In a speech full of insight, he embraced the wisdom of knowledgeable economists, the demands of activists committed to fairness and justice, and the aspirations of millions of Americans who have been wondering if anyone was paying attention to what has been happening to them and their communities.
The speech echoed what many have been saying for years: Inequality thwarts the nation’s ability to grow and prosper. To secure the future, we need to create ladders of opportunity and remove barriers so all can contribute their skills, creativity, and leadership to building America’s next economy.
Acknowledging that inequality hurts Americans of all races and in urban and rural communities, the president emphasized the importance of strategies that range from the Affordable Care Act and tax reform, to food stamps and raising the minimum wage. He also acknowledged the need to address the lingering racial discrimination that holds too many people of color down.
In recent years, PolicyLink has been highlighting the urgency for the nation to adopt an equitable growth agenda as we rapidly become a nation that is majority people of color. This agenda would ensure that everyone has access to the ingredients of social and economic success. Our economy cannot thrive when so many people cannot access the basics: a good education, stable housing, a healthy environment, transportation, health care, and a job that pays enough to save money and provides opportunities to move up. These things are not luxuries; they are necessities.
America’s strength is rooted in the strength of its people. To be a strong nation, we need to enable our children to start school ready to learn. Our students need to graduate high school ready for college or careers. Our families need the financial security to weather downturns and the supports to escape poverty. And our unemployed and underemployed workers need pathways back to full-time employment with family supporting wages.
An equity agenda—one that creates opportunities for all to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential—can achieve these goals. It is what America needs to live up to its ideals.
The president clearly believes in that agenda. And a recent national poll demonstrated overwhelming support for new steps to reduce racial and ethnic inequality. More than 70 percent of the respondents said they would support an equity agenda that would invest in education, job training, and infrastructure, among other things.
We’ve heard it from the president and we’ve heard it from the people: Equity—just and fair inclusion for all—is the antidote to inequality.
The Illinois Housing Development Authority has denied Carefree Development's tax credit application for adaptive reuse of St. Boniface Church.
Carefree intends to submit a revised application early next year, and is negotiating with market-rate developers for possible sale of the property as housing for sale or lease.
“It is our intent to ensure the church structure is saved via IHDA funding and/or via the redevelopment of the property for market rate housing," Carefree Development president Phil Moeller told Saint Boniface Info.
In January 2013, Carefree took the lead in plans to develop the church at 1358 W. Chestnut St. as senior housing, and undertook construction to stabilize parts of the structure across from Eckhart Park. Carefree operates the Emerald Village senior complex in Schaumburg, plus senior developments in Elmhurst, Hoffman Estates, Homewood, Lake Villa and St. Charles.
Carefree met with Ald. Walter Burnett, state Sen. William Delgado and city staff, Moeller said, and all strongly continue to support the adaptive reuse of the church.
Reasons for the denial include regulations requiring the property to be fully zoned for its intended use and that the adaptive reuse costs would have brought the projects per unit cost to a level beyond which IHDA is authorized to approve.
East Village Association efforts to save the structure date from 1999, when the Archdiocese of Chicago planned to demolish the church, closed since 1990. Institutional Property Management bought the property in a 2010 deal structured with city agencies. IPM was unable to secure funds to preserve the rectory, which was razed the following year, or to obtain tax credits for senior housing in 2012.
It’s not a “program” anymore. It’s a proven way of doing business.
NCP program staff Jake Ament and Dominique Williams experience the power of the NCP Neighborhood Network to generate hope, ideas and action.
And LISC’s method – engaging leaders on the issues and equipping them with the information and resources they need to create neighborhood change – is just getting started.
So anyone expecting some kind of “wind-down” or “mission accomplished” message was in for a surprise at the all-NCP gathering held Nov. 21 at the Lawndale Christian Health Center.
“Together we’ve grown a sustainable network,” said Susana Vasquez, executive director of LISC Chicago and former director of its New Communities Program (NCP), now called the NCP Neighborhood Network.
“And that network,” she continued, “remains committed to this notion of neighborhoods working together to get things done.”
Past as prologue
Vasquez explained how the first 10 years of NCP – a decade of path-breaking work with core funding of $50 million from the MacArthur Foundation – points the way to a second decade of even greater possibilities.
More funders will come aboard, she predicted, so long as the LISC Network maintains the same commitment and energy level that made the program a national model for comprehensive community development. After all, Vasquez recounted, LISC Chicago has been able to raise an additional $50 million from funders as varied as Atlantic Philanthropies (for Elev8 middle-school programming and on-site health centers), JP Morgan Chase (for LISC’s Centers for Working Families.), and the federal government (for the five-neighborhood Smart Communities program that helps residents gain digital skills).
Team members from the Pilsen and Quad communities are grouped together to identify potential partners for advancing their work.
Even more important, the 16 lead agencies leveraged another $500 million from public, private and philanthropic sources for projects and programs identified in their quality-of-life plans. Achievements included numerous mixed-use real estate developments, commercial district Special Service Areas, digital literacy and connectivity programs, neighborhood sports leagues and ongoing education and health efforts.
There’s no reason the work can’t continue and expand, said Vasquez, as more funders discover that the Network is the most cost-effective way to obtain measureable results on tough challenges such as safety, job readiness and community health. To that end, LISC Chicago recently launched a three-year campaign to raise $40 million for continued growth of the Network, which now supports 70 neighborhood partners.
“Organized money and organized people can achieve a lot,” seconded Raul Raymundo, veteran executive director of The Resurrection Project (TRP) in the Pilsen neighborhood. “The idea of today’s meeting is to get to know one another more in depth, see what kind of work we’re doing, and find opportunities to work together in a stronger collective.”
A first exercise was to shuffle the room so the nearly 100 attendees could spend 20 minutes swapping experiences and ideas with Network members they had yet to meet.
Peer-to-peer learning at its best as ideas are exchanged among fellow community development professionals.
“Find someone you don’t know and have a conversation,” urged Jackie Samuel of Claretian Associates in setting up the shuffle. “I guarantee you’re going to find out why they’re here, what’s their passion, what’s their dream.”
Whereupon the room buzzed with excited conversation, as front-line community development pros such as Liz Rosas-Landa of TRP swapped info with Lynette Washington, who works on employment with the Cara Program in Quad Communities.
Later, Carlos Nelson, executive director of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp., set the tone for the morning’s principal exercise. Neighborhoods grouped up at tables to identify potential partners for advancing their work in issue areas from technology to housing, from immigration reform to economic development.
Nelson explained that “peer-to-peer learning” – being able to exchange ideas with fellow community development professionals – is an essential tool for building both skills and relationships.
“It’s not just a program,” said Nelson, explaining how NCP breeds neighborhood competence. “It’s a movement – a movement that pushes aside the notion of top-down development and empowers ordinary citizens to do what we do. And what’s that? Altogether now: Engage. Plan. Act. Communicate. Evaluate. Repeat. ”
At one table, leaders from the Near West Side’s West Haven neighborhood and the nearby Garfield Park Community Council picked each other’s brains about potential allies for advancing their work.
“How about the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago?” asked Mike Tomas, executive director of LISC’s East Garfield Park lead agency. “We could develop a stronger relationship, I think, especially in identifying job openings.”
Areas of highest priority for program development and fundraising efforts include education, housing and safety.
One by one each table sent a runner to affix their ideas, scribbled on color-coded Post-it notes, onto broad sheets of white paper hung in the front of the room.
“I’m guessing you began this exercise thinking you have three or four ideas, but now I see some of you are running out of Post-its,” said David McDowell, senior organizer at Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), who emceed the debrief. “That’s because group knowledge is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Of the dozen issue categories, two drew the most Post-its: education and housing. But there was also a big push for collective campaigns that would bring neighborhoods together on those issues and others.
In the past, the Network has steered clear of city-wide advocacy efforts, which can get political in a city known for its oft-divisive politics. But SWOP’s Jeff Bartow suggested there is an opportunity for the Network as a whole to work together on “just a few key issues” that impact all.
LISC Deputy Director Keri Blackwell asked for a show of hands about advancing such efforts, and, responding to a sea of raised hands, said that LISC would convene the full Network more often and offer administrative support to move one or two issues forward. She reiterated an earlier comment about the power in the room: “We have the bandwidth to get this done.”
The meeting ended with a moving “one-word” exercise that asked all participants to sum up the morning’s vibe. Back came the descriptors:
“Encouraged. Hopeful. Energized. Focused. Ready. Proud. Charged. Motivated. Inspired. Fired up.”
LISC Program Officer, Evaluation & Impact Taryn Roch looks at the sea of ideas, scribbled on color-coded Post-it notes that she will analyze.
More information: Keri Blackwell, Deputy Director, 312.422.9558 email@example.com
To celebrate the opening of its new store in Chicago, the apparel company Icebreaker is offering a sale for Active Trans members.
Show your Active Trans membership card and you’ll get 10 percent off Icebreaker apparel for the rest of December. In addition, 10 percent of the profits from all Icebreaker purchases will be donated to Active Trans from Wednesday, Dec. 5 to Tuesday, Dec. 10.
You can take advantage of this deal at Icebreaker's new store in Chicago's Gold Coast at 44 E. Walton Ave., and at
- Three locations of Uncle Dan's the Great