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Can’t Be in the Gulf for the Katrina Anniversary? Watch These Films Instead

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Tomorrow is the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, leading to all sorts of reflections on how far the city has come, what recovery means, and what lessons there are to be learned from how the recovery (the beginning of it, because it isn't over) has been handled. We'll have more to come, but check out our writers' takes on the Road Home program and to make it better, why legal aid services after a disaster are so crucial, the inequitable investment in street cars vs buses in post-Katrina New Orleans, and how to keep flood insurance rates from displacing low-income homeowners in the climate change era. Meanwhile, here are two great films to watch: What Is a Just City? is a short (8 min) video from Luisa Dantas, who made the longer film Land of Opportunity, in which we hear from a number of activists and advocates in the city about some of the dynamics of unequal recovery, the needs of the city, and what it will take to make it just. The film is in equal measures positive and a good antidote to those who are touting the recovery's success without acknowledging who it includes and who it leaves out. The Ford Foundation supoprted the film, and on their blog you can find out more about the various organizations featured in the film. Come Hell or High Water is a full-length documentary that's being streamed for free on World Channel from now to Sept 4--don't miss it! Filmmaker Leah Mahan follows a college friend back to Turkey Creek, a community founded by freed slaves, now surrounded by the city of Gulfport, Miss., as he organizes residents and teams up with preservationists and environmental advocates to fight development that threatens both the creek and the historic community. Then, just after they win a major battle . . . the hurricane arrives. If you need a reminder of the power of persistent activism (or want to be inspired to punch some smug, racist politicians and developers in the nose), check it out! (Photo from St. Bernard Housing Project, courtesy of Luisa Dantas.)

Written by Rooflines

August 28th, 2015 at 1:48 pm

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Annual Benefit! Oak Park Starts at the Housing Center

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Save the Date Final - cropped more for webThe Oak Park Housing Center’s Annual Benefit will take place on October 8 at 7 pm at the historic Nineteenth Century Club. Click here for more details or to buy tickets!

Written by Oak Park Regional Housing Center

August 27th, 2015 at 10:57 pm

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Lessons from the Integrated Experience: Diversity in the Classroom

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A variety of approaches have been undertaken to reduce the achievement gap in our nation’s underperforming schools. Few would argue that we have made significant strides, as the black-white achievement gap remains largely unaffected. Improving integration in schools has proven to help in this area, but not many communities are trying that for fear of stirring up our collectively complicated history. However, this should be a topic that should not be avoided.

Diverse university students in a classroom.

Photo: Flickr/Marshan Foundation

The Value of Integrating Schools

Our collective reluctance to discuss race has created a valley of misconceptions that can be mitigated through a device that’s rarely discussed and even less employed – school integration. By design, residential segregation makes us unaware of communities outside our own. It also unintentionally facilitates complacency. Conversely, school integration essentially eliminates the need to have “the discussion” because its students will not only gain a greater understanding of other racial groups, but also a marketable skill in cross-cultural competency.

I am a product of an integrated community and a diverse public school setting. My understanding of the advantages of a diverse pool of classmates apparently mirror the views of This American Life’s program “The Problem We All Live With,” Parts I and II. The program emphasized that diverse classrooms can positively impact the global perspectives of white students simply by giving them opportunities to interact with their classmates. The lesson certainly applies to the integrated community of Oak Park and its students, especially within the context of the public school system’s high academic standards. While the educational impacts of how diverse classrooms benefit black students are often specified, there are significant advantages for white students and students of other racial/ethnic groups as well.

Kiana Jackson learned about the advantages of diverse classmates when she participated in an exchange program at her mostly black and Latino high school. During her interview in Part II of “The Problem We All Live With,” Jackson encouraged other classmates to actively seek diversity, as well as unfamiliar educational settings when choosing a college. In sum, she acknowledged that in our most natural state, we might be inclined seek out those who are similar to ourselves, but this restricts our full potential for a global perspective. She warned college-bound seniors of the dangers of living inside a self-imposed bubble of familiarity, which creates an unnecessarily narrow perspective on the realities of society. She concluded that when an individual is open to actively participate with others of divergent cultural perspectives, they are benefitted by this experience because our environment can influence the way we understand and accept others, how we perceive ourselves, and especially on how we interact with one another.

