Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sun-Times: Food pantries, soup kitchens brace for more needy families

With the holiday season in full force we've already started talking about charity with a recently posting about donation to an Englewood woman's shelter by an NBA Player. Today I want to share a Sun-Times article about food pantries & soup kitchens:
Bracing for impact.

The phrase may evoke thoughts of a comet or a car careening out of control — something coming.

To operators of local food pantries and soup kitchens in the Chicago area, that something coming is a rush of hungry mouths since a rollback of the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The cuts started this month.

“More people need food in Illinois than ever before,” said Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a non-profit group that collects and distributes food to 650 other non-profit organizations that comprise the front lines in the fight against hunger in Cook County, from soup kitchens to food pantries.

The rollback of government aid that had been extended as part of the Recovery Act means, on average, $36 less a month to spend on food for a family of four, leaving that household with about $285 to spend on food, said Maehr, who noted the change may go unnoticed for some, in November, but will hit home in the coming months.

“To a lot of people, $36 a month may not seem like a big amount, but when you are really stretching every penny, it can be the difference between two bags of groceries or not,” said Maehr.
All the more reason to support, some of our local food pantries. We've written about a few that we know about over the years. In fact there were two posts about food pantries here last year. ANd in this article we got wind of another south side food pantry:
Pastor Virgil Jones, founder and CEO of Mother Jones Food Pantry in the West Pullman neighborhood, has been overwhelmed by Thanksgiving requests.

“We only have 50 turkeys, we received about 500 requests,” he said Tuesday.
Well, Thanksgiving is over, but there is still time to give a holiday blessing to those who will need food.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is tomorrow, November 30.

While Small Business Saturday  might be considered a "Hallmark Holiday" (a Holiday like Valentine's Day, marketed to make people spend money), it's especially important for our neighborhood. As DNAInfo pointed out, businesses like Flecks Coffee and and Luversia's need our help. This Saturday would be a huge help!

Yes, it's a big marketing ploy for American Express (who invented the "holiday" and has even made it a "restricted" phrase). But the Federal government has seized on its use, and is promoting it as well.

What business do you recommend shopping at?

Look for the link to this blog on Facebook and Twitter and respond there as well!

CTA Holiday Train schedule

The CTA has the dates when the Holiday Train will ride throughout the system.

The Red Line is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 17, Thursday Dec. 19 and Saturday Dec. 21, that last day includes an extended time for photos with Santa.  Exact travel times have not been published (and won't be until the last minute).

The Green Line starts TODAY, Friday November 29.
It also runs Saturday, November 30 (with photos with Santa)  as well as Tuesday, December 3.

The entire schedule is found here.

We will publish a  more detailed Red Line schedule when available. The Sixth Ward writer JP Paulus and his family plan riding the Saturday train (possibly the early run) -- stay tuned for details!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

NBA Player Will Bynum helps Englewood Shelter

First, Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!

The following was from a press release sent out by
Nicholas Ballesteros
Social Media Manager
Exact Publicity

It's nice to have some positive news once in a while, and was sent to us in a form that is easy to post. (We're a volunteer-run blog, so we don't have time to do all the formatting necessary to make some contributions blog-ready).

NBA Detroit Piston and Chicago native, Will Bynum, gave back in a huge way toward a Chicago south side shelter, Clara’s House, all around—helping those who live in the shelter as well as the owner who was hit with a disconnect electricity bill—a month ago--. Bynum made sure that nearly 50 women and children who reside in the shelter had a hot Thanksgiving dinner last night at Clara’s House with all the fixings. Will Bynum was present via Skype, due to a Wednesday night home game in Detroit, ironically against the Chicago Bulls,  where he addressed the residents at the shelter about domestic violence, homelessness and his Reach and Pay it forward initiative  for change for shelters nationwide.  Bynum encouraged the shelter residents to stay positive and have hope this holiday season. Bynum also gifted a $2,500 check toward the shelter’s electric bill to ensure that their lights stay on this holiday season.
Clara’s House, houses battered and homeless women and children, the shelter has been struggling financially for the past five years. The Englewood facility was faced with a disconnect of service for heat and electric last month.

“It is my honor to help in any way that I can,” Bynum said.
Bynum’s ReachITeach Foundation’s mission is to help all people –women, children and men, reach their fullest potential in life. Last night, was the very first event as part of the “Reach and Pay it Forward” a yearlong initiative, in which Bynum “reaches” to help an organization in need and then another person follows suit and “reaches” to pay it forward to the next shelter. The goal is to help as many homeless and battered women shelters across the United States, one person at a time.
“When I was younger, I lived in Englewood, and I know how difficult it can be when you’re trying to make something of yourself, but I want to give the homeless and battered women at Clara’s House hope that the situation will get better,” Bynum said.  “Clara doesn’t turn anyone away, she opens her arms and home toward these women who truly need it, that is special and I am thankful to be in a position to be able to contribute,” Bynum went on to say.
“Most people who came from Englewood have never done anything for Clara’s House, but Will found love in his heart for Englewood and took time to help little old me,” said Clara Kirk, who founded Clara’s house 26 years ago.
Clara’s House is just one of two shelters that owner Clara Kirk founded in 1987.  Kirk’s other shelter is Clara’s Place which is located a few blocks away from Clara’s House in Chicago’s Englewood community. Participating sponsors in this event were Target, Meijer, and Honey Baked Ham.
For more information on how you can be part of the Reach and Pay it Forward initiative, contact Bynum’s publicist, Shawn Zanotti at (312) 265-0941 or by email

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Crain's: Why Chicago's history of black business success is fading

This article from Crain's talks about Black business in Chicago. It's not only about entrepreneurship but also about how many Blacks are in corporate America. At that we also discuss how many Blacks are getting into elite business schools.

