Valerie Leonard of the Lawndale Alliance left a comment on that post updating the situation. I thought the comment deserved its on posting. Here are Valerie Leonard's comments:
Community Update on the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF
We are very concerned that the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF Redevelopment Plan is being advanced without systems in place to ensure maximum benefit to North Lawndale residents—particularly those that will live within the boundaries of the TIF once it is implemented. Unfortunately, wealthy individuals, foundations and influential nonprofits have a greater voice in our community’s development than local tax payers, who must foot the $300,000,000+ bill for the TIF.
Christian Valley Missionary Baptist Church hosted a meeting with Alderman Dixon on February 18, 2008, the day before the public hearing on the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF. A number of residents voiced serious concerns regarding the TIF budget not taking into account feedback provided from residents over the past 9 months. They were also concerned with the fact that the TIF Advisory Council, which Alderman Dixon and Alderman Munoz promised to create by the end of November, 2007 had not been created. Alderman Dixon indicated that she had enough people to create the Council back in November, but she decided to hold off on creating the Council until after the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF was approved. Some residents expressed concerns that this was unfair to the people who submitted their applications in time for the original October 30, 2007 deadline. Other residents raised questions as to why the TIF was being advanced with errors in the list of Housing Potentially Displaced. Several people whose homes are on this list have had their homes rehabbed, and their properties should be removed. Alderman Dixon promised the meeting attendees that she would listen to the testimony provided at the public hearing on the TIF before making her recommendation as to whether the proposal should be advanced to City Council.
The following day, the Community Development Commission held a public hearing on the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF. Alderman Dixon and Alderman Munoz gave testimony indicating their strong support for the TIF. Each alderman provided a letter of support for the project in advance of the hearing—in spite of the fact that there were strong concerns that had not been resolved with the community, particularly in the 24th Ward. Alderman Dixon and Alderman Munoz indicated that there were people in the community “misinforming” residents and “using scare tactics”.
About 130 or more people from North Lawndale attended the public hearing, including property owners, business owners, members of the clergy and employees and affiliates of local nonprofit organizations and foundations. Overall, the testimony was split along lines of the “haves”—those who have influence and will be reimbursed for any up front costs from TIF proceeds (if they pay anything), and the “have-nots”--those who have to pay for the TIF, but have no influence.
The first group, the “haves”, consisted of a handful of people who provided wholehearted support for the TIF. They were 1) employees or partners of City-funded nonprofit organizations that have already received significant TIF funding from the Midwest TIF, and will be receiving funds from the Ogden-Pulaski TIF once it is approved; 2) local businessmen who could benefit directly from TIF funding, if they have not already benefited; 3) employees of TIF sponsors, whose development plans will be funded with TIF proceeds.
The second group, the “have-nots”, was comprised of rank and file property owners and community residents. Most people in this category indicated that they supported the TIF, but wanted to make sure the TIF Advisory Council was put in place before the TIF was created. There were also strong concerns about making sure of the accuracy of the property lists for land acquisition, and homes potentially displaced. A number of homeowners expressed concerns about their properties being on the list of homes potentially displaced when they had just spent thousands of dollars on repairs. Still others voiced concerns that resident input gleaned over the past 9 months has not been included in the written plan.
In spite of the fact that the vast majority of people who testified indicated that they wanted more input before the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF was forwarded to the City Council, Alderman Dixon and Alderman Munoz recommended that the proposal go forward as presented. Requests that the City ensure the accuracy of the Acquisition List (651 vacant lots and 1 occupied house) and List of Housing Potentially Displaced (41 occupied housing units) before the TIF is advanced to the City Council were not honored.
The Community Development Commission deliberated on the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF Redevelopment Plan before voting. One of the members of the Community Development Commission, Commissioner Kostiner, expressed concern that Alderman Dixon had no feelings for her constituency, and did not communicate with the people (of the 24th Ward). She said she didn’t understand how Alderman Dixon could listen to people testify that they were willing to give their lives in defense of their property, or even go back to the days of the 60’s riots—and not feel anything for the people.