3 Flickr-USAG.Humphreys

Photo: Flickr/USAG.Humphreys

A Diverse Future

The most recent census projections indicate that by the time the current generation of students reaches adulthood, the racial composition of the United States will be dramatically different, with considerably fewer white births among all race groups. A compositional change of this scale will necessitate a careful realignment of our collective perspective on race relations.

To prepare for this, Oak Park residents should recognize the benefits of their integrated school system on their students’ future job potential. The culture of diversity in Oak Park is already primed to foster the development of our students’ social expectations and racial attitudes in a future America. The most attractive job candidates will be those who have been exposed to a diverse set of ideas, are apable of interacting with multi-racial firms in global market, and are comfortable dealing with business partners across the globe.

These characteristics are already sought after by Fortune 500 companies, according to Robert A. Garda Jr. of the Loyola University of New Orleans School of Law in “The White Interest in School Integration.” Garda introduced the term “cross-cultural competency” as a skillset that enhances marketability to prospective employers and clearly, it is more important now than ever before. Oak Park’s integrated school system is the fundamental cross-cultural cornerstone for families hoping to enhance their students’ job marketability in the future. Essentially, the earlier an integrated environment can be introduced to a student’s educational experience, the better the chances of acquiring an adequate level of cross-cultural competence.

Diversification efforts alone will not ensure integration—a diverse community is but one stage that precedes integration. Without intentional efforts to integrate, communities tend to resegregate themselves, but the brilliance of Oak Park is centered on its proud history of consistently standing on the side of equal opportunity and access. Supporting this community’s integrated schools is not merely for the short-term benefits, but for these long term advantages of a diverse classroom now and in the future.

Written by Oak Park Regional Housing Center

August 27th, 2015 at 10:55 pm

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Quigley gives Capitol update; how to appeal property taxes

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EVA treasurer K.K. Goh and Rep. Mike Quigley at the 2014 EVA block party.

East Village Association minutes for Aug. 3, 2015, by Michael VanDam

Congressman Quigley

Rep. Mike Quigley joined the EVA meeting to offer an update on the Illinois 5th District. Among the highlights:

  • The new district map has expanded substantially: It’s now equivalent to 15 Chicago wards.
  • Definitely let him know if you’re coming to D.C. He can help out with White House tours, Capitol tours and other events, and loves to see his constituents.
  • He has recently been appointed to the House Select Committee on Intelligence, working on issues of national and international security.
  • He continues on the House Appropriations Committee, focusing on issues of transportation and urban development.
  • Climate change is a particularly important issue to him and he supports President Obama’s recent emphasis on the issue.

Property Taxes

Greg Nagel, Ask Nagel Realty, gave a presentation on appealing property taxes, explaining the process and potential benefits. More information is available on his website at

While the deadline for West Township appeals has passed, owners should still ensure that they are getting the proper tax exemptions. Homeowner, Senior and Long-Term Resident exemptions are often missed.

New Business

Steve Niketopolous, chief of staff to Ald. Brian Hopkins, offered an update on progress in the 2nd Ward. The city has allocated significant resources to street resurfacing and will be announcing the streets to be repaved soon.

Written by Webmaster

August 27th, 2015 at 4:40 pm

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Ashland apartments scale down; liquor option on Augusta

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Milbury Architects' revised plan for 1062 N. Ashland Ave.

East Village Association board minutes for Aug. 10, 2015, by Michael VanDam

Planning, Preservation and Development

1062 N. Ashland Ave.: Developer Mark Sutherland presented revised plans to build apartments behind the Ashland Church of God's existing façade. A smaller building would have 4 studios, 16 1-bedrooms and 13 2-bedroom apartments.

The developer agreed to provide the city-required 10% ratio of affordable housing, and will not buy out of the requirement. They may move one or two of the units offsite, but will keep them within the West Town community.

The proposal should go to the general EVA membership at the next meeting on Sept. 14.

1612 W. Chicago Ave.: The Shapiro Ballroom has announced plans to renovate the old Alvin Theater for a ballroom dance school and event space. Neal McKnight will reach out to see if we can help with any necessary permits or zoning changes.

1824 W. Augusta Blvd.: EVA sent a letter to Ed Marszewski of Golden Arms stating that we do not support a lift of the Augusta liquor moratorium. He is welcome to pursue the city-sanctioned process of obtaining the approval of 51% of registered voters living within 500 feet of the proposed location.

Block Party

The East Village Block Party will be held noon to 7pm Saturday, Aug. 29, on Iowa between Wolcott and Honore. A bounce house, music, food and beer will be provided.