As a bonus Chicago entertainer Aaron Freeman talks about why "Black business is dead" and why it could be a good thing. He starts off with his main point: "Black business empires, as we've mostly known them, have been the products of racism."

I hope you will read both and have your opinions on the need to have home-grown businesses in our communities.

UNFORTUNATELY You may need to have either a subscription or an account to read both articles from Crain's.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

SELLOUTS: State Black Caucus Sell Out Each Other and Their Communities

This past Tuesday night I attended the Resident Association of Greater Englewood(R.A.G.E.) semi-monthly community meeting. At the meeting the topic of the formation of the Englewood Violent Crime Task Force(HJR-55) came up for discussion. The author of this bill is State Representative Andre Thapedi (32nd). The formation of the Englewood Violent Crime Task Force is Rep. Thapedi response to the crime that has occurred in his district. His district covers portions of the Greater Grand Crossing, Park Manor and Englewood communities.

 Previously Representative Thapedi  introduced a measure that would give the Illinois State Police the authority to support and co police with the Chicago Police Department the areas one mile east and west of the Dan Ryan where the Illinois State Police already have jurisdiction. The measure was supported by the Illinois State Police and the governor but shot down by both the Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy. thapedi state police So in response to the cold shoulder by the City of Chicago the task force was introduced.    The purpose of the task force is as follows
  1. Determine the causes of violent crime in Englewood and surrounding communities
  2. Determine a comprehensive long term plan of action to substantially reduce violent crime in Englewood and surrounding communities
  3. Make recommendations for laws,programs and initiatives  and or money to put the plan of action into immediate effect.
The official resolution is here. As the discussion about the resolution progressed one of the co-sponsors came forth, State Representative Esther Golar (6th) addressed the audience about the resolution with first stating it was not a bill but a resolution and secondly she did not support the resolution nor Representative Thapedi's previous measure to ask for support from the Illinois State Police. A number of hand went up in the crowd when the Representative asked how many of them supported the assistance of the Illinois State Police. Representative Golar district has one of the highest crime rates in the city, state and nation.  I sat in the audience puzzled as to why the representative would co-sponsor a resolution that she did not support written or in spirit. I asked the question to the representative who stated she lives in Englewood and that is why. She also gave me some political rhetoric that was nothing more than her way of cow towing to the crowd.  The representative was proud of throwing her colleague under the bus and this was another example of the ineptness of members of the State "Black Caucus". The caucus fumbled the ball on conceal and carry, same sex marriages and a number of other measures but consistently continue to come back to their constituents and state how hard they are working for them. My answer is Really!!. So after the meeting I contacted state representative Thapedi's office and asked how they felt about being thrown in front of a 18 wheeler going 50 mph. They stated they did not feel he was thrown under the bus and had no problem with Representatives Golar's response. I pondered the response and wonder how many measures that affect the south and west sides have been killed because of over inflated egos of members of the Black Caucus? I wonder how the residents of Park Manor and Greater Grand Crossing feel after telling their State Representative they are fed up with the crime and want a legislator who is going to look out for them and he  picks a team with a  sellout? I guess we will have to wait and see how the residents of these communities feel but for me its time that members of both the City and State Black Caucus's be held accountable and in a number of cases voted out of office. What do you think?

Tribune: Trouble in Pill Hill

[VIDEO] Above you see a nine minute video of Joe Zekas of YoChicago driving around the Pill Hill neighborhood on the south side of town with a resident in 2007. It's neighborhood that's known for nice houses many of them distinct from each other. And reading an article from the Tribune, it's undergoing changes even the police doesn't understand. The story is more human interesting talking to the family of a woman who was one of the first Black residents to move in and the story of the two later generations of her family:
No one expected gangs to find their way to Pill Hill.

That was one thing that attracted Bernice Mack to the neighborhood more than 40 years ago. More than the quiet streets, though, it was the charming red brick trilevel on South Chappel Avenue that grabbed her attention.

Mack fell in love with the four-bedroom house with a chain-link fence and a rose garden in the front yard the first time she saw it in fall 1970. Here, the registered nurse and her husband, a suburban bus driver, could live among like-minded people, building a prosperous legacy for their budding family that they would pass on through generations.

Their South Side neighborhood was named for the many doctors and pharmacists who once lived there. When whites moved out in the late 1960s, well-to-do African-Americans — entertainers, morticians, lawyers — bought their sprawling Prairie-style homes atop the Stony Island Ridge.

The nurses, police officers and teachers who moved into the bungalows at the bottom of the hill were not as affluent, but an address in Pill Hill firmly established them in Chicago's black middle class. The bottom of the hill was a step up for Mack and her husband, Gordon Dennis, who had previously rented an apartment a few miles north in Chatham.
After she and her husband separated, Mack raised her three children there without worries. Pill Hill was shielded from gangs by an imaginary barrier, built on class and wealth, that relegated violence to impoverished neighborhoods.

But over time, the gangs showed less and less respect for geography. With every generation, families in Pill Hill became more vulnerable.

By the time Mack's daughter, Angela Hongo, 44, an office manager at a Chicago publishing company, bought the beige brick Georgian next door in 1999, gangs had slid in from the outskirts. And by the time Hongo's children, Jarius and Jordonea, entered grade school, gangs had claimed the corner outside their classrooms.

By the time they reached high school, Jarius had fallen into their grips and Jordonea was on the fringes.

The story of teenagers being lured into gangs is a familiar one in Chicago. But not in a neighborhood like this, not in a family like this. Once gangs broke through, even a tenacious grandmother and a committed mother couldn't keep the seductive forces at bay.

