Instead of Subsidizing Sterling Bay We Should Be Taxing Them

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On Wednesday, outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a lame duck City Council approved the $2.3 billion dollar taxpayer handout to mega-developers Sterling Bay and Related Midwest. This action reinforces what many of us have been saying for years – we have to fundamentally change the way that Chicago utilizes TIF dollars.

As City Council moved to pass the Alderman-elects Daniel LaSpata (1st Ward), Mike Rodriguez (22nd ward), Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th ward), Andre Vasquez (40th ward), Matt Martin (47th ward), and Maria Hadden (49th ward) stood with community members blocking LaSalle St. to call for a stop to the creation of the two megaTIFs.

Chicagoans are fed up with the continued handouts to politically connected developers for their pet projects and luxury developments. In the case of Lincoln Yards, community residents, union members, and small business leaders opposed this project every step of the way.

Chicago has 149 TIF districts, as many as the other nine largest U.S. cities combined. The problem with TIFs is that the majority of TIF districts that have significant funds are located in parts of the city where development is already happening – namely on the North side, downtown, or near downtown. This means that instead of eliminating blight, or even reducing it, TIFs in Chicago serve to exacerbate inequalities. For example, between 2011 and 2015, 60% of TIF funds went to the downtown area and the north side. By contrast, the Westside only received 9% of TIF funding; the South Side received 16% and the Far South Side 4%. Yesterday’s votes reinforce the truth that the TIF system is broken.

We need a new way forward with economic development in this city.

Once Lightfoot is sworn in as Chicago’s mayor, she should immediately hit the pause button on the TIF program and hold public hearings on the economic priorities of the city. She must build an approach that centers investment in low-income neighborhoods on the South and West sides, not maintain the current status quo where our communities are at the margins. And, she should support revenue solutions that make the wealthiest of our city pay their fair share. Instead of subsidizing Sterling Bay, we should be taxing them.

At the Grassroots Collaborative Reimagine Chicago Mayoral forum, Lightfoot committed to, among other things, the reopening of the City’s mental health clinics, free city college tuition for all Chicago residents, and a more equitable funding formula for Chicago Public Schools.  All of these policies would be critical investments in our neighborhoods that have languished under the Emanuel administration.

If we made these investments and prioritized neighborhoods instead of luxury developments, we would not only be able to improve the lives of Chicago residents but create the sort of vibrant city that will make more businesses want to set up shop here – without us handing them billions of our property tax dollars.

Mayor 1% and Parting City Council Leave Behind a Legacy of Economic Segregation

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On Wednesday, despite an outpouring of public opposition, Chicago City Council voted to approve two new megaTIF districts that will impact Chicago for decades to come. Grassroots Collaborative has worked for years to stop the abuses of the TIF program and helped lead a diverse coalition in opposition to the Lincoln Yards and the 78 megaTIFs. The following is a statement from Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel.

“The decision to move forward these megaTIFs epitomizes a legacy that has been a disaster for working families. Throughout his administration Mayor Emanuel has governed as the mayor of two cities. In one he closed schools, shuttered clinics, and nickled and dimed residents with fees and tickets. In the other, he rolled out the red carpet for the corporate elite, all at the expense of working families.

“Grassroots Collaborative will continue to work towards ending the abuses of the TIF program, and the racial and economic inequality it produces. We will continue to organize for a vibrant city that attracts good jobs and economic development without handing out billions of our tax dollars to the wealthy.”

No Votes About Lincoln Yards and the 78 Until New Mayor and City Council Take Office

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Grassroots Collaborative Statement on the Postponed Vote for Lincoln Yards and the 78 MegaTIFs

CHICAGO – On Tuesday, responding to mounting pressure from a diverse coalition of community organizations, Aldermen, Aldermen-elect, and Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, Finance Committee Chairman Patrick O’Connor postponed the vote on the Lincoln Yards and 78 MegaTIFs. The following is a statement from Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel.

“We appreciate the actions by Mayor-elect Lightfoot to delay this vote and Mayor Emanuel’s acquiescence to the will of Chicago voters.  But 48 hours is not a meaningful delay for projects that will impact the city for decades to come.

“The subsidizing of luxury developments is not the right priority for Chicago. The officials that should decide what the right priorities for Chicago will be sworn-in in May and no votes should be happening around these projects until that time.”

