Archive for the ‘from the news feed’ Category
In Chicago there are on average 12 people killed each year while biking. There are almost 40 people killed each year while walking, 86 percent of them while in crosswalks.
Photo of Bobby Cann courtesy of Groupon
Those numbers go up around the region in suburban communities where people are killed on high-speed, high-traffic arterials.
There are more people bicycling now than ever before. And as more people bike, it should continue to be safer and safer to do so.
But in my eight years working with Active Trans, I have experienced too much death. I believe that fatal crashes and injuries are preventable in almost all cases as the result of choices we make to keep other people safe while we are getting around.
I vividly remember biking to 87th and Racine years ago to visit a grieving family, who had lost their four-year-old “Lil Man” to a speeding driver. They were people, just like me and you, who wouldn’t be able to see their little boy grow up.
There are news reports almost daily of people around the region who are killed or severely injured while they are walking or biking. A man in Bronzeville, a woman in Naperville, a child here, a child there, the list goes on and on.
When will it stop? When will our culture shift to respecting and protecting the most vulnerable — those people who legally and rightfully deserve it the most? The elderly, our children, people with disabilities, people who are walking or biking.
I didn’t know Bobby Cann, the 26-year-old man who was killed last week while biking. But I probably would have liked him a lot based on how his family and friends talk about his life.
Over the years, I’ve had thousands of conversations or salutations with strangers on bikes as we were stopped at lights or giving each other “the nod” as we pass each other in the middle of winter. I bet Bobby experienced that too and relished those moments of human interaction as much as I do.
We can only hope that Bobby’s family and friends celebrate his wonderful life and impact on their lives. We can hope that some good comes from a tragedy like Bobby’s death.
“For Bobby – A Friend & Cyclist” is the headline on the Groupon (where Bobby worked) that is beautifully written by his girlfriend — also a Groupon employee. The deal is a $10 donation to Active Trans’ Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign that mobilizes people around Chicago to push for more protected bike lanes that make it safer for people who are biking, and also walking and driving.
Bobby’s family is honoring him with a memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at the Rooftop Terrace in Millennium Park. Anyone from the bicycling community is welcome to attend. Afterward, there will be a gathering for Bobby’s family and friends.
Let’s celebrate Bobby’s life and extend the good light he brought to the world. Bobby, my next ride is for you.
There’s good news for Mom and Pop corner stores, auto repair shops and your neighborhood taqueria. More loan options are available for small businesses than most realize.
Accion's Amy Clinton, left, and New Market Support Company's Kelsey Hamory explained the types of loans that their organizations have for small businesses.
At a recent Commercial Roundtable Lunch convened by LISC Chicago, lenders described the terms of loans as large as $2.5 million and as small as $500 available to eligible small business owners.
But neighborhood commercial district managers who attended the luncheon observed that it’s not just a lack of knowledge about loans that’s slowing business expansion: financial disorganization on the part of small business owners prevents them from securing those loans. Owners who refuse to part with vacant properties in a down market also put a damper on expansion, they said.
“Sometimes I think they want to keep the property vacant,” noted Christyn Henson of Quad Communities Development Corporation. Other times they can’t afford to rehab property to attract a suitable tenant, she said.
When banks can't help
To help small business owners who don’t necessarily quality for bank loans, Accion Chicago will loan up to $50,000 for existing businesses and up to $20,000 for start-ups. Credit-builder loans between $500 and $2,500 are also available.
"A lot of our clients come to us not only because they are starting a new business, but because they have severe credit issues,” explained Accion’s Amy Clinton. (See loan terms here.)
To qualify, Accion's borrowers need to show sufficient cash flow from their businesses or other sources, which can even be their social security checks. Homes and vehicles are accepted as collateral.
Quad Community Development Corp.'s Christyn Henson was on hand to hear about the loan products.
LISC’s New Markets Support Company offers low-interest loans on the higher end of the spectrum – $250,000 to $2.5 million – for owner-occupied real estate acquisition and capital improvements. LISC requires personal guarantees, so an applicant must show three years of tax returns and sufficient cash flow. The $10 million fund was established in 2012 in partnership with Morgan Stanley and CDC Capital Markets. (See details here.)
Valley Economic Development Corporation, which offers loans in the middle range, $50,000 to $250,000, wasn’t able to attend the luncheon. (Terms available here.)
“So far we’ve closed loans to a dental clinic, a corrugated box man who purchased a warehouse, a space for a real estate builder and a coffee shop,” said Kelsey Hamory, an NMSC underwriter. “None of those have been in Chicago. We would love to find businesses in Chicago.”
