How the South Side Votes: Business

Chicago’s South Side aldermen are united in their support for greater economic development in their wards. But substantive differences exist between them on how to achieve that goal. Big-box retailers, the use of tax increment financing, gentrification, and the presence of affordable housing are all among the most contentious areas of the city’s economic policy. These quotes illustrate the stakes the South Side holds in debates over such economic issues.

The final part of a three-part series.

Pat Dowell
3rd Ward

“I reject the notion that we need, as a matter of absolute fact, other demographic populations to improve our community. We welcome diversity of population into Bronzeville to live in our residential areas and also to invest in our economy, but overcoming segregation has always been more difficult in black communities than in the general population. So, it is unfair to compare the transformation of predominantly black communities like Bronzeville to other changing communities like Pilsen.”
—On the “non-white” gentrification of Bronzville, a historically African-American neighborhood, January 9, 2013 (Chicago Magazine)

Dowell is the member of the City Council’s Paul Douglas Alliance, named after the liberal former alderman, Senator, and mayoral candidate. The Alliance lists support for “worker’s rights including the right to organize, living wages, and benefits” as a plank of its platform. She was also a chief critic of the way Mayor Emanuel intended to set up the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, an ambitious plan to attract private investment for public projects that the city could not afford to fund.

Roderick Sawyer
6th Ward

“I was a bit frustrated…this past summer with not being involved directly with the summer youth Chicago program that was administered by the mayor’s office. None of those jobs came through our office…but at the last minute Jackie Collins and Dodd Trotter came through with jobs from the state and we were able to employ about sixty youth in the 6th Ward. But I am concerned about that because that was a stroke of good luck.”
—On the 6th Ward’s underrepresentation in the One Summer Chicago program, which connects city youth with summer job opportunities, October 2, 2013 (CAN TV)

Roderick Sawyer is co-chair of the City Council’s Progressive Reform Coalition, which supports the establishment of “an economic policy focused creation and preservation of living-wage and prevailing-wage jobs with adequate benefits, leave and security to support a family.” He was also the primary sponsor of a recent ordinance calling for greater oversight of the privatization of city services, expressing “significant concern” over the lack of scrutiny paid to privatizing parking meters and the tolls on the Chicago Skyway.

voting_brookins_petroskiHoward Brookins Jr.
21st Ward

“Back at the height of the real estate boom, when everybody appeared to be working… African-American unemployment in the city of Chicago was at seventeen percent.”
—On structural unemployment in the city, October 9, 2013 (CAN TV)

Brookins has been a long-time supporter of bringing big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and the jobs they could provide to the South Side. In 2011, Brookins was elected chair of the Council’s Black Caucus after the previous chair, 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, was pushed out of his seat over his aggressive advocacy for new affordable housing.

voting_Hairston_HannaPetroskiLeslie Hairston
5th Ward

“We’re talking about human life here. And we’re talking about deplorable living conditions.”
—On conditions in some buildings in the Chicago Housing Authority’s “Housing Choice Voucher” program, which aims to provide subsidies for affordable housing to low income families, July 1, 2013 (Chicago Reporter)

Hairston is a supporter of the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness’s “Plan 2.0: A Home for Everyone.” In addition to decreasing the roughly 6,500 strong homeless population in the city, this initiative also calls for an increase in the amount of affordable housing stock, for housing to become available to former criminal offenders, and the rapid return of the homeless and temporarily displaced to more permanent housing situations.

Will Burns
4th Ward

“It doesn’t make sense to build communities exclusively of low- and moderate-income people. The 4th Ward remains a unique place because of its racial and economic diversity.”
—On his reluctance to support new affordable housing units in the 4th Ward, April 24, 2013 (Streetwise)

Burns has been a booster of the University of Chicago-led Harper Court development project in his 4th Ward and has defended the use of TIF funds for the project. He is also the chief political force behind the current construction of mixed-income housing units and Wal-Mart at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

voting_Foulkes_HannaPetroskiToni Foulkes
15th Ward

“People buy cars, apartments because they can afford it. Then hours can get cut to five a week.”
—On her support for worker protections and the unionization of Sears employees at the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC)/Fight for 15 rally, July 15, 2013 (Progress Illinois)

Last year, Foulkes was one of seven aldermen to vote against a $1.7 billion dollar infrastructure trust fund proposed by Mayor Emanuel on the grounds that Englewood residents had little to reason to “trust” the proposal, citing a lack of clear objectives. She was also the primary sponsor of a 2012 resolution that expressed support for the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart.

Michael Chandler
24th Ward

“A lot of it is that you have these communities that are very poor, times are hard, and people get desperate. The stakeholders need to bring some economic justice to our communities. Even back when Martin Luther King was staying on the West Side, he was saying it would take $2 billion to turn around. He couldn’t do it, and he was a much better man than I am.”
—On the relationship between poverty and violence on the South Side, May 16, 2013 (Chicago Reader)

Chandler’s 24th Ward hosts “Citizen Task Force Committees” tasked with crafting policy proposals and recommendations on a number of different policy areas including “Economic Development” and “Housing.”

Willie Cochran
20th Ward

“The most important thing about that character in the community is that they have stabilized the community to the point where I can advocate for reinvestment and redevelopment.”
—On the movement of middle-class gentrifiers to Englewood, February 12, 2013 (Marketplace)

Cochran has been a key booster of the Chicago Sports Village, a facility in his ward planned to open in the autumn of 2014 that would provide space for various recreational activities and athletics including fencing, bowling, track and field, and BMX. The project would be primarily financed through TIF funds, and supporters estimate it could create as many as 800 jobs.

Illustrations by Hannah Petroski

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