School Reform: Which Tax?


Let me first begin by saying that, as the mother of six children, I am concerned about them in every way, including their education. So I thought it would be a good idea to write about what is happening with Chicago’s Public School Reform.

I attended the April 9 march on Springfield. There were many marchers as well as speakers, all trying to be heard. Among the speakers were James W. Compton, president/CEO of the Chicago Urban League.

“Funding based on property taxes cannot support a fair equitable system,” Compton said. “We must move to a fair system of funding education, one increasingly based on income tax.”

Jesse Jackson Sr. led the marchers in a chant, “Keep hope alive! Equal opportunity now! Save the children!” But in the end, Gov. Edgar didn’t get the state Senate votes he needed for his school reform bill to pass. Now the focus of school funding reform has shifted to “how politically damaged Edgar has become,” according to many news articles. What about school funding reform? So much for nothing. Read more »

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Dear Resident


Dear Resident,

Welcome back, welcome back to us all. I say “to us all” because since the last edition of Residents’ Journal I had quit resolving never to write for RJ again. I quit because I had become disillusioned with RJ and the direction which it seemed to be taking. For me, RJ began in a small room, with a small group of residents with big visions for RJ. Residents Journal, “a publication for and by the residents of Chicago Housing Authority.” I must have been euphoric to the point of being naive to believe that RJ would be a resident driven publication, without many of the same problems as the other CHA programs, projects and proposals of the past which seem to benefit the people outside of public housing more than the people in public housing. The most disillusioning thing for me is that while RJ reaches individuals across the city, state, country and even overseas, it is not reaching what I consider to be a reasonable majority of CHA residents. In my development, Cabrini-Green, only people who walked into the management office and noticed the papers or those to whom I gave copies actually had seen it. Read more »

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Flannery Homes Update


The residents of the Senior Twin-Towers Flannery Apartments and the surrounding single-family Town Houses of Orchard Park send out warm greetings to the closely neighboring CHA Cabrini Complex and all CHA communities throughout Chicago. We are still very much in here; alive and kicking, growing our veggies, Bar-B-Queing our slabs and living it up in our Golden Years as we have all our lives, as we have taught all you young ones to follow in our footsteps. Just as the CHA is attempting to bring rapid improvement and change in our important environment, so are we too caught up in striving to upgrade and improve. The Golden Years past retirement are supposedly guaranteed and insured to be forthcoming to us since the New Deal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration in the 1930s. In reality, we residents of Flannery are not turning the magic page at age 62 into a splendid time of comfort and ease. To the contrary, we are still finding we still have to scrap HARD to get and hold onto what we manage to get. We do indeed welcome the help along the way. The CHA help toward the improvement started with private management in February 1997. Our last quarterly issue of the Residents’ Journal detailed the positive steps which private management began here at Flannery. The phases of improvement are continuing in somewhat dramatic circumstances. On Thursday morning, April 24, a general meeting of all Flannery residents was announced. Those interested residents of both buildings gathered in the community day room of 1507 N. Clybourn where representatives of the CHA announced, “The only people who need to stay for this meeting are the people below the age of 62. All others above age 62 may leave.” The representatives then announced, “You will be moved (all S.S.I. recipients) out of Flannery. You S.S.I. recipients have the option of: 1.) Taking a Section 8 and moving to other residences or 2.) You will be moved to Cabrini Green within 1 month.”

The representatives continued, “Make your decision NOW because you will be out of the two Flannery buildings within 1 month.” Read more »

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Cabrini-Green Update



Al Carter of Al Carter Youth Foundation, 880 N.Hudson, Dr. Nehemiah Russell of P.E.A.C.E. and Elder Mary Bartley of St. Luke Church, 914 N. Orleans St., were the key leaders in a march of more than 200 Black men of all ages.

The Black men came to Cabrini-Green from various communities across the city to show unity and to oppose demolition at Cabrini-Green.

The men talked about their concerns that African American families will be displaced by the demolition. Russell said this problem is affecting Black families throughout the country.

Another of the marchers’ major concerns is the need for jobs for residents. Read more »

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Protecting CHA Residents: An Interview with Artensa Randolph


I recently interviewed Artensa Randolph, who has been the chairperson of the Central Advisory Council for two decades. I talked to Randolph, 81, about H.R. 2, a new congressional bill that would require residents to volunteer 8 hours every month and would make other changes in residents’ lives.