Not even the police can explain what happened.

"You normally relate gang issues and gang fighting to war-torn neighborhoods, but that's not the case. The homes are well-kept, the lawns are manicured and when you go there, you feel like you're in a suburban community," said Cmdr. Scott Ruiz, of the Police Department's South Chicago District. "The violence is puzzling when you come into a neighborhood like this."

Mack, who said she is one of only three of the early black settlers still living on the block, believes she knows exactly what happened. Two decades ago, when young men started hanging out late at night at a basketball court across the street from her house, the neighbors got together and forced the city to tear up the cement and replace it with grass and flowers.

But Pill Hill is a different place now, with a new set of people living at the bottom of the hill.
I hope you'll read the whole thing.

This article helps remind why when I first started this blog I avoided doing crime stories here. The communities I hoped to cover didn't need to be saddled with news of crime that could only perpetuate the idea that the south side has nothing but crime. The truth is we have neighborhoods worthy of investment and my thinking was news of crime wouldn't only cause someone to not buy a home.

Still that's not to say this isn't a necessary conversation to have. We have to find a solution such as the one above to keep the gangs at bay from a community who don't want them in the neighborhood. If many of the gang members are young people do we shun them or do we find ways to help them?

Well, I wish there was an easy answer and that we could solve the problem at the push of a button.

Monday, November 25, 2013

FOX Chicago: `Shop Talk` series hopes to spark solutions in Englewood

[VIDEO] I really wanted to post this before the post that had been in the works featuring the Southtown Theater that once stood near 63rd/Halsted. This story from FOX Chicago had aired Friday night and feature an event hosted by the Resident Association of Greater Englewood. Basically RAGE hosted a forum inside of a barbershop.

Let me thrown this out there, if any of you are familiar with the film Barbershop you may already know what the idea behind this event. At a barbershop people like to talk and why not have a forum where people talking and where politicians sit in such as 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer in this video.

While, I'm sure there will be other events such as this hosted by RAGE going forward. What you see above was discussing Whole Foods Market coming to neighborhood in 2016. That store recently got the go ahead from a city planning commission recently.

Here's hoping other neighborhood organizations are looking into hosting events such as this in their neighborhood barbershops/salons in the future. No matter what neighborhood you reside in there are important issues worth discussing in your area.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

PHOTO: Southtown Theater - Englewood

Location: 610 West 63rd Street, Chicago, IL 60621, USA

Southtown Theater @ 610 W. 63rd St.

The photo above is the late Southtown Theater located at 610 W. 63rd Street in Englewood. It was one of a few theaters that was once located near 63rd & Halsted.  The Southtown was a movie palace that was in operation from 1931 to 1958 and later was converted for use as a department store until it was finally torn down in 1991. I wanted to do a post like this since the picture above - taken in the 1930s - of the Southtown was posted to the FB group Forgotten Chicago.

When the Whole Foods Market store was announced back in September I did a post about what YOU would like to see at 63rd & Halsted. Noted that it was home to many theaters and of course many of us know it's history as a very well patronized commercial area. The area while known for retail, this area could also be described as an area for entertainment with the Englewood and Statford Theaters among others nearby (refer to this map). BTW, the Stratford is often said to be where Bob Hope - who was a comedian on radio, film, and TV - got his first start.

Recently having found a posting over at RAGE's FB page with founder Aysha Butler wanting another movie theater, I was reminded that there is already a cinema in the Englewood area. ICE Theaters continues to own the property located behind the Sears building at 62nd & Western. After what happened with their former Chatham 14 property ICE's owners were making plans to reopen the 62nd/Western theaters this year although that doesn't appear likely to happen at this point.

In bringing a theater to Englewood that would be a good start to bring Hollywood back to the community. It was always my first thought to say that 62nd/Western was an odd location for a theater tucked away from Western Avenue and 63rd Street. My favored location as it was in that previous what would you like to see follow-up post from September is to bring a cinema back to 63rd/Halsted and bring some activity to that area.

If a theater does one day return hopefully it would evoke the legacy of entertainment in Englewood. In the meanwhile all we can do at the moment is continue to dream.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Progress IL: South Siders March To U Of Chicago Hospital In Demand Of A Trauma Center

Photo via Progress IL
It seems from time to time this blog has noted the subject of trauma centers on the south side of town. There aren't any at all and that's the subject of this post from Progress Illinois. This took place on Wednesday and participants marched to the University of Chicago hospital to protest this very fact. Here's the reasoning for a trauma center on this part of town:
Currently, South Sides residents that need treatment for traumatic injuries have to travel long distances to a hospital on the North or West Sides of the city or the suburbs. In an area with a high concentration of trauma cases, particularly due to gun violence, experts and activists say the consequences of such long travels can be dire, costing lives. At the hearing, Dr. Marie Crandall of Northwestern University, who last year published research showing the link between mortality rates and travel times, said gunshot victims more than five miles away from a trauma center have a 21 percent higher mortality rate.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Future Englewood Whole Foods Market clears one hurdle

Aerial photo 63rd/Halsted
Whole Foods Market coming to Englewood has been in the news again lately. This time the Chicago Plan Commission has approved plans for the new store coming to 63rd & Halsted:
The Chicago Plan Commission approved the retail portion of a project anchored by Whole Foods on the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted streets across from Kennedy-King College.

Englewood community leaders said the store will provide a “great sense of hope” for a neighborhood besieged by violence that has precious few healthy food choices.

The project depends on an $11 million city subsidy for site preparation that will require an expiring tax-increment financing district to be extended while money is “ported over” from a neighboring TIF.