Transit Oriented Development

Scott Rappe presented a plan to amend the proposed Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) ordinance to better protect historically significant buildings.

Written by Webmaster

August 27th, 2015 at 4:23 pm

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Better Loans, Better Laws: Showing Communities What “Home” Looks Like

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For generations, Americans from across the nation, the demographic spectrum and the income strata have strived for homeownership, working from the premise that it is the key to long-term financial security for them and their children. For many families, having a home with a safe and sensible mortgage is the primary means to wealth accumulation, stability and access to other asset-building opportunities, such as higher education or entrepreneurship. But now, years after the financial crisis technically ended, we still feel its after-effects, leaving many questioning the value of homeownership as public policy. That perspective is simply wrong. For low- and moderate-income homeowners, the value of high-quality loans is especially important. Although these families own their homes, they typically do not own significant amounts of other assets. Studies after the financial crisis have demonstrated that such homeowners who remained in their homes often had lower overall housing costs and greater assets as compared to renters. But we also know that homeownership rates vary wildly by race, with white Americans being considerably more likely to own their homes than other Americans. There have been efforts to improve the road ahead, but these efforts have stalled.

Written by Rooflines

August 25th, 2015 at 3:30 pm

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The State of Transit in New Orleans

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As many visitors and locals know well, New Orleans boasts the oldest continuously operating street railway in the world. The St. Charles Avenue streetcar was started in 1835 and in 1973 was listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. As a result of its landmark status, all the streetcars on St. Charles Avenue look and are operated just as they were in 1920. Today of course, the key benchmark for all of New Orleans is 2005. Our explicit goal is to move beyond that date, but 2005 marks a common reference point for the city as a whole--including its public transit system and its iconic streetcars. This past week, a local transit advocacy group called Ride New Orleans (RideNOLA), released a comprehensive report titled, “The State of Transit in New Orleans: Ten Years After Katrina.” As public transit is increasingly explicitly linked to affordable housing and social equity, this report provides data points and recommendations that may be useful for other communities addressing these issues in a comprehensive way. At the very least, these transit issues are an important element of the more comprehensive work and commentary on New Orleans that will be published this week in particular.

Written by Rooflines

August 24th, 2015 at 1:59 pm

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Inaugural Class of Business District Leaders Graduates

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To the hoots and hollers of family and friends, the 20 beaming graduates marched to the podium, one-by-one, to receive their hard-earned certificates. Law school? Hardly. MBAs? Nope. 

The graduates of LISC Chicago's first Business District Leadership program class.

Photos by Gordon Walek

They were the first commercial district managers to complete LISC Chicago’s Business District Leadership (BDL) program, which is designed to promote professional development and networking opportunities for commercial district practitioners. It’s inspired by the Coro New York Neighborhood Leadership program and funded by the Polk Bros. Foundation, PNC Bank, Associated Bank and the City of Chicago

For the past six months, the students – community development veterans whose jobs with neighborhood organizations involve promoting business development – had studied “adaptive leadership” skills intended to help them negotiate the often complicated issues that arise between business interests and resident demands around commercial revitalization plans. 

They analyzed business strategies in various neighborhoods, met monthly for four-full day workshops (one Saturday a month) to focus on leadership skills (including purpose, vision, partnership, inquiry, personal ecology and goal setting), and gathered for four days to study key revitalization tactics, such as creative placemaking strategies, retail sales, small business support, redevelopment, tenant mix and performance accountability. 

In the process, they got to know, and like, each other. The graduation ceremony at Harold Washington College in the Loop, with hugging, backslapping and good-natured ribbing, had the qualities of the last day at summer camp. Armed with a new set of skills, they were all going back to work. The grads will re-convene in October to review their “neighborhood change” projects – ranging from storefront façade improvements in Roseland to a 5k run in Pilsen to creating a theater district in Edgewater – which each representative identified during the program. 

Kevin Barbeau, executive director of the Old Town Merchants and Residents Association, receives his certificate from Dionne Baux, the LISC program officer who directs the BDL program.

“BDL is a best example of us trying to do two key things really well,” Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director, said at the graduation. “Leadership development and capacity building so all neighborhoods can connect their residents and businesses to resources they need to grow stronger and healthier.” 

