Archive for the ‘from the news feed’ Category
“Approximately half of all Native Americans live in communities with an uncontrolled toxic waste site.”
“African Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of causing the greatest health dangers.”
Dosomething.com compiled facts about environmental racism and the above quotes are two examples of the danger that specific housing placement causes for many minority communities. Environmental racism occurs when low income minority neighborhoods are located in areas of high pollution or dangerous toxic waste sites. as existed since the early 1970s but many are unaware it exists and those affected are often unable to protect themselves from it.
Environmental racism is found in poor communities built around highways or large industrial plants, and neighborhoods where housing is less regulated. A lack of funds in a community can lead to a lack of protection against waste and pollution. From dumping toxic hazardous medical waste in reservation sites to the high levels of lead poisoning in our urban low income school areas, environmental racism is a serious and deadly injustice.
The Altgeld Gardens community, on the south side of Chicago, was built in 1945 for returning war veterans. This community was constructed above an abandoned landfill where the amount of toxins such as DDT, mercury, lead, PCB’s, ammonia and more could easily destroy the area. Studies conducted in Altgeld Gardens have revealed positive results for environmental toxins which can lead to enormous health problems, including cancer and fetal illnesses. Standout cases such as Altgeld Gardens are being documented and fought within the justice system but other affected communities are overlooked. Many racial minority members struggle to survive and protest their placement among the nation’s worst human-made condition.
The largely Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen, in Chicago, finally saw the removal of its coal fire plants in 2010. The plants produced approximately 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which created an abundance of heart and lung disease in the immediate area. Perez Elementary School, three blocks away from the plant, experienced large amounts of toxic air pollution and the students suffered with immediate and progressive health problems. Schools and the community protested and urged the alderman to take action. With the help of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Pilsen neighborhood was able to measure the high levels of air pollution and demand that the company do something to meet quality air standards.
It is important to become aware of community health hazards and understand racial patterns of environmental conditions. In this video, environmental scientist, Sylvia Hood, explains questions that should be asked by concerned citizens. Questions include: what disparities are happening here? If people in other areas of my same background are not sharing in these disparities, am I entitled to something better? Speaking out, getting involved in the community, and being proactive is a wonderful step to protecting future generations as well as your own. Your earth or mine, we all deserve a clean one.
By Angela Curry, Fair Housing Research Assistant
Photo by Seth Anderson
An effort by the Chicago Housing Authority to advance plans to redevelop historic Lathrop Homes is causing a stir with opponents who say they were blindsided by the move.
CHA officials say there’s no reason for alarm and that they will continue to work with residents and community groups still seeking to shape final plans for the site.
But those reassurances sound uncomfortably familiar to those who have been on the receiving end of the city’s public housing disappearing act over the past decade.
“My concern is that they are not being very candid,” said Titus Kerby, vice president of Lathrop’s Local Advisory Council and a 23-year resident of the development.
The CHA less than candid? Surely he jests.
At issue is one of the biggest pieces of unfinished business in the CHA’s controversial Plan for Transformation, renamed the Plan Forward under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Located at Damen and Clybourn on 35 acres of prime riverfront property bordered by increasingly gentrified upscale neighborhoods, Lathrop Homes is the sweetest piece of real estate left in the CHA’s North Side holdings--and therefore an object of dispute between low-income housing advocates and development interests.
Before the CHA stopped issuing new leases more than a decade ago, most of Lathrop’s 925 apartments were occupied. Now only 147 families remain, all of them relocated south of Diversey Avenue.
Efforts to redevelop the property have been stalled for several years as residents, neighbors and advocates argued with the CHA over what the new development would look like—in particular what should be the proper mix of public housing, affordable and market rate units, or whether it should be mixed at all. The real estate downturn didn’t speed matters along either.
What has reignited the debate is an item that appeared on the agenda for next week’s CHA board meeting that seeks to make a $3.4 million “predevelopment” loan to a developer group to perform preliminary architectural design and engineering work on Phase I of the project.
More important, say opponents, it also proposes to give those developers a “preliminary commitment letter” that would set out specific parameters for Phase I: 497 total mixed income housing units, including 180 set aside for public housing residents, 111 for “affordable” and 206 for market rate residents.
There has never been any agreement on those important details, opponents say, and the CHA never alerted a working group that has been negotiating a final plan that they were introducing the proposal.