The larger question is how Whole Foods plans to go about convincing Englewood residents that an upscale grocer can serve their needs at affordable prices. That will be the measure of success.
With that in mind, some articles I missed when the buzz surrounding this announcement was made.

First Crain's back in September published this op/ed about this Whole Foods being a game changer. A game changer as in this store could attract other high quality retailers or high quality development. Conclusion:
But Englewood does have its strengths, and its Whole Foods will be a new, smaller format geared to everyday essentials, a concept tested in Detroit and reportedly doing well — not surprising, since our 2007 study of Detroit found that nearly 92 percent of all SNAP retailers there were in the fringe category. Whole Foods has the potential to attract other quality retailers to Englewood and at the same time support local grass-roots efforts, such as urban agriculture and a food hub. The company's investment is risky, but it could yield high rewards. More than the addition of a super-high-quality grocery store, it could accelerate community transformation and create a ripple effect far greater than its own investment. This would be good for the market, economic development, job creation and public health.
Over at Chicago Now, Peter Bella wrote back in September about Englewood's history as it relates to Whole Foods coming to the neighborhood. Many who read this blog may be familiar with Englewood's history of being a prosperous middle-class community that went into decline. The concluding paragraph:
There is vacant land in Englewood. There are people who can be trained to work. With land and people there is hope. Other commercial, retail, and manufacturing entities should take a close look and Englewood. It could once again become the ladder to prosperity instead of the bottom rung of poverty and desperation.
While I won't excerpt at this, 2nd City Cop took a look at the news back in September. As per usual the comments there are anywhere from hilarious to absolutely brutal. I'll allow you to venture over their and feel free to chew them a new one if you don't approve of the comments.

Finally the above Google map was seen in an article from The Atlantic about the coming store also written in September and the concluding paragraph below:
It will be very interesting to see what happens next in Englewood. None of the Whole Foods I have ever been in – heavy on the $15 floral arrangements and cured meats – will work there. Maybe they spend less money offering free samples of fancy cheese? Maybe the prepared food section emphasizes no-frills dinners over sushi rolls? If Whole Foods does that, some people may equally criticize it for offering a substandard imitation of its flagship stores. But if big-box Target can wedge itself into urban neighborhoods, maybe Whole Foods can do the same with an entirely different income bracket.

Sun-Times - Rahm Emanuel’s next Ventra headache: minority contracting

Ventra Machines at 95th/Dan Ryan
Well as if there aren't enough headaches with the botched roll-out of the new CTA Ventra system:
The disastrous rollout of the CTA’s new Ventra fare payment system already has a heavy potential for political fallout for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Now, the mayor has a new headache: minority contracting.

Only 7.2 percent of the $329 million base contract with Cubic Transportation, the Ventra vendor — minus financing costs — is shared by black contractors.

Chicago firms are getting a 9.6 percent piece of the pie.

Twenty-six percent of that 9.6 percent is going to a white woman who once served as former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s campaign manager for “marketing and outreach.” Carolyn Grisko, who started her own firm after running Daley’s 1995 campaign, said she has been working on the Ventra contract “since Day One”— not just since the rollout went south.
Ms. Grisko's firm has only the second-largest share among the 8 subcontractors with Cubic. Here's the largest piece of the pie:
The biggest piece of the pie — 6.98 percent — went to Saunte Corp., a Chicago firm owned by an African-American woman hired to provide “staffing services to support administrative and technical . . . back-office functions.”

The Cubic team also includes two other black contractors. Chicago-based Inter-City Supply Co. will be paid $600,000 over 12 years — or 0.18 percent — to provide office supplies. Atlanta-based F.M. Shelton Inc. gets $155,000 — or 0.05 percent — to supply electronic components.

Stephen Mayberry, a CTA spokesman, said Cubic is meeting the 12 percent “disadvantaged business enterprise” set-aside established for the massive fare collection contract.

He noted that federal and state law requires the CTA to use a DBE designation that’s far more restrictive than the city’s minority set-aside requirements. It’s confined to companies whose owners have a net worth of $1.32 million or less.
Looking for the response of Black Aldermen look no further:
Still, the 7.2 percent share is not sitting well with black elected officials, whose constituents have born the brunt of the Ventra headaches.

“The majority of the ridership is African American. To see that amount of money go to people other than people of color is troubling, especially in today’s times,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

“We addressed the Englewood Flyover when those numbers came out. They re-bid it and the numbers did go up,” he said. “A low percentage going to African Americans on this contract . . . is uncalled for . . . I’m not happy. We’re going to do everything we can to address it.”

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, called the 7.2 percent share for black contractors “outrageous” and demanded a “full investigation” to determine how and why African Americans were shortchanged.

“I need to see what the explanation is. Were [services required] so proprietary in nature that there were few African Americans in that space? What was left out other than the work performed by Cubic themselves?” Brookins said.

“One of the things we’ve been charged to do is to make sure African-American companies in this town get a fair shake,” Brookins said. “This is not going to sit well with the African-American business community, our constituents or the Black Caucus.”

Brookins noted that the Ventra disappointment comes at a time when Emanuel’s standing among black voters has already plummeted because of the teachers strike, a record number of school closings and persistent crime.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., said he’s “surprised” that a CTA that “impressed” him by rewarding black contractors on the Red Line modernization project has fallen so short when it comes to implementing the Ventra system.

“I am absolutely disappointed that African Americans did not get a larger piece of the opportunity and especially that there are no African-American males awarded anything on this contract,” Davis said by phone.