To qualify for the loan, businesses need to be located in a census tract with a poverty rate of at least 20 percent or that meets certain requirements for median income. “If you think your neighborhood is a relatively low-income community, then it probably qualifies,” said Hamory.
Based on federal rules, LISC New Markets can’t loan to tanning salons, liquor stores or other “sin” businesses, she added. Restaurants can sell liquor, but can’t package it to sell.
“So no bars, no tattoo parlors,” said Roger Sosa, business recruitment manager at Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council. “I want to figure out who not to send to you.”
Those kinds of "sin" businesses, however, are welcome to apply for loans from Accion, said Clinton. The ventures it doesn’t lend to, she said, include non-profits, real-estate flipping, marketers with pyramid schemes, and prototype developers. Inventors can qualify for a loan, though, once they have purchase orders, she added. Adult entertainment venues, lenders and exporters are also not eligible.
Roger Sosa, left, of Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, with Abraham Lacy, Far South Community Development Corporation. Farid Muhammed of Garfield Park Community Council and Eduardo Arocho of Division Street Business Development Association in background.
The size of loans that small businesses in NCP neighborhoods were looking for varied. Abraham Lacy, executive director of the Far South Community Development Corporation, said that most businesses in his area are looking for loans above $50,000 to fix up their shops or buy equipment. Henson of Quad Communities said that her businesses are looking for loans under $50,000. “A lot have credit issues so a traditional bank is not an option. Credit cards are tapped out so they have to look at different products.”
Perry Gunn, executive director of North River Commission, said that Albany Park businesses had similar issues. “Lots of businesses want loans under $50,000, but they don’t keep good books. It’s poor record keeping.”
Tina James, director of commercial and technology services for Greater Southwest Development Corp., said she worked with a small metal manufacturer who had the annual sales to get a loan from a traditional bank but didn’t have tax returns from all its family members who are part owners in the business.
“So I sat down with the [banker] and said, what do you really need? He would not give them the loan unless we helped them get [the paperwork] together.”
Ghian Foreman, director of Greater Southwest in Chicago Lawn, said there’s one successful, well-established business in the neighborhood that would need to create its financials from scratch. “But we don’t have the resources to do it.”
Clinton suggested a number of resources for businesses in that situation. “The Women’s Business Development Center is excellent.” Other institutions that can help include other Small Business Development Centers, such as the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, she said.
Many small businesses need lines of credit rather than loans, James observed. “They go to their bank and they’re not organized, they don’t know what they’re asking for. So that’s where we help.”
Foreman said that community banks are a good resource for businesses in his neighborhood seeking lines of credit. Some of his top referrals are Marquette Bank and Urban Partnership—formerly ShoreBank.
Tina James, of the Greater Southwest Community Development Corporation, said many small businesses need lines of credit rather than straight loans.
Clinton added that Accion could suggest several other banks offering lines of credit to small businesses, including First Eagle Bank. And Accion can offer a “pseudo” line of credit, she said. “We can sometimes refinance within six months.”
Loans vs. credit lines
James noted that many of business in her corridor seek loans when a line of credit is what they really need. “A lot of our folks don’t understand why they should consider a line of credit [to] infuse cash into the whole system and help them grow. We need to do more education about that.”
Property owners unwilling to rent or sell are another impediment to commercial growth. “A lot of them don’t care if they rent the space, because it’s a tax write off for them,” said Sosa. “How do you get them to move? What’s the incentive? It’s the bottom of the market.”
Foreman thought that owners holding vacant properties should be held accountable by the city government. Just as after the Newtown shooting, the mayor told banks to cut off lines of credit to gun manufacturers who wouldn’t support gun control measures, the city needs a policy that penalizes banks holding mortgages on an excessive number of vacant properties, he said. “That’s the only way I see there’s going to be any quick action.”
“The economic incentives don’t exist right now,” Sosa agreed. “We need that legislative hammer.”
LISC Chicago’s Commercial Roundtable Lunches are open to neighborhood organizations across the city working on their commercial districts. Learn more about our resources.
Support for commercial district programming at LISC Chicago is generously provided by the Polk Bros. Foundation and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative at the City Colleges of Chicago.
Riding a larger bike at a slower speed, I was getting passed by many people on bikes. Some gave me lots of room. Many did not. Not enough of them alerted me to their presence.
As the weather warms, there will be more people biking on Chicago streets. Courteous biking behaviour needs to be a priority for everyone – newbies and seasoned riders alike.
I encourage my fellow bike riders to ride politely. If you are faster than someone, that’s great! Just let them know you are there.
More and more people are commuting by bike. Let’s show them what a great community we are and lead by example.
See you on the bike lane.
Alderman Walter Burnett and Keep Chicago Renting Leaders at City Hall.
