✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
Roman Villarreal is an artist and lifelong resident of South Chicago. He operates Under the Bridge, 10052 S. Ewing Ave.
If we can learn something valuable about people by looking at the “mundane, everyday objects” of their daily lives, as Rebecca Graff suggests, the assortment of items littered around her office tells us the obvious—that she is an urban archaeologist. Lanyards from academic conferences are pinned to the bulletin board in a messy gaggle, stray surveying equipment sits in the corner, and her shelves are full of glass bottles with worn-off labels, artifacts saved from digs. Even apparent signs of hobbies, like the half-shelf full of beer cans, lead back to her discipline: the cans are gifts from her students, finds from antique shows across the world.
About a month ago, while digging up the ground under the Illinois Institute of Technology’s S.R. Crown Hall in Bronzeville to repair the school’s steam tunnels, maintenance workers uncovered some unexpected remnants of the neighborhood’s past. The artifacts, displayed for a one-day exhibition at Crown Hall this month, included ceramic tiles and stone pathways, along with a random assortment of everyday objects: a busted thermometer, glazed clay Bennington marbles, and a dirt-caked silver fork inscribed with the word “Toffenetti.”
Courtesy Gabriel Piemonte
When I walk into Gabriel Piemonte’s campaign office, he’s leaning over a set of newly laminated 5th Ward maps, highlighting the South Shore blocks he plans to walk over the coming months. The office itself, in a storefront along 71st Street, is sparsely furnished—a single bookshelf, a few posters, chairs and a sofa near the door. During our interview, Piemonte notes that he’s hoping to turn it into a public art gallery, or maybe a lecture space. Still, he might be forgiven for worrying about bigger problems first, such as the fact that his opponent in the race for 5th Ward alderman, five-term incumbent Leslie Hairston, has approximately $20,000 more cash at hand than he does. (According to his last quarterly report, Piemonte’s got $750 in his campaign committee account, though he has spent about $20,000 campaigning over the last ten months.) He recently received his first endorsement, from the South Side chapter of Democracy for America, the political organization of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
In the thirty-one years since Harold Washington died at his City Hall desk, there have been two elected mayors of Chicago, both white. The first was Richard M. Daley, purveyor of privatized parking meter deals and failed Olympic bids, and heir to the Daley political dynasty. He was succeeded in 2011 by Rahm Emanuel, once—to quote a childhood acquaintance—a “hyper-intelligent [bully]” on the North Shore, now a neoliberal cheerleader governing primarily for the benefit of the city’s financial class. Neither faced a serious electoral challenge until 2015, when Jesus “Chuy” García (once a Washington disciple himself) forced Emanuel into a run-off, though even the result there wasn’t particularly close.
Late in March, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards heard testimony on a piece of new legislation from 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza. Garza’s ordinance, which passed both the committee and, the following day, City Council, regulates manganese-bearing companies in Chicago by prohibiting new facilities from being built and preventing existing ones from expanding. It also requires that companies that handle bulk materials with manganese have a 150-foot setback from areas that are zoned residential, and that manganese-bearing facilities submit quarterly reports to the Department of Planning and Development detailing the amount of manganese passing through or stored in their facility.
Historically, agriculture and urban planning have had a tight-knit but fraught relationship. In the lower-income neighborhoods of nineteenth-century American cities, livestock—necessary sources of food and wealth—were common, as were concerns about the public health consequences of dense tenements clustered with people and pigs. Some early attempts at outlawing animals for sanitary reasons were met with public derision: As the New York Times reported in 1865 in response to the apparent arrest of a cow in New York City, “The spectacle of ten or twelve policemen guarding a solitary cow on her way to the cattle-jail provokes too much merriment even for those who are interested in having the streets kept clear of four-footed nuisances.” But over the course of the nineteenth century, the expanding power of the field of public health in urban planning meant that many forms of urban agriculture, particularly those involving animals, were significantly curbed.
Data from the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University (IHS/Lizzie Smith)
Last week, the Institute for Housing Studies (IHS) at DePaul University released its newest annual report on the state of rental housing in Cook County. While the report shows small changes within individual neighborhoods, the overall trends across the county are largely unchanged from previous years: less traditionally affordable housing, high levels of cost-burdened tenants, and a large gap between the supply and demand of affordable housing.
This week on SSW Radio we talked with South Side native Lena Waithe about her show The Chi; checked in on community developments in Woodlawn, South Shore, and Jackson Park; and highlighted the personal histories of three South Side women
I‘m so proud to be here. You’re all an inspiration to me.”