Asked if the minority participation represented a hot potato for the CTA and the mayor, Davis said: “It is and the transit authority should have the opportunity to delve into it and review it. I’m not sure I can ever say enough is enough is enough when you’re not getting very much.’’
Congressman Bobby Rush was mentioned however he was never quoted on the Ventra issues, he was mentioned as far as the Englewood Flyover project and his role in the continuing scandal over the musical chairs with Metra. :/

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gaper's Block: "Englewood! Those kids are animals"

Now before you recoil over the title for this post, take a read over at Gaper's Block Mechanics. A teacher who works in Englewood recalls the outpouring of support from his students after a miscarriage. He starts off with recalling a convo on the bus and saying that a fellow rider referred to Englewood's people as animals. The card you see above shows that his students aren't so-called animals!

Plans for 95th terminal revealed - UPDATED

Saw some initial pics over at Red Eye but then decided to find some more details at the CTA's official website (read the official press release). Above is a slideshow from CTA's flickr page showing a rendering of how the future 95th terminal will look. This will look like a radically different terminal than the one most us have known.

Photo from cta web/flickr
There will be station buildings on both sides of 95th. It appears that the platform area will be enclosed, which would be a good thing if it means that as we wait for the train to pull off we won't hear the roaring traffic from the Dan Ryan. And of course the station will be much easier to access by pedestrians.

As a matter of fact if you so happen to walk from the surrounding neighborhood to 95th you would likely have to walk past buses to get into the station. While it's something I'm basically used to it's odd design when you think about it but it made sense when this terminal was built in the 1960s.

All the same these seem like necessary improvements. Now if we can get that Red Line extension up and running after rebuilding the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line and then after rebuilding the 95th terminal expected to start in the spring of 2014.

Also here are some upcoming meetings regarding this project, I don't add to many dates to the calender but it's time to start back again.
  • Monday, December 9
    5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
    St. James AME Church
    9256 South Lafayette Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60620
  • Tuesday, December 17, 2013
    5:30PM - 7:30PM
    Chicago Park District, Abbott Park
    49 East 95th Street
    Chicago, IL 60628
UPDATE 9:07 AM While I hadn't seen this in any write-ups I've seen on this subject Mayor Emanuel unveiled plans for the new 95th terminal appropriately enough at 95th yesterday. Chicago Tribune provides [VIDEO] below

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tribune: France warns its tourists about Chicago's West Side, Far South Side

Who wants to protest the French consulate over this and how many want to welcome French tourists to our part of the south side?
As Chicago tries to entice foreign tourists, France is telling its citizens to avoid Chicago's West Side and the South Side below 59th Street.

Pascale Furlong, press attache for the French Consulate in Chicago, said Monday that just as the U.S. State Department issues warnings about foreign travel, so does France.

"It's our responsibility towards our citizens that are traveling abroad," she said.

Furlong said she did not know how long the caution about Chicago had been on the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. It was highlighted — along with foreign warnings about other U.S. cities — in a recent article in The Washington Post.

While Furlong said no Chicago official had reached out to complain, the people of the Cleveland area were none too pleased. France's warnings about three Cleveland suburbs — Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and Euclid — were removed Friday after "reactions" to their being listed, Furlong said. According to news accounts, the mayor of Cleveland Heights lambasted the French government as "foolish."

The French guidance for visitors to Chicago — eviter le West Side et le sud de la ville apres la 59eme rue — means "Avoid the West Side and the south of the city after 59th Street." In effect, anything more than two blocks south of the Museum of Science and Industry is a French no-go zone.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Razing VS Rehabbing: What Makes More Sense

Location: Englewood, Chicago, IL, USA
Over the past week I have seen a number of tweets from RAGE (Resident Association of Greater Englewood)  about property. RAGE  current service area include the Greater Grand Crossing portion of the 6th ward and will cover more when the boundaries move further west to include a portion of Englewood. The tweets look at the current state of property in Englewood/Greater Grand Crossing. There were examples of great Queen Anne style properties as well as dilapidated multifamily brick structures.

Over at Crain's there is an editorial piece that questions whether rehabbing a property or properties on blocks or areas with large number of dilapidated properties is the best use of money or is a better and higher use of money to raze blocks and start over and give those property owners who have maintained there properties a chance to recoup their investments.

The editorial was based on an article Crain's ran last week on the foreclosure crisis. Here is an excerpt from the article
Nine buildings are boarded up in the 5200 block of South Wood Street in Back of the Yards. Mary Washington's home might have become No. 10.

Unable to make her $1,425 monthly mortgage payment, Ms. Washington was facing foreclosure on the two-story shotgun house that she and her late husband bought in 1985. Earlier this fall, she says, she worked out a trial loan modification with her lender that lowered her payment to $617 and allowed her to keep the property.

“I thought about giving up, but everything I had and have I put into this house,” she says. “I would have had nowhere to go but the sidewalk.”

Foreclosure and board-ups are a part of life today on the street that Ms. Washington, 73, says was “just beautiful” when her family moved there from the Cabrini-Green housing project on the North Side.

Read the complete article at
So what do you think?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What are the landmarks of our community?

I found this Built for Chicago ad on the train from downtown one night. Unfortunately this event has passed and this is one way to show off our communities. Whether we have a regular camera or cameraphone we could take pictures of something we may consider a landmark.

In my head, buildings would be a landmark although that's not the only limit. We could be talking about houses, schools, or even businesses for example. What landmarks in our communities would we consider worthy of a postcard?

What I would ask is that, whatever you have in mind for a landmark feel free to share them with us. You're more thank welcome to either tweet them to us @thesixthward or post them to our FB page. We would like to see what you would consider landmarks where you live and what would make for a good postcard.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sun-Times: Todd Stroger running for County Board seat

We've heard former county board President Todd Stroger's name thrown about since he lost the Democratic primary to current President Toni Preckwinkle. He ultimately dropped out of the race for 2nd Congressional District and was keen to take over for former Commissioner Bill Beavers on the County Board itself only for the seat to be given to Stanley Moore. Now it appears he wants to get back on the county board as a commissioner:
Todd Stroger said Thursday night he plans to run for a seat on the Cook Country Board.