 

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What is Your Message #ToChiNextMayor?

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The upcoming election is an opportunity to reimagine the future of this city. We want all of the candidates running for Mayor to understand the damage that the previous Daley and Emanuel administrations have done to our community and what Chicago needs to do differently so our neighborhoods can thrive. Let us know what your message is to the next mayor of Chicago by:

  1. Taking a picture of yourself holding your message.
  2. Posting your photo to Twitter using the hashtag #ToChiNextMayor or emailing it to info@grassrootscollaborative.org

Need some ideas to get you started? Check out our Reimagine Chicago platform or get some ideas from the gallery below:

#ReimagineChicago Mayoral Forum

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The upcoming election is our opportunity to #ReimagineChicago and fix the damage done by Rahm and his predecessors. Join us Wednesday for the #ReimagineChicago Mayoral Forum to hear where the candidates stands on our campaigns and our vision for the future of Chicago. Click here to register!

Six candidates were invited based off of voting by community leaders belonging to Grassroots Collaborative member and partner organizations. Each candidate was also required to fill out a questionnaire. You can find the questionnaire responses here. Amara Enyia, La Shawn Ford, Lori Lightfoot, Susana Mendoza, Toni Preckwinkle, and Willie Wilson have all confirmed their attendance.

The forum will focused on a progressive platform developed in partnership with neighborhood residents across the city. #ReimagineChicago is an aspirational plan to transform Chicago into a city that works for everybody through targeted community investment, expansion and protection of affordable housing, police accountability, jobs programs, and progressive revenue. The #ReimagineChicago platform can be downloaded here.

You can also show your support for making Chicago a city that works for everybody by using one of our Facebook cover photos uplifting the community demands in the #ReimagineChicago platform.

 

FAQ

Will there be childcare?

Yes, childcare will be provided for children age 3 – 10 years old. We ask that children older or younger stay with their parent/guardian.

 

Will translation be provided?

The event will be translated in Spanish and American Sign Language.

 

Is the event wheelchair accessible?

Yes, there is a lift outside of the building that opens up into the event space.

 

Do you need to register ahead of time?

Pre-registration is encouraged as seating preference will be given to those who registered prior to the event if the event space reaches capacity. It will also help us get an accurate count of the translation and childcare needs for the event. You can RSVP here.

 

Which organizations are sponsoring the event?

Sponsoring organizations include: Grassroots Collaborative, American Friends Service Committee, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, Action Now, Alliance of the Southeast, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Cook County College Teachers Union, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicago Community and Workers’ Rights, Chicago United for Equity, Coalition for a South Works CBA, Enlace Chicago, Generation All, Hana Center, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Latino Union, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Organized Communities Against Deportations, ONE Northside, Our Revolution Chicago, Parents 4 Teachers, Pilsen Alliance, Raise the Floor Alliance, Raise Your Hand, Southsiders Together Organizing for Power, The Leaders Network, The People’s Lobby, Westside Rising

Increased Spending on Police Will Not Make Us Safer – Investing in Neighborhoods Will

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Grassroots Collaborative Statement on Proposed Increases to CPD Budget

Chicago, IL – Grassroots Collaborative is a community labor coalition representing tens of thousands of Chicago residents who been hurt by the failed policies of the Emanuel administration. The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative on Tuesday’s Committee on Budget and Government Operations hearing on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) budget.

“The proposed 2019 budget for the Chicago Police Department is an insult to every resident in this city who has had their school closed, services cut, and property taxes raised. It is especially insulting for Black and Latinx residents who have suffered under a racist and abusive police department. The 2017 Department of Justice investigation documented in detail the  abuses of citizens, use excessive force, unfair treatment of people of color, and a complete lack of oversight. That is not the behavior of a department we should awarded with new funding and shooting ranges.

Despite already receiving 40% of the city’s operating budget, this budget proposes an increase of CPD’s budget by $80,000,000 next year. In addition the budget includes a $17 million transfer from Chicago Public Schools to the Chicago Police Department to pay to put police officers in schools. It is outrageous that money is being taken away from our stretched public schools to pay for officers from a department that we know is deeply racist and is the same department that produced convicted murder Jason Van Dyke.”