Her words could just have easily applied to a number of other leadership and training programs that LISC Chicago has initiated, advanced or supported in recent years, including… 

  • The Civic Leadership Academy – The six-month University of Chicago program for community development professionals and government staff that combines interdisciplinary courses taught by faculty from five U of C professional schools – Chicago Harris, Chicago Booth, Social Service Administration, the Law School, and Graham – with hands-on project management experience and coaching. The first class graduated earlier this summer. LISC Chicago was a partner with the University of Chicago in developing the Civic Leadership Academy and provides ongoing support and collaboration.
  • Community Organizing and Engagement Workshops – Created by LISC Chicago and led by specialists from community organizations throughout the city, these sessions address leadership ability, community organizing techniques, and neighborhood engagement tactics.
  • Data Fridays – LISC Chicago has been hosting these informal Friday afternoon gatherings since 2012, attracting self-described data geeks and representatives of neighborhood organizations who share how they collect, analyze and present information about their community development work. The sessions are at 3 p.m. on the second Friday of every month and typically attract a diverse group of beginner to advanced data users.
  • AmeriCorps – Over the last 15 years, LISC Chicago, with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), has supported about 250 AmeriCorps members who have completed one- or two-year terms of service with local neighborhood organizations. Many of them have been retained at those organizations as full-time staffers.
  • Chicago Plans – With support from the Chicago Community Trust, LISC Chicago has launched Chicago Plans, a new workshop series for nonprofit and community leaders designed to strengthen engagement and facilitation skills and support meaningful neighborhood engagement in place-based planning. Online applications for the Fall 2015 cohort are being accepted until Friday, September 4. Click here to learn more and apply. 

“The network we developed was worth the value of six months of training,” said Christina (Tina) James of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation.

“The network we developed was worth the value of six months of training,” said Christina (Tina) James of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation. “The allies and friends we made among people who understand what we’re doing – that will make the work easier and more enriching.”

Roxanne Nava, chief small business officer for the City of Chicago, had encouraging words for the BDL grads. 

“It’s not really the end,” she told them. “It’s a new path. You won’t be in the same roles forever. But the better work you do, the better our neighborhood businesses will be. No matter where you are.” 

The next cycle of the Business District Leadership program will begin in Spring 2016. An information session about the BDL program and the application process will be held Wednesday, October 28, 2015 from 3 to 5 p.m. at LISC Chicago, 135 S. LaSalle St., Suite 2230. Learn more here.

Applications will be available in November 2015. For questions or more information contact Dionne Baux, / (312) 422-9564.

Written by LISC Chicago

August 20th, 2015 at 6:00 pm

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Segregation Conversation Goes National

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The conversation about balancing placed-based revitalization and expanding access to high-opportunity areas has been edging onto the national radar recently, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on disparate impact and HUD's release of the affirmatively furthering fair housing regulations. The good news is that these are important questions for everyone to be asking in a nation that has absurd poverty levels and is deeply divided by race and class. The less good news is that rather than a united front to present now that housing issues have a wider audience, that wider audience is trying to make sense of the ongoing tension within the field between how these two sides of the same coin should relate to each other, get funded, etc. . .

Written by Rooflines

August 19th, 2015 at 4:00 pm

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Employee Ownership: A Solution that Preserves Retiring Owners’ Businesses

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Reflecting growing enthusiasm for worker co-ops, the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy—held last month in Worcester, Massachusetts—attracted a record 300-plus participants. One item on the agenda: the possibility of creating new worker cooperatives through conversions in which employees buy a business from an exiting owner. The stakes are large—and not just for worker co-op advocates. Indeed, literally millions of businesses will be affected, as the baby boom generation retires at the rate of 10,000 people a day. This means there are going to be a whole lot of business ownership transitions. And how those transitions occur will have very significant consequences for communities everywhere. As the late John Logue, founder of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, often remarked: “The failure to plan for business succession is the number one cause of preventable job loss in this country.” Logue also used to remind folks that “only 30 percent of family businesses will pass to the 2nd generation,” even though half of exiting owners think they will transfer their business to family members.  The employee stock ownership plan or ESOP has long been recognize as a means to preserve jobs while building wealth. But because an ESOP is a pension plan, an ESOP also carries federally mandated compliance costs. This often makes using an ESOP costly for smaller companies. The National Center on Employee Ownership writes, that, “As a rule of thumb, ESOPs work best for companies with over 20 employees.” But what about the 14 million Americans who work for small businesses with between 5 and 19 employees? Conversion to worker cooperatives might be one important strategy for them.

Written by Rooflines

August 17th, 2015 at 6:30 pm

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