Stroger, who lost a re-election bid for Cook County Board president in 2010, said he plans to run for the seat Bill Beavers was forced to vacate after Beavers was convicted of failing to pay taxes on campaign money he used to gamble.

Stroger made the announcement while serving as a guest speaker at a Roosevelt University urban politics class, prompting Professor Paul Green to lead his class in a round of applause.

“I’ve had almost four years to kind of relax and think about things, and I think it’s time to get back in,” said Stroger after the paid speaking engagement.
He said he would maintain his job as an insurance salesman during next year's campaign and he made his announcement not long after telling this class that he disliked being county board President saying: "It was four years of just hell. I was fighting all the time, the newspapers were just crucifying me".

Bill Beaver had filled John Stroger's old seat since 2006 until his conviction in federal court of tax evasion back in March. John Stroger had been incapacitated before the 2006 Democratic primary due to a stroke and won the primary was forced to drop out of the race due to his condition. His son Todd Stroger was appointed to take his father's place on the ballot for the county board presidency and ultimately won the race serving in that role until 2010.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

WBEZ: Whole Foods plans to replicate Detroit success in Englewood

Midtown Detroit Whole Foods on June 5, 2013 via Huffington Post
This story shouldn't be much of a surprise. It's been two months since the news broke that Whole Foods Market is coming to Englewood. There was already talk that this store could resemble one that's open in the city of Detroit:
As the chain prepares to open a store at 63rd and Halsted, Englewood residents, movers and shakers can look to the Detroit store as an exmple of what to expect.

For example, before ground even broke on the Detroit location, residents expressed concern about jobs and transparency. In response, Whole Foods partnered with local nonprofits to hold information sessions on the hiring procecss. Today, 65 percent of the employees are native Detroiters.

Jobs weren’t the only concern. Pricing was, too. Austin says the company listened.

“If you come to Whole Foods Market and you buy artisan cheeses and artisan olive oil, then yeah, your grocery bill is going go climb," Austin said. "But if you come and shop staples, you shop our groceries, you shop produce [...] you’ll see we got bagged apples right now for $2.99 a bag.”

Bus driver Eva Turner lives in Detroit and didn’t frequent Whole Foods until this store opened. She loads her cart with pita bread, snap peas, apples, chicken gizzards and hummus.

“You can find some good bargains," she said. "For instance, they had the chicken thighs for $1.29 a pound, which is a good deal 'cause if you go to a regular store, that’s what you’re going to pay but it’s kind of fresher here.”
One of the players instrumental in gaining community credibility is holistic expert and Detroit native Versandra Kennebrew. Whole Foods offered free space to holistic providers, Kennebrew was one of them, and they hired her to conduct community outreach.

“The grand opening day of Whole Foods Market was a day in history for the company, said Kennebrew. "They sold more produce in one day on the grand opening day than than any store that opened in the history of Whole Foods Market."

Whole Foods officials won’t release store sales but they say the Detroit location has exceeded expectations.

Like Englewood, the city’s reputation elicited sourness when Whole Foods announced its plans.

“People outside view our community [...] think oh you come here I’m going to get mugged," said Carolyn Miller of Ser Metro Detroit, one of the agencies that helped Whole Foods recruit local employees. "[They say] we’re just despair. We’re not. We have people who want to eat organic food."

Khalilah Gaston runs a community development corporation in a neighborhood just north of the Detroit Whole Foods that aims to fight a history of disinvestment. She says Whole Foods has become a model for other projects coming to the neighborhood. The expectation of giving back is higher.
As always there is criticism:
Urban farmer Greg Willerer is one of them. He owns a city farm dubbed Brother Nature several miles away from the new Whole Foods, one of many new urban farms in the area that provide fresh food to residents.

He gives Whole Foods props for its strategic campaign, but he questions the $4.2 million in tax incentives the company received from the city.

“There’s this climate that Whole Foods is coming into where a lot of public money is being given to major corporations and all of these amazing black-owned businesses and other businesses in the city don’t get that kind of help," Willerer said. "Yet we call that development when a corporation comes in and puts up this brilliantly flashy sexy-looking store."
I suggest you read the whole thing and of course feel free to offer your thoughts here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

State Representative Andre Thapedi Proposes Englewood Violent Crimes Task Force

On  November 4, 2013 at the monthly Park Manor Neighbors Community Council meeting(PMNCC)  Representative Andre Thapedi (32nd District)
came to update his constituents on what was happening in Springfield. One of the updates Rep. Thapedi spoke on was his proposal to have the Illinois State Police co police the areas 1 mile east and west of the Dan Ryan expressway. He stated that the governor was in favor of the proposal but Mayor Rahm Emanuel was indifferent and Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, Garry MCCarthy was vehemently opposed. Per Thapedi Mr. McCarthy's opposition is based on a 1970's study conducted in Kansas City, Mo. that states that additional police presence does not deter crime.