Grassroots Collaborative stands with Black youth saying no to the proposed new cop academy and demands no additional revenue be given to the Chicago Police Department. In addition Grassroots Collaborative calls for the following reforms:

  • Erase the CPD Database used to racially profile Black and Latinx youth
  • Expand Sanctuary and strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance
  • Phase CPD out of schools
  • Fund Restorative Justice efforts in neighborhoods and schools
  • Create a Behavioral Health Unit of civilian crisis-intervention teams to support people with behavioral health issues or who are in crisis
  • Make expungement accessible and provide re-entry support services

 

Grassroots Collaborative Statement on Jason Van Dyke Verdict

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It is difficult to feel any real satisfaction at a murder being called a murder. For the communities that we represent it was never a question whether or not Jason Van Dyke murdered Laquan McDonald. The only question was whether or not our court system is capable of holding a white Chicago police officer accountable for killing a young Black man. Today, as is far too often the case, our court system fell short, convicting Jason Van Dyke of 2nd-degree murder instead of 1st-degree murder.

The fact that there was a verdict at all was made possible by the dedication and courage of young people who are part of the Movement for Black Lives who continue to demand justice for Laquan and all victims of police violence. We still have so far to go before real justice is realized. We know that no verdict handed down by jury or judge will end police violence, stamp out white supremacy, or improve the lived realities in our neighborhoods. A guilty verdict can not erase the fact that Chicago failed Laquan McDonald and continues to fail residents across the city, especially in Black and Brown neighborhoods. We must do better.

We can and should honor Laquan by throwing out the old failed policies that are destroying the lives of our young people. Chicago must make a massive reinvestment in our neighborhoods and prioritize the needs of communities over the wants of luxury developers and well connected political donors. We must listen to the voices of Black youth saying no to a new cop academy. Instead of awarding the police department that produced officers like Jon Burge and Jason Van Dyke with a brand new training compound, complete with raid equipment and new shooting range, we should invest those resources in mental health facilities, supportive school-based services like counselors and nurses, affordable housing and a real jobs program.

Together we can create a city where a young man like Laquan can get the education, job, housing, and healthcare that he needs to live a good life.

What Does Emanuel’s Departure Mean for Chicago’s Progressive Movement?

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On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, Emanuel announced that he was not seeking re-election, after two terms in office. The news sent shock waves as did a similar announcement almost eight years ago to the day when longtime mayor Richard J Daley announced that he was done. In the next few days and weeks, many new candidates will likely emerge. Who runs will, of course, be of great interest. But what they run on will be much more important.

We have the opportunity now to build a truly new Chicago – one not dominated by Wall Street greed, but rather one where our communities get the resources they need to flourish.  Grassroots Collaborative and others are working to build a clear, bold platform, a people’s agenda, that lays out clearly what we expect the next leadership to champion. Taking on corporate power and white supremacy is key to winning a city rooted in our diverse neighborhoods and communities – the key to what makes Chicago great.

Mayor Emanuel has been referred to by many as “Mayor 1%” – a title he has more than earned. Emanuel is Wall Street’s mayor. He made tens of millions of dollars as an investment banker and has paid it forward in the form of huge corporate handouts through TIFs, interest rate swaps, and other financial gimmicks. He’s made banks rich off of police brutality bonds. At every turn, he put developers before neighborhoods and banks before our Chicago’s school children.

The outcome of Rahm’s reign is a city which is losing it’s Black population, seeing massive displacement of Black and Brown people within the city, living through tragic violence,and becoming increasingly unaffordable for all working class people.  Bankers and billionaires want a return on their investment – they are less interested in building strong, diverse cities, in which all people can thrive.

There are lots of reasons why Rahm Emanuel chose to not pursue a 3rd term.  Key is the committed and fierce organizing done by so many such as the Mental Health Movement, Erase the Database Campaign, Chicago Teachers Union, #NoCopAcademy, and so many other campaigns and organizations.

Now we are faced with an incredible opportunity and some key questions.  There is an inherent question to ask of us in this moment – what would it look like to govern free from Wall Street control? What does governing power look like for progressives, in a climate where corporate power dominates? What is the bold, transformative vision that we are organizing for look like, and how do we build the political power necessary to ensure not only that the next Mayor runs on that vision, but can govern that vision?