"Under this new regime, these are the worst times that we have ever had. We have no one that really listens to our complaints." -Central Advisory Council President Artensa Randolph (pictured sitting).

“I don’t care for this H.R. 2 at all. We had meetings with some of the congressmen and I felt real elated to have the congressmen come to us. Which was Congressman Danny Davis, Congressman Bobby Rush, and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

“The congressmen came to us to explain this H.R. 2. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. said he was going to add some amendments.”

Randolph said her staff had examined H.R. 2 and also did not like it. Randolph said that we residents have been volunteers all of our life.

“I don’t know what they mean about volunteering,” Randolph said. “They will not take me back into slavery. We couldn’t do anything, but do what – I hate to say it – the white folks told us to do but that day is out.

“I’m not going backwards and to volunteer to live in public housing, and we don’t have the luxury or anything that we need or want. Then they have people working in public housing.”

Randolph also was worried about what will happen to CHA employees.

“Then what will we do, knock them out of their jobs. Then everyone will be homeless and I’m not going to do it. If the residents want to follow me, we are not going to volunteer because I don’t have to stay here. That’s nothing more than a sophisticated depression and I’m not going for it.

Randolph said there are many role models in public housing, including Henry Horner Local Advisory Council President Mamie Bone, former Ida B. Wells LAC President Helen Finner and ABLA LAC President Deverra Beverly. 1971. Randolph said these role models and many other residents already volunteer much of their time but it would be wrong to force them to volunteer.

“They can’t make me get up and volunteer doing the people’s jobs that they have hired. I’m not going over there taking people’s jobs.

“So I’ll volunteer on my own time. Whatever I want to do, but they can’t make me do anything.”

“About the jobs for this program, no one has come out and said this is what we want you to volunteer for.”

Randolph said she’s very happy with the confidence residents have in her and the CAC. But Randolph said she was upset with the current heads of CHA, who took over the agency in 1995.

“Under this new regime, these are the worst times that we have ever had. We have no one that really listens to our complaints.”

Randolph said she wants a new board of commissioners. The old board oversaw the operations of CHA but was dissolved before the current regime came in.

“We don’t have anyone to go to and help us resolve some of these problems. So this is what I’m fighting for is to get a commissioners board back. When this happens, I’m going to resign and go into something else.

Randolph does sit on the Executive Advisory Council but she feels it doesn’t really help residents.

“We do have what we call an Advisory Council….but this Advisory Council to me, and I say it all the time, it’s for the birds.”

Randolph blamed the mayor for not stepping in to stop the board of commissioners from being dissolved.

“I don’t know what happened to Mayor Daley. I don’t know what he’s afraid of for he has not come out like he should.”

I asked Randolph whether there was any affordable housing available for residents displaced by demolition.

“About the affordable housing, today they say one thing and tomorrow it’s another.

“(Former CHA Executive Director) Vince Lane said that some of the developments have got to come down. But the only thing I hate is there won’t be any replacement housing and this is what I’m fighting for. But it seems like some of the members of the Central Advisory Council have forgotten what he (Vince Lane) said to the council.

“Sometimes, they (CHA and the residents) just let the buildings run down. They had a foresight; they didn’t try to do anything to fix them up. So they had to get in bad condition and then they tell me so much money…was needed to do the units. But I don’t know if it’s true or not. No one has come to me to say this is how much money it takes to do a unit. So now they’re tearing down but not rebuilding.

“Mr. Lane said that there is land all around where you could build these homes and then let the people move in, then demolish where you were living, because everyone wants to remain in their own neighborhood. No one wants to go out in the suburbs where the water is destroying everything.

“They think that we don’t have sense enough to see all of this but they want to put us out there. No one wants us out there so I don’t feel comfortable going where I’m not wanted.

“Affordable housing is our right. Some people think we live here and don’t pay any rent. We’re paying our just dues. While living in public housing, it should be decent and sanitary and a safe place to live. It was when they were just built in 1937 but now it’s different. It’s not safe, it’s not decent, It’s just a place to live.

Again I say it’s not like it used to be but through the years, I don’t know what happened.

In general, Randolph said conditions are worse for residents than in the past.

“It’s bad living for us now. We’re afraid for our lives. We don’t have enough security. Gangs have just taken over but I remember when Mayor Daley was the (Cook County) state’s attorney. We met with him and he said, ‘You all better get yourselves together because eventually the gangs are going to take over your apartment.’”