John McDermott, an organizer with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, called the CHA maneuver “undemocratic” and “underhanded.”
Late Friday afternoon, CHA officials said they had withdrawn what they understood to be the offending language.
That satisfied Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st), who represents Lathrop Homes and said he convinced CHA to pull back. But Kerby and McDermott argued the item should be withdrawn entirely until the CHA provides more answers about its overall plan.
“I think they were trying to slip one by,” Moreno said, agreeing with the others that the CHA could later have claimed the matter was already decided. “We don’t have a plan approved yet.”
“The CHA can screw up a one-car funeral,” added Moreno, who said he has no objection to the agency going forward with the loan.
Ellen Sahli, CHA’s chief housing officer, said the development team needs the loan and the commitment letter to secure financing for the project and to produce more detailed plans.
“It’s not the final step by any means,” Sahli said, adding that “there’s still lots of room for community discussion.”
But for those who have seen the CHA mow down its public housing stock without always making good on its promises, such assurances have an unsettling ring.
“It’s business as usual. There’s always a reason. What, do you think I’m stupid? I grew up in this town,” said Pastor Charles Lyons of the nearby Armitage Baptist Church in Logan Square, who watched in exasperation over the past decade as the CHA transformed Lathrop into a ghost town while the need for affordable housing on the North Side kept growing.
“What they are considering doing Tuesday doesn’t feel friendly here on the ground. It looks, it smells, it feels like the same old, same old,” said Lyons, who has participated in many of the planning meetings about Lathrop’s future.
Not everybody in the neighborhood disapproves of what the CHA is doing.
“We’re supportive of progress there,” said Charles Beach, president of Hamlin Park Neighbors. “The process has to move forward.”
My interest is simply this: to remind the folks at CHA and City Hall that others are still watching what happens at Lathrop Homes to make sure they play fair.
Until relatively recently, no real data existed on the number of doorings occurring in the city of Chicago or state of Illinois. As a result, we could only make a guess about the seriousness of the problem.
Then progress occurred in 2008 when the city of Chicago passed an ordinance that addressed dooring a cyclist. This meant officers would begin generating better statistics.
And in 2011 Active Trans won a legislative victory by convincing the Illinois Department of Transportation to begin counting doorings as crashes and begin tracking them.
And last summer, Chicago City Council increased the fine for someone who causes a dooring crash to $1,000.
Another victory occurred when the city of Chicago started requiring all taxis to install stickers on their passenger windows asking their fares to look for cyclists and pedestrians when exiting (see sticker graphic right).
Now we know that 1 out of 5 of Chicago's bicycle crashes occur when someone opens a car doors in the path of a person biking.
There are a number of precautions people biking can take to avoid getting doored. The most important strategy is to avoid the “door zone” as much as possible.
Avoiding the door zone — the area within 4 feet of a car — means riding on the far left side of the bike lane, closer to moving traffic than you may initially be comfortable with.
But as long as the roadway is wide enough and you are riding visibly and predictably in a straight line, the dangers associated with drivers passing too closely are manageable and far less than those of being doored.
If there isn’t enough room to ride four feet from parked cars and still provide passing motorists with the minimum 3 feet of required safe passing distance, it may be safer to move to the center of the lane (“take the lane”) for a brief period to prevent unsafe passing.
If this is only necessary for short distances, and doesn’t create undue delays for motorists, or if you’re travelling at the same speed as traffic, riding in the travel lane is often safer than riding in the “no man’s land” between the travel lane and the door zone.
If you do find it necessary to take the lane for long stretches in order to avoid the door zone and prevent unsafe passing, holding up faster moving traffic in the process, consider an alternate route with calmer traffic.
Also, be on the lookout for doors opening to your left. Whenever passing a line of cars stopped in traffic to your left, keep in mind that passengers may exit midblock, creating another door zone to your left.
If you find yourself trapped between door zones with stopped traffic on the left, parked autos on the right, slow down and proceed with caution while covering your brake. The few extra seconds it may cost you will be worth it in the end.
Chief Housing Officer Ellen Sahli requests $3.4 million for redevelopment plans for Lathrop Homes.
Residents expressed their outrage as Chicago Housing Authority commissioners prepare to vote Tuesday on whether to allocate more than $3.4 million of funding for the redevelopment a housing project on the near Northwest Side.