Renters in foreclosed buildings will see some added protections thanks to the Keep Chicago Renting ordinance that passed the full city council Wednesday by a 45-4 vote.
“God has brought us a long way,” Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said to dozens of cheerful housing advocates after the vote. “It used to take us two years to get something like this passed, but look at us now.”
Under the ordinance, which Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) introduced last July, tenants can stay in their homes during the foreclosure process until the property is sold to a third party. The law requires that tenants be notified when their building is foreclosed upon and when it is turned over to a new owner during the process.
The ordinance has two main goals: to prevent new vacant properties from popping up in the city and help law abiding residents stay in their homes, activists said this morning before the council meeting.
“Renters are the hidden victims in this foreclosure crisis,” said Diane Limas of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which is a member of the Keep Chicago Renting Coalition. “We know that vacant, foreclosed multi-unit properties facilitate crime and gang violence in our communities, especially in our communities of color.”
Under the ordinance, lenders who acquire foreclosed buildings would have to pay tenants $10,600 per unit who are forced to leave their home before the property is sold.
An earlier version of the ordinance, however, called for a $12,000 payment.
Another option is for mortgage holders to keep the renter's current lease until the building is sold. The maximum rent increase tenants could see is 2 percent annually under the new law.
LSNA Vice President Daniel LaSpata at City Hall press conference before vote.
Daniel LaSpata with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association said the need for the Keep Chicago Renting measure is urgent.
In 2012, about 12,000 apartment units entered foreclosure in Chicago, he noted.
“That amounts to 33 apartment units every day,” LaSpata stressed.
Activists also say keeping renters in foreclosed buildings will help deter crime.
A report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing from late March found that between 2005 and 2012, the number of crimes that happened in vacant homes or lots in the city tripled.
Despite almost a year of negotiations between the Emanuel administration and Alds. Mell and Ray Suarez (31st), Burnett commended the mayor for his help with the ordinance. He said Emanuel’s administration is “ten times” easier to work with than the previous administration when it comes to housing issues and helping people stay in their homes.
“This is what the people want,” he stressed. “This is what the people need. Let’s keep Chicago renting.”
Big banks had been lobbying aldermen to vote against the proposal since its introduction, Limas said.
“The big banks squawk about everything, however they never offer any real solutions,” she added. “They makes suggestions that maintain the status quo.”
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said banks have been against the ordinance, because they don’t want to pay $10,600 to the renters when they are evicted.
“It’s all about the money,” he said.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) explained the banks are powerful enough to break the own rules they write.
“And when they decide that they’re too big to fail, we bail them out,” Pawar said before the meeting. “I think this ordinance has leveled the playing field and gives the little guy a chance to write the rules too.”
The ordinance takes effect 90 days after its passage and publication.
On Wednesday, May 29, at approximately 6:35 p.m., Robert “Bobby” Cann was riding his bike on the 1300 block of North Clybourn Street when he was struck by a vehicle being driven by a Park Ridge man named Ryne San Hamel.
Bobby was critically injured, and although several witnesses, passers by and nearby shop owners rushed to his aid, he was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.
San Hamel was charged with reckless homicide, felony aggravated driving under the influence involving a death, and other misdemeanor charges, according to police.
According to prosecutors, San Hamel was doing 20 mph over the speed limit, or over 50 mph in a 30 mph zone and his blood alcohol level was .127 at the time of the crash. The legal limit in Illinois is .08.
By all accounts, Bobby was a warm and caring individual with deep roots in the Chicago cycling community, who thrived on sharing his love of cycling and Chicago with family, friends, coworkers and the general public.
He was described as an ambassador and advocate not just for cycling, but for safe cycling. He also just sounded like an all around great guy.
I’m sorry that I never met him, I’m sorry that I’ll never have that chance, and on behalf of the staff at Active Trans, I want to extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, loved ones and coworkers.
As for San Hamel, there’s no excuse for his actions. We all want to see justice served, for Bobby, for his family, for his friends, but most of all for society.
What we do not want to see the death of another cyclist or pedestrian treated as “just one of those things that happens." We don't want the charges drastically lessened or see Bobby's death reduced to a misdemeanor affair.
If the evidence supports it, we want the state's attorney's office to know that we support them in prosecuting San Hamel for reckless homicide and felony aggravated driving under the influence involving a death. And if he is found guilty, we do not want to see San Hamel behind the wheel of a car ever again.
Update: Bobby’s coworkers at Groupon have set up a campaign to collect donations to fund Active Trans' Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign to build support for better bikeways in Chicago. Please consider supporting this effort.
Photo of Bobby Cann memorial event courtesy of Steven Vance and Streetsblog Chicago.