So in an effort to support his proposal Thapedi has proposed a bill (HBJ0055) that would establish the Englewood Violent Crime Task Force.  The task force would engage in the following Creates the Englewood Violent Crime Task Force to: (1) study and determine the causes of violent crime in Englewood and nearby affected communities; (2) study and determine the feasibility of deploying the Illinois State Police to Englewood and nearby affected communities and neighborhoods; (3) develop a comprehensive long-term solution to the effect of violent crime in the Englewood and nearby affected communities; (4) recommend a plan of action to substantially reduce the incidents of violent crime in Englewood and nearby affected communities; and (5) draft any necessary legislation and make any necessary recommendations for appropriations to place the plan of action into immediate effect.
The bill is co-sponsored by both Representative Esther Golar(6th) and Elgie Sims(34th) and others. The task force would be made up of representative from the governor's and mayor's office, Illinois and Chicago police departments, representatives from University of Illinois(UIC) and Chicago State University (CSU) and the community.

Mr. Thapedi also used this to announce that he would nominate Mrs. Darlene Tribute, President of PMNCC as the community representative. Mr. Thapedi's announcement was met with some criticism as there were individuals who opposed the governor and mayor offices being part of the task force. Others felt that there should be more community representatives although they did not oppose Mrs. Tribute being on the committee they felt that community organizations from Greater Grand Crossing/Englewood would not support Mrs. Tribute. Rep. Thapedi stood firm behind his decisions and stated that he wanted everyone on board so a solution(s) to the crime problem could be found but could not appoint representatives from every community organization.

For more information on HBJ0055 check here

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sun-Times - Chicago’s finances among the worst after 2008 recession: study

It seems Mayor Emanuel when he first entered into office with the city's finances as his first concern and this study shows why:
Chicago weathered the storm of the 2008 recession in worse financial shape than all but two major cities — Boston and bankrupt Detroit — because spending, debt and unfunded pension liabilities rose faster than revenues, according to a new study.

The Civic Federation used nine key indicators to measure Chicago’s financial performance against 12 other U.S. cities over a five-year period ending Dec. 31, 2011, that coincided with the recession and the painstaking recovery.

Chicago ranked No. 11. Only Boston and Detroit fared worse. New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, Kansas City, Seattle, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore all emerged in better shape.

The reasons are simple. The mountain of debt got higher. Unfunded pension liabilities are $19 billion and rising. And taxes are not growing as fast as city spending, according to the Civic Federation.

Over the five-year period, Chicago’s “real liabilities” — everything from operating expenses to debt and pension liabilities — rose by $824 a person to $3,296 for every man, woman and child living in the city.

Chicago raised taxes and fees by $113.45 a person during that same period, topped only by Houston ($122.01), Boston ($205.58), Baltimore ($354.28) and Detroit ($357.18). But it was not nearly enough to keep pace with expenses.

Although Chicago’s “debt service-to-expenditure ratio” declined over the five-year period, the five-year average of 11.9 percent is still the highest of all 13 cities, which had an average of 9.7 percent.
Read the whole thing!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Chatham Urban Garden Takes Shape

Location: 8247 South King Drive, Chicago, IL 60619, USA
Earlier this year, the Chatham Avalon Park Community Council (CAPCC)
in conjunction with Center for Regenerative Truth (CRT)organization held a fundraiser to fund the startup cost of the Chatham "The Color Green" Urban Garden. The garden sits on two lots on 82nd King Drive owned by CAPCC. The plan is teach urban farming to youth and veterans.

Previously, CAPCC planned to build a community center at this site and adjacent lots but funding and acquisition of lots for this project was difficult and has been put on hold.

What do you think?

YoChicago: Price risks in buying into third-tier neighborhoods

Late last month I posted about a foreclosure rehab for sale in Chatham. Then I see Joe Zekas' post at YoChicago discussing the four-tiers of Chicago neighborhoods:
The first tier consists of the neighborhoods that have long been stable, sought-after and are either near the lakefront or far from it with good public or parochial schools, e.g. Lincoln Park and Edison Park.

The second tier includes neighborhoods that have changed rapidly in the last 20 years and have become trendy places to live, e.g. Bucktown, Lincoln Square and Andersonville.

The third-tier neighborhoods are where people are willing to gamble on a near-term (5 years or less) advance to second-tier status, with a corresponding increase in livability and, perhaps, some price appreciation.

Fourth-tier neighborhoods, which include far too much of Chicago, are hardscrabble places where people only move when they either can’t afford a better place or moving to one would take them out of their personal comfort zone.
Of course there is more to it than that. Zekas especially focuses on buying into third-tier neighborhoods. No matter how to slice it real-estate is a risk. One must buy property where they can afford it and then hope that some money can be made. It makes you wonder what it takes for a third-tier neighborhoods into a second-tier neighborhood.

Now I know about brought up the house for sale in Chatham. I really did want to ask where does a neighborhood like Chatham lie, but as stated in that earlier posting here it still worth investing in real estate in that neighborhood.

PHOTO: 79th & Cottage Grove 1950s

Found this picture taken in about 1957 the 1950s adorning Worlee's Concerned Citizens of Chatham FB page. Chicago transit geeks will likely love this one, an old PCC Streetcar running along the #4 Cottage Grove a route which has since been converted to buses (according to a recent comment streetcars on the #4 were discontinued on June 19, 1955). Streetcars last ran in Chicago back in 1958.

BTW, you may recognize the building on the right hand side as it's the Chatham Center on the southwest corner of 79th & Cottage Grove which remains. The building with Chatham Bank on it well it's gone, but that lot is still home to a bank. A branch of Urban Partnership Bank is currently on the lot.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

SUN-TIMES: CTA suspends switchover deadlines for problem-plagued Ventra

A Ventra machine
If you're frustrated with the Ventra system here's some good news:
The CTA is suspending all deadlines for switching over to problem-plagued Ventra — a new fare payment system that has left too many customers “confused and frustrated,’’ CTA President Forrest Claypool told the City Club on Tuesday.