Alderman Munoz indicated that he felt the people testifying from the community had “an agenda” and “would never be satisfied with the plan”. Commissioner Kostiner challenged
Alderman Munoz, and said what she heard from the people was not that they didn’t support the plan, but they wanted to be involved.
Alderman Dixon indicated that she and Alderman Munoz would not create the TIF Advisory Council until after the TIF goes into effect. She said that she was still looking for people to participate on the committee to make sure she could involve those citizens who had not been engaged in the community before. Alderman Munoz said that he and Alderman Dixon would conduct TIF business in a transparent manner once it was created.
Commissioner Kostiner voted “no”, and recommended that the plan not go forward until Alderman Dixon and Alderman Munoz communicated with their constituencies. She suggested that they create the TIF Advisory Council before the TIF is approved, because the community was asking for it. In spite of Commissioner Kostiner’s suggestions, the Community Development Commission voted 6-1 to recommend that the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF Redevelopment Plan go to the City Council.
Unfortunately, the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF is being advanced to the City Council with a number of errors in property lists, and without the benefit of a TIF Advisory Council. Moreover, many of the concerns raised by the community since May, 2007 have not been fully addressed.
On March 6, 2008, a small group from the Lawndale Alliance met with Alderman Dixon to request that the ordinance governing the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF Redevelopment Plan (and other ordinances if necessary) include language to ensure the following:
1) City land purchases on a voluntary basis as opposed to eminent domain.
2) The Acquisition List and list of Housing Potentially Displaced are error free (before ordinance is ratified).
3) The City includes resident input in the Redevelopment Plan and Redevelopment Budget
4) Governance by a TIF Advisory Council comprised of a broad base of community stakeholders, with representation proportionate to land mass from each respective ward; and diversity in backgrounds and skill sets.
5) Reinstatement of the Lawndale Community Conservation Council to coordinate all development activities in North Lawndale.
6) A broad base of community stakeholders is convened to negotiate community benefits agreements
7) There are systems of accountability put in place with respect to financial performance of the TIF; job creation for local residents, new business
development for local residents; affordable housing and holistic community development.
Alderman Dixon indicated that she would review the list of Housing Potentially Displaced for errors. She also said she would explore the potential for making changes to the ordinance to allow for voluntary land sales if we could find examples of where this was done in other communities. The City Clerk’s Office is currently doing research to provide examples from Lincoln Square and Mercy Hospital.
When asked about the potential for reviving the Lawndale Community Conservation Council, Alderman Dixon indicated that the federal legislation governing the council had expired, and that we would need to speak with Congressman Danny Davis. We then indicated to Alderman Dixon that regardless of whether or not the legislation has expired, it is within her power to create a community planning board that serves the same function, if she so chooses. Alderman Dixon adjourned the meeting 15 minutes after it started so that she could attend another meeting in the community.
We attempted to schedule a town hall meeting for March 18, 2008 so both aldermen could address unresolved issues. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a confirmation from Alderman Munoz in time. Alderman Dixon indicated that she would not participate in the town hall meeting without Alderman Munoz.
CALL TO ACTION
Alderman Dixon should not wait for Alderman Munoz to have a meeting on the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF with residents of the 24th Ward. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of the land area, and property taxes will be generated from the 24th Ward. This gives her the power. However, Alderman Munoz appears to be in control. While we recognize that Alderman Dixon needs Alderman Munoz to get things done in City Council, her relationship with him should not take priority over her responsibility to represent her constituents’ interests.
We ask that you contact Alderman Dixon and Alderman Munoz to voice your concerns regarding the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF. You may contact Alderman Dixon by calling her at 773-522-2430, or visiting her office at 2100 South Marshall Boulevard, Suite 801, on the 8th floor. You may contact Alderman Munoz by calling him at 773-762-1771, or visiting his office at 2500 South St. Louis.
Contact Valerie F. Leonard at 773-521-3137 or email@example.com for further information regarding this update. Contact Mr. Tony Binns of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development at 312-744-0986 to order a transcript of the proceedings of the Community Development Commission hearing on the Proposed Ogden-Pulaski TIF, February 19, 2008.