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.
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.”
Last Tuesday, the Cook County Land Bank Authority and Metropolitan Planning Council wrapped up the last of three public meetings with Woodlawn residents held as a precursor to the development of the long-vacant Washington Park National Bank Building at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove. The meetings were part of the Corridor Development Initiative (CDI), a community-oriented process designed to ensure that Woodlawn residents’ suggestions would be incorporated into the final plan for the development.
In mid-March, the New York Times published a warm profile of Theaster Gates’s new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., describing his creations as “monumental structures that echo abstract canvases elsewhere in the institution, but are embedded with unsung stories of black laborers and entrepreneurs.” Part of the piece also detailed how Gates’s Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims at neighborhood and community revitalization through arts-related projects, had acquired the dismantled pieces of the gazebo in Cleveland where twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a police officer in November 2014. Rebuild would use the pieces, the article said, to create a memorial for Rice later this year at the Stony Island Arts Bank, the organization’s South Shore home and exhibition space.