Chief Housing Officer Ellen Sahli called the action a “preliminary step” as she brought the proposal to redevelop Julia C. Lathrop Homes before the commissioners in a meeting on Wednesday. However, members of the community demanded to remove the agenda item entirely.
“If I’m going to spend $340, I know where every penny of that money is going towards,” said local resident Jennie Fronczak. “I’m unclear as to how $3.4 million can be approved when there’s no clear plan.”
In July 2006, CHA announced plans to demolish the entire project but changed the plan after residents and preservationists protested. Of the 30 buildings that originally stood on the 35 acres of land, only 925 units remain after the CHA cleared residents from the north end of the development in 2011. Since then, redevelopment talks have stalled as residents expressed issues concerning preservation and the number of CHA units allotted.
Sahli said that the CHA development team is now ready to move forward with a proposed 497 mixed-income units of which 180 will be for CHA tenants and 111 would be set aside for affordable housing on the border of Bucktown and Roscoe Village.
“This is just the first step in the process,” Sahli said as she provided a January 2015 date for projected reconstruction of Lathrop Homes, one of the first public housing projects in Chicago.
However, residents expressed anger over the process, citing that even as they met with CHA senior staff two days prior, they were not informed that the proposal would be up for a vote Wednesday.
“There are not enough words or ways to describe how much of an insult this is to the community,” said Lissette Castañeda, co-chair of the housing and land use committee for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
“Telling us what you’re doing is not the same as working with us to determine the future of our community,” said Miguel Suarez, who has lived at Lathrop Homes since 1989.
Sahli says that they are open to talks with the Lathrop Homes’ Local Action Council and that her office is awaiting a memorandum of agreement draft so that negotiations can begin.
Prepared by PolicyLink
Summary of the legislation
The Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America Act (or GROW AMERICA Act) is a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal. It was submitted to Congress by the Obama Administration in April 2014. The legislation provides formula and discretionary funding for construction and maintenance of highways, roads, bridges, transit, as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The bill would increase total investment in such projects by nearly 40 percent over current spending levels. For public transportation investment, the bill features an increase of nearly 70 percent, above current spending, roughly $72 billion over 4 years. In addition, it includes a focus on increased access to “ladders of opportunity” through investments in projects that connect people to centers of employment, education, and critical services.
Key equity-focused provisions of the legislation
As a leader in the movement to build more equitable transportation policy, PolicyLink is deeply invested in ensuring that our nation’s surface transportation policy contains provisions that will advance economic and social equity and expand opportunity for all—particularly low-income people, communities of color, and other disadvantaged groups. The following goals are core to an equitable transportation agenda for America:
- Expand access to transportation jobs for low-income people, women, people with disabilities, and communities of color.
- Foster equitable investment in public transportation, bicycling, and pedestrian projects.
- Leverage data collection, performance measures, and interagency collaboration to ensure transportation projects benefit all.
The GROW AMERICA Act includes several provisions that help to advance those goals, as described below.
1. Expand access to transportation jobs for low-income people, women, people with disabilities, and communities of color.
While transportation represents a significant sector of our workforce, women, communities of color, low-income people, and people with disabilities are significantly under-represented in the ranks of transportation sector employment. At the same time, transportation workforce training needs are significant. For example, during the next 10 years, the transit industry will need to hire and re-train more than three-fourths of the current workforce. Federal transportation investment should create conditions for all to participate and prosper in the economy. The following provisions in the GROW AMERICA Act move toward that objective:
- Targeted hiring on transportation projects. GROW AMERICA would allow for the awarding of federally-funded highway or transit contracts, partially on the basis of the extent to which the contractor guarantees that a portion of work hours would be performed by workers from low- and moderate- income households living in communities nearby the project, particularly where the unemployment rate exceeds the national rate. This would provide an important tool for communities that are struggling with high rates of unemployment among workers of color and low-income workers. Such a tool can be used to leverage transportation investments to employ these workers in quality, good-wage jobs in the transportation sector, including construction, operations, maintenance, and repair.
- Federal collaborations on workforce development. The legislation allows for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the U.S. Department of Labor to make grants for public transportation training programs that increase the number of women, people of color, and people with disabilities in the public transportation sector. Such a collaboration would ensure that these workers will have access to programs where they can build the skills necessary to secure good-wage employment in the public transportation sector.