“We never heard that so we just didn’t believe him (Mayor Daley) but I swear he told the truth. Gangs have just taken over. Senior housing and family but it’s more in family housing but I don’t think that senior housing has enough security. They are still cutting back. So it will be only one security officer for two buildings.”

Randolph doesn’t agree with H.R. 2 and she is really trying to protect the residents.

First Strike--The wrecking ball knocked the first bricks out of the Robert Taylor Himes on May 23, when CHA started the demolition of the 16-story building at 3919 S. Federal St. The building had been vacant for almost a year. CHA sas not yet determined what will be built on the site.

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Wells on the Rise


“We howl about discrimination exercised by other races. Unmindful, that we are guilty of the same thing. The spirit that keeps the Negro out of the colleges and places him by himself is the same (spirit)that makes a colored man run excursions with a separate car for our white friends. Provides separate seats for them when they visit our concerts, exhibitions, etc. Prompts the colored barber, hotel keeper and the like to refuse accommodations to their own color.”

That quote was given by Ida B. Wells when she was 24 years old in the late 1880s. It was true then and, to some degree, that truth still holds. That quote was also recited at the first Ida B. Wells Day on June 14, 1997, in the Madden Park Field House, 3800 S. Rhodes Ave.

Old and new faces marched through the community chanting, “What day is it? WELLS DAY.” They sang old marching tunes of the ‘60s, new tunes with a rap beat and asked people to come out and join us.

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4), state Rep. Lou Jones (D-Chicago), CHA Economic Development Director Ron Carter, Central Advisory Council President Artensa Randolph, Wells CADRE director Bernard Clark and Wells LAC President Sandra Young as well as CHA Police Department officers and staff members from Sustainable Communities were just a few who helped us celebrate Wells Day. Read more »

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Stop the Violence


The violence in Chicago is escalating at a speed that boggles the mind. Reports would have you to believe that it is not so. They give you percentages and dialogue which is hard to believe. They say that gun crimes are especially down. But there are over 200 million guns on the street and it is easy to get for anyone who wants one. Violence is violence and the violent people do not always use a gun. There are a lot of different organizations being formed to help to stop the violence. I checked out a few. Read more »

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Inaccessibility of CHA Developments


The Americans With Disabilities Act was established to address a problem which affects 19.4 percent of the U.S. population. The act attempts to create accessibility and opportunities for this disabled community, to level the playing field and therefore eliminate those barriers which exist and which have become glaring in the light of multiple negative factors to be considered in our society. I have learned during my preparation for this story that there are several problems which are difficult to address and factors of inaccessibility which are difficult to overcome.

I interviewed two key officials of the City of Chicago in order to obtain some answers to what I had earlier encountered as some serious problems of accessibility. On June 4, I interviewed Donald R. Smith, Commissioner of the Chicago Department on Aging, and a week later, on June 11, I interviewed Lawrence J. Gorski, director of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Read more »

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Horner Annex Reborn


“You are in the way!” Those words angered many residents like myself who live at the Henry Horner Homes Annex. We sat and listened to former Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Chairman Vince Lane boast that the residents of the Annex wouldn’t have a choice of where they would live. He intended for the Horner Annex to become a parking lot for the new United Center just across the street. The Annex is swallowed up in parking lots. I am sure that to the owners of the United Center and the yuppies that generally attend games, our building was an eyesore. But fortunately, Lane is no longer here and the Annex is. The Annex is still standing because of the consent decree resulting from a lawsuit against CHA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) being won.

The consent decree gave the Annex residents a choice between revitalization or demolition. The residents were shown scattered site plans and a model of what the apartments could look like if the Annex was rebuilt. Read more »

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Cleaning Day on Recycling Road


It’s a great Saturday morning before Mothers Day. The weather’s been awful for spring and in housing, cabin fever can run rabid. Let’s go outside, shed our winter-thickened skin and maybe get some cleaning done. This is the time of the year when a neighborhood puts on the shine.

Certainly that’s what Lathrop residents thought as we came together for cleaning and greening our area on this year’s Clean-Up Day. With all this cleaning, one has to consider there will be trash and there will be recycling. Well, it couldn’t be a better day for the recycling program – known as the Buy Back initiative – held every Saturday at Lathrop. And what would be a greater jewel in this crown but to have Bill Abolt, assistant commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Environment, come to Lathrop on such a busy-body of a day. Bill rode his bike over to Lathrop with his young daughter in her harness and had the chance to walk the very grounds that birthed the Buy-Back Recycling Program that’s being implemented throughout public housing neighborhoods. Read more »

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