There are no quick answers to these questions. The 2019 elections does give us a moment now to step forward towards this vision, but of course, this is a long-term fight. There are many strategies needed – including getting money out of politics, creating independent Left political formations, militant direct action, resourcing Black and Latinx movement building, and more. Chicago progressives must keep organizing for a bold transformative vision rooted in an intersectional analysis.

 

At the Collaborative, one key strategy we are rooted in is making the connections between white supremacy and austerity. For years, in the context of budget cuts at the local and state levels, organizations’ demands at protests were to “stop the cuts” – and then, when what was implemented was slightly less awful than the original threat, folks (including us) would claim victory. Or we spoke about how cuts would hurt Black and Brown people most – saying things like the problem is “disproportionate impact.” Neither of these are wrong – but they aren’t exactly right either.

Anti-blackness drives austerity – it isn’t just that Black people are hurt more by cuts, but that the cuts are attempted because of the desired harm to Black people. For example, college in the United States was actually free when it was white students attending. When the civil rights movement led to more Black students applying to college, governments began de-funding public higher education to make college out of reach for Black people, with the final result hurting ALL low-income and middle-income students.

Anti-immigrant racism drives austerity as well – the recent attacks by the Trump administration to dismantle the safety net use anti-immigrant racism and anti-Muslim rhetoric as the reasons why the government should be smaller. The ultimate goal of the right is to destroy the government and privatize the common good – and attacking immigrants is key to that final end.

What does this all have to do with corporate Democrats like Emanuel? Absolutely everything. Emanuel’s economic agenda is rooted in austerity and anti-Black racism. His first budget centered on closing six mental health clinics in communities of color, to save a paltry few million in a $5 billion annual budget. He closed 50 schools in Black neighborhoods. Unless we are doing the work with grassroots leaders around how politicians like Emanuel are moving a racist corporate agenda, it is easy for people to believe the dominant narrative that this is the only way. Political education on racial capitalism is key foundation work that precedes our envisioning and demanding the radical feminist economy we need.

Rahm’s announcement was a reminder of the need for audacious hope. Of imagining the seemingly impossible. Of strategizing with a longer arc.  Organizing brought us to this moment – and it is organizing that is going to move us through.

No Public Dollars for Lincoln Yards

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Last week we joined with community residents from across the city for a press conference in front of the proposed site of the $5 billion dollar Lincoln Yards luxury development. Currently, the developer Sterling Bay is seeking up to $1 billion in taxpayer money to fund the building of a massive 70-acre mega development consisting of high rises, corporate headquarters, condos, and a new soccer stadium.

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At the press conference, we called for no public dollars to go towards the project because we know that we are not going to stop the violence and displacement of Chicago’s Black community by building new soccer stadiums and luxury condos.

Mayor Emanuel thinks that handouts to giant corporations will result in prosperity trickling down to everybody. But we know it doesn’t work that way. Taking away resources from our communities and giving them to developers for projects like Lincoln Yards only increases the economic and racial divides in our city.

We need to make it very clear to the Mayor and his corporate allies that we will not stand for the continuation of failed economic policies that have robbed our city of a huge number of Black families and made it harder and harder to live in Chicago unless you are rich and well connected.

If we come together across our neighborhoods and communities we can force our elected officials to invest in the things we need such as mental health services, vocational training, and great public schools. This is what will result in an improved quality of life of neighborhood residents and reduced violence.

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2018 People’s Gala

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Mark Your Calendars!

Our annual 2018 People’s Gala is on Wednesday, Sept. 26th. Come join us and members of the Chicago progressive community for an evening to celebrate our past years’ victories, and to re-energize and find inspiration for the work ahead. 

We are so thrilled to be recognizing the following outstanding movement leaders and organizers who have made immeasurable contributions to our fight for economic and racial justice:

Get your tickets here

HONOREES

2018 Labor Leader Award

Greg Kelley

President, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana

 

2018 Donahue Justice Award

Dr. Barbara Ransby

Scholar, Activist, Author

 

2018 Bold Campaign Award

#NoCopAcademy Campaign

 

2018 Founding Funder Award

Regina McGraw, Executive Director

Carmen Prieto, Associate Director

Wieboldt Foundation

 

2018 Founding Funder Award

Grace Hou 

President, Woods Fund of Chicago