- Incentives and demonstration programs to implement workforce training. Under this legislation, the Secretary of USDOT would match a state’s allocation of transportation workforce training dollars at twice the amount of the state allocation. In addition, the Secretary may provide funding for up to 20 states to demonstrate success in placing women, people of color, and other disadvantaged groups in stable transportation jobs. This would incentivize states to create and/or sustain workforce training activities that women and workers of color need to get into the pipeline of quality transportation jobs.
- Workforce training funds. GROW AMERICA maintains the provision that allows states to utilize 0.5% of federal highway dollars for workforce development activities to implement transportation workforce development activities, such as apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, with a particular focus on women, people of color, and low-income individuals.
- New state-level coordination activities. The legislation requires state departments of transportation (DOTs) that participate in the USDOT workforce development program to develop a workforce plan that identifies the existing workforce needs and the under-representation of women and workers of color, and to offer strategies for greater inclusion of those workers. In addition, state DOTs must establish a “workforce development compact” with the state workforce investment board. This would empower states to take actions to foster greater diversity among our nation’s transportation workforce.
2. Foster equitable investment in public transportation, bicycling, and pedestrian projects.
In too many communities, transportation options are unaffordable, unreliable, or nonexistent. This is particularly the case in low?income neighborhoods and communities of color. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, transportation expenses for households in the bottom 90 percent income bracket are twice that of those in the top 10 percent income bracket. Investments in bicycling, pedestrian, and public transportation infrastructure hold great promise for promoting economic prosperity and expanding opportunity for all. The following provisions in the GROW AMERICA Act move toward that objective:
- National goal on connecting to opportunity. GROW AMERICA allows the Secretary of Transportation to establish a goal of ensuring that the transportation system connects people to economic opportunities, with a particular focus on disadvantaged groups. Setting this national goal could have a ripple effect at the community level, empowering local transportation officials to prioritize the needs of struggling families and empowering equity advocates engaged in shaping local and regional transportation plans to hold their officials accountable to that goal.
- Connection to opportunity pilot program. The legislation allows the Secretary to select ten regions that will identify the location of disadvantaged populations in the region and the physical and economic barriers that keep these populations disconnected from economic opportunity. It also allows the Secretary to develop performance measures that will address these challenges. Up to $9 million is available over 3 years for these activities. This pilot program could be an excellent resource for advocates seeking to realize more equitable outcomes from local and regional transportation plans and projects.
- Funding for infrastructure investment programs. GROW AMERICA allocates $5 billion in funding over 4 years for discretionary grants to build projects that include roads, transit, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure. These grants are similar to the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants that were initiated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The legislation also includes a $2 billion discretionary grant program for bus rapid transit projects in communities that have seen “moderate to significant” growth between 2000 and 2010. These programs could be strengthened to ensure equitable outcomes by building in incentives for projects that improve the mobility of transit-dependent populations and preserve or expand affordable housing, as is the case with the New Starts capital grant program guidelines.
3. Leverage data collection, performance measures, and interagency collaboration to ensure transportation projects benefit all.
Federally-funded transportation projects should help to erase barriers to economic inclusion for all. A project’s performance should be measured by the following outcomes: enhanced mobility for people and goods; reduced household transportation and housing costs; access to jobs for those without vehicles; and improved health and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. In addition, performance measures associated with these outcomes should be developed through a meaningful community engagement process in order to foster greater accountability and transparency. The following provisions in the GROW AMERICA Act move toward that objective:
- Funding for regional planning. GROW America authorizes a discretionary grant program that incorporates public transportation, bicycle, and pedestrian projects. It also provides that up to 10% of those funds can be used for planning activities that coordinate transportation, housing, economic competitiveness, storm water, and climate change impacts. This could be strengthened to ensure equitable outcomes by requiring would-be grantees to describe how they will engaged traditionally-marginalized communities and by setting aside a portion of the project budget for community engagement activities, as is the practice of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through their Sustainable Communities Initiative grants.
- Community engagement. The legislation strengthens the existing language regarding community engagement to require that transportation decision-makers offer opportunities for the public to provide input on plans early in the plan development process. Historically, communities of color and low-income communities have been excluded from local and regional transportation decision-making processes. This change provides additional standing for equity advocates to be engaged in these processes.
- Certification for regional and state agencies. GROW AMERICA continues the requirement that Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) must be certified by the USDOT, as a condition of receiving federal transportation funding. It also creates a new requirement that state DOTs receive certification from USDOT. This establishes a framework for public accountability for state DOTs and MPOs. However, to ensure equitable outcomes, this provision should be strengthened to require USDOT to develop an assessment of how states and MPOs are faring with regard to aligning their priorities and projects with the provisions of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Executive Order on Environmental Justice, and the Fair Housing Act.
- Research and data collection. The legislation creates a program to collect and maintain national datasets about travel behavior that can be used by state DOTs, MPOs, and other agencies in their decision-making. To ensure that such a program fosters equitable outcomes, it will be critical for USDOT ensure that travel behavior can be disaggregated by demographic categories such as race/ethnicity and income. Moreover, such data collection and analysis efforts should be coordinated with other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, that are building datasets that could have an impact on transportation decision-making.
The Obama Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act contains key elements of an equitable transportation agenda, for which PolicyLink and our allies have been advocating. It represents a strong starting point for the development of a new long-term surface transportation policy for this nation.
 PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works®. This analysis was prepared by Anita Hairston (email@example.com) and Melissa Wells (firstname.lastname@example.org).
 These goals are consistent with those of the Transportation Equity Caucus, of which PolicyLink is a co-chair. For more information, please see: www.equitycaucus.org.
 According to data from the Transportation Learning Center, which tracks worker demand due to expected transit system expansion and worker retirements.
 The local and targeted hire provisions for highways contracts are described in Sections 2301 of the legislation. The local and targeted hire provisions for transit contracts are described in Sections 3007 of the legislation.
 This provision is described in Section 3005 of the legislation.
 This provision is described in Section 1208 of the legislation.
 This provision is described in Section 1208 of the legislation.
 The USDOT workforce development program is described in Section 1208 of the legislation.
 The goal is described in Section 1207 of the legislation.
 The pilot program is described in Section 1208 of the legislation.
 These provisions are described in Section 1401 of the legislation.
 This provision is described in Section 3011 of the legislation.
 This provision is described in Section 1401 of the legislation.
 This provision is described in Section 1206 of the legislation.
 This provision is described in section 1204 of the legislation.
 This recommendation is consistent with the provisions of HR 2019, Transportation Opportunity and Accountability Act of 2011.
 This provision is described in Section 2102 of the legislation.
This month marks the launch of a new Active Trans pilot program, Bikes on Wheels. The gist of the program is this: Active Trans loans a 20-foot trailer, 30 single-speed children’s bicycles, helmets and the necessary bike maintenance tools to a community, free of charge, for a year. Oak Park is the first community to participate in the program.
Earlier today, dozens of students at Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park made use of the new bikes while learning bicycling skills like using hand signals, helmet use and basic handling skills like starting, stopping and turning.
Active Trans hopes to bring the trailer to eight Oak Park schools during the course of this year’s program – six schools in the spring and another two in the fall. In the summer, when children will not be in class, the Oak Park Park District will have use of the bicycles for summer camps.
Oak Park Police officers were at the Whittier Elementary bike education event to help direct students through the skills course and reinforce the messages of safe cycling. Also on hand at the kickoff event were representatives from the Oak Park School District, the Oak Park village offices, the Oak Park Cycling Club and Oak Park Park District.
“We’re really pleased to see the kids on the bikes learning safety skills,” said Lisa Schwartz, Oak Park School District Curriculum Director. “This fits very well with the school district’s wellness initiatives.”
Though the trailer will move on to the next community after a year is up, our hope is that the program will create a chain reaction in its participants, inspiring them to purchase their own fleet of bikes for community use. Oak Park has already applied for a state grant for this purpose.
The bikes were purchased thanks to donations from a variety of sources, including the Specialized bicycle company.
At the moment, only communities that have previously worked with Active Trans are in the running to take part in Bikes on Wheels, which requires collaboration between park districts, school districts and Active Trans staff, as well as local businesses and organizations such as bicycle clubs.
But any enthusiastic community has the potential to be in the running, so contact Active Trans if you’re interested in Bikes on Wheels in your town. Contact email@example.com for more information.