Claypool said he won’t pay the Ventra contractor a dime until it meets three new benchmarks: 99 percent of calls to Ventra must be answered in no more than five minutes; 99 percent of vending machines and readers must work, and 99 percent of payment taps on readers must register in no more than in 2.5 seconds.

“Our promise to our customers is that this system will be fixed,’’ Claypool said one day after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that two alderman were calling for a City Council hearing on Ventra. One called the Ventra rollout a “debacle.’’
Being a holder of a Ventra card myself, the differences between this system and the good old Chicago Card were obvious. I'm sure they're throwing a lot of people for a loop, but this is supposed to be better than what was already in place. I can only imagine the complaints when CTA started doing the transit card.

Look what I found at 95th...

When I got off the train Tuesday evening walking up the stairs, I saw that the space at the well traveled CTA terminal at 95th had a new sign in the window. So apparently Dat Donut is coming to the space that was formerly occupied by Dunkin Donuts not long before the Red Line South Reconstruction project started.

Dat Donuts already has locations such as the one on 83rd/Cottage Grove and had one in Morgan Park located @ 1979 W 111th St although Yelp has listed that location as closed.

If anyone is a fan of that huge donut they sell as I am and you don't live close to their flagship location, it's great to know that in the future you won't have to travel far to get one. Even better you can have one on your commute!

Speaking of 95th terminal, the next major project affecting CTA customers will be the reconstruction of the terminal. We've talked about this coming project in the past and we also know there is an artist assigned to the project. Hopefully we will know more by the time construction starts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Crain's: Will Pullman see better times soon? UPDATED

Location: Pullman, Chicago, IL, USA
This has often been discussed in the past year or so. It seems to be a topic of discussion for the Roseland Heights Community Association and that organization transitions to be part of the newly drawn 9th Ward.

This two-paragraph article from Crain's mainly mentions the hope that the Pullman neighborhood will become a national park. The expected benefits is of course economical with the expectation of tourism and jobs.

With this article is also a slideshow with scenes of Pullman today and some of the past.

UPDATE 11:36 PM: Crain's has a more extensive write-up of the national park story. US Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin and Congresswoman Robin Kelly are planning to introduce a bill in the US Congress to make Pullman a national park. Please be advised that Crain's may require you to register in order to read the article but I will provide an excerpt:
Getting national park status will not be easy, Mr. Durbin says, though the National Park Service has concluded Pullman is nationally significant in that it explicates industrial, labor and African-American history in ways not represented at other national park sites.

“One of the largest obstacles is coming up with enough money to consider this opportunity when we are currently hard-pressed to pay for our existing historic sites,” Mr. Durbin says.

And then there's politics. “I'm not going to say politics haven't been involved in the creation of national parks,” he says.

“The general consensus is the park needs to happen before (President Barack Obama) leaves office,” says David Doig, president of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, a nonprofit community development group that is active in Pullman. “Pullman is the area where he did his community organizing. We're hopeful we can convince him that the park will be part of his legacy.”

Adding to the complexity: Pullman is an urban neighborhood, and the historic sites there are both privately and publically owned.

What would a Pullman National Park be like? Would the park service finish restoring and reconstructing missing and blighted buildings?

Not likely. “The National Park Service is not interested in swooping in and taking over a whole neighborhood,” says Eleanor Gorski, director of the city's Department of Landmarks and Historic Preservation. “They prefer to operate as a partner with the city and the existing neighborhood groups.” Mr. Doig says the national park's role may be confined to “a visitor center and maybe a park supervisor or ranger on site.”

The most likely location for a visitor's center is the long- vacant factory and administration complex in the center of the district. The complex—and the nearby Hotel Florence—are owned by the state of Illinois. Over the past 20 years, the state has spent about $20 million stabilizing and restoring the two properties without being able to find new uses for them.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November 6th Ward Community Based Organization Meetings

Here is a partial listing of upcoming 6th Ward Community Meetings

West Chesterfield Community Association
November 2, 2013
West Chesterfield Community Fieldhouse
9351 S Michigan  

 Park Manor Neighbors Community Council
November 3, 2013
6:30 pm
St. Columbanus(Glass House)
317 E. 71st  

Chatham Avalon Park Community Council
November 11, 2013
6:30 to 8:30 pm
Urban Partnership Bank
7800 S State St.

Greater Chatham Alliance Community Organization
November 16, 2013
11:00 am to 1:30 pm
St. James Lutheran Church
8001 S. Michigan

   Rage logo
 Resident Association of Greater Englewood
November 19, 2013

 Please check with the respective organization to get updated meeting date or venue changes.

GCA Special Event: Own a Home or Condo? Register Your Deed & Title to Avoid Becoming a Fraud Victim!

On Sat. Nov. 9, 2013, you can meet Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough & key members of her executive staff to discuss property and recording fraud at Crerar Memorial Presbyterian Church located at 8100 S. Calumet from 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM. This event is free and discusses fastest growing property crimes according to the Recorder of Deeds office. Want more info please refer to the flyer below.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Crime is down and minority police hiring

[VIDEO] ABC 7 reports that the crime rate in Chicago overall is down this year. This was said during a city council hearing. I assume this is a city council budget committee hearing. They did discuss how much more police were paying in overtime. One Alderman even commented on how much he believed the police should set aside in their budgets for overtime.

I want to add another wrinkle. Over at NBC Chicago, there's video of west side Ald. Jason Ervin going at it with Supt. Garry McCarthy over minority hiring in the police department. It was pretty testy and you can watch yourself [VIDEO]

Oh man I just had to see what 2nd City Cop had to say on this subject. I'm sure they'll say a lot more about the current crime stats, but they definitely discussed the color issue as far as police hiring. Or more accurately putting minorities in brass positions on the force.