Friends:

I invite you to click here to read an article recently posted in Rise Magazine, an excellent publication written for and by adults in the foster care system. The article describes Editor-in-Chief Mary C. Piemonte’s recent coverage of the Chicago Housing Authority’s efforts to change rules for tenants and the leadership transition at the agency.

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RJ Publisher on “Chicago Newsroom”

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This week, I was honored to appear on “Chicago Newsroom,” hosted by veteran broadcaster Ken Davis, along with fellow guests Art Golab, Database Editor with the Chicago Sun-Times, and Charlie Meyerson, a regular voice on Chicago radio. We discussed the progress of new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the ouster of Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan, the future of the Taste of Chicago and other issues.

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CHA Board Appoints One of Their Own Interim CEO

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The Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Friday appointed one of their own as interim CEO of the agency. Carlos Ponce, 61, was selected by the Commissioners at a special board meeting early in the day. Ponce will serve on a temporary basis, said agency spokesperson Matt Aguillar: “The search is ongoing for a permanent CEO.”

Carlos Ponce. Photo courtesy of CHA.

Ponce was added to the CHA Board in 2003 by then-Mayor Richard Daley. He currently runs a management consulting firm called Resonance Management and Technology Solutions. Ponce previously was the chief human resources officer for the Chicago Public Schools, commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of General Services and executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association.

Ponce replaces Lewis Jordan, who resigned June 14 after being snared in a media investigation that found he used his CHA credit card to charge meals at Gold Coast restaurants and pay for items such as red light tickets. Jordan also had been under fire from public housing tenants and their allies for attempting to install a policy which would have required drug testing of all residents. After Jordan’s resignation, Board Chairman James Reynolds cancelled the effort to install the drug testing policy.

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Tenants Protest CHA Drug Testing Plan

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Residents’ Journal’s video coverage of the June 1, 2011 public hearing on the Chicago Housing Authority’s plans to drug test all tenants, including seniors and those with disabilities as well as their plans to take away the tenants’ defense provision in their lease, for criminal activity committed by a family member or friend, unbeknown to them.

Low-income people from across the city held two days of protest last week against the Chicago Housing Authority’s plans to drug test of all tenants, including tenants of senior buildings. CHA residents and their allies also were protesting the agency’s efforts to limit tenants’ ability to avoid eviction.

On June 1, angry tenants and their advocates from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization gathered in front of CHA’s downtown headquarters and said the agency’s proposed changes would violate the US Constitution’s 4th Amendment protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

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Tenants Protest CHA Plans to Drug Test Them

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Residents’ Journal’s video coverage of tenants and their advocates’, rally outside the headquarters of the Chicago Housing Authority on June 1, 2011, in protest of their plans to drug test all public housing residents, including seniors and those with disabilities.

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An Afternoon of Good Times

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The second annual National Public Housing Museum fundraiser, billed “An Afternoon of Good Times,” was attended by a sold-out crowd of cheering guests, eager to applaud the hard-working hosts and their choice of honorees, former public housing resident luminaries and their achievements. The welcome address by Chicago Housing Authority officials Joyce Chou and Scott Ammaral was a smooth take-off into an illuminating program.

Next, Ald. Walter Burnett (21) graciously introduced Bern Nadette Stanis aka “Thelma” from the popular 1970s television sit-com “Good Times,” which brought Chicago’s own Cabrini Green public housing development into focus nationwide. She is the national spokesperson for the museum and was the mistress of ceremonies for the event. Stanis’ background includes a past of actually living in the Brownsville Housing Development in Brooklyn, N.Y.

CHA tenant leader Francine Washington (right) is joined with actress Bern Nadette Stanis, also known as "Thelma" on the "Good Times" television sitcom, and Keith McGee, director of the National Public Housing Museum, after receiving an award from the museum during their "An Afternoon of Good Times" event at the Chicago Cultural Center on April 10, 2011. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

As a part of the afternoon’s theme honoring former residents through the “Telling Our Stories” Award, she shared with the audience the important message from her father that gave her the confidence to grow naturally, by understanding that, “What’s around you does not have to be in you.” The sound inspiration coming from within her home life gave her strength and courage “to do better than what ‘they’ said my future could only be. Thank you.”

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Where are CHA’s Residents?

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On April 14, Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan announced the results of an “exhaustive tracking process and data analysis” that looked at where its former residents are and how they are doing.

In releasing the information, Jordan said he was aiming to correct misimpressions of agency’s progress on its 12-year-old Plan for Transformation.

Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan talking to reporters about his knowledge of where relocated tenants are, during his press conference resident relocations under the Plan for Transformation, at CHA downtown headquarters on April 14, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“There’s a myth out there that we don’t know where our families are,” Jordan said. “We do know where these families are.”

When the CHA’s Plan for Transformation was launched in 1999, the agency pledged to demolish its high-rises, re-build mixed-income communities where the developments once stood, and allow former residents to move back. To ensure former tenants could return, CHA also pledged to keep track of them. There were approximately 25,000 residents in the family developments, scattered site housing, and senior buildings when the Plan for Transformation began, according to the CHA.

But if Jordan’s press conference was intended to dispel the notion that CHA doesn’t know where its former families are, his own numbers didn’t quite back him up. On page 3 of CHA’ report, it states that “(2,202) have not responded to CHA outreach and thus their location is unknown.”

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Mayoral Candidates Views about Chicago Public Housing

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Tenants wondering what will happen to their homes and communities got a chance to question three of the candidates running to succeed Mayor Richard M. Daley during the Mayoral Forum on Public Housing at the Chicago Cultural Center last month.

National Public Housing Museum Keith McGee and the museum's national spokesperson Bern Nadette Stanis, also known as "Thelma" on the Good Time television series, thanking everyone for attending the mayoral forum. Photo by Mary C. Johns

At the forum, sponsored by the National Public Housing Museum in collaboration with the tenants’ Central Advisory Council, City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, Patricia Van Pelt Watkins and Bill “Dock” Walls each discussed their plans for public housing.

“As the infamous high rises fade from the city’s skyline, public housing in Chicago is still a vibrant and necessary topic,” museum officials wrote in materials for the forum.

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A Third Generation’s Take on Relocation from Last Cabrini Building

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Drawing closer to the end of an era, only one occupied high-rise building remains at the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex, located on the North Side of the city.

This past September, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) closed the last of the two Cabrini mid-rises, known as the Cabrini Extensions, and relocated all the remaining families.

CHA has promised that the departing families can have an option to return once the property is redeveloped under their massive Transformation Plan.

Few people remained in this last standing Chicago Housing Authority Cabrini-Green building at 1230 N. Burling St., on November 5, 2010. Photo by Mary C. Johns

That same month, the 39 families living at the remaining 1230 N. Burling Street high-building—which, at its peak, held 134 families­­— had received their notices of CHA’s intention to close the high-rise as the end of Cabrini-Green draws closer.

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What We Need Now

by  , Youth Reporter from Altgeld Gardens

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program class at People for Community Recovery, a not-for-profit organization based in the Altgeld Gardens public housing development.

Growing up in Altgeld Gardens for 19 years, experiencing everything that goes on out here. I don’t even know where to begin.

There’s a lot of violence—gang violence, too.

But the main thing that concerns me in my neighborhood is there is nothing to do in our neighborhood. There are not many programs to keep the kids occupied and out of trouble.

So how do we help these kids so that they can stay out of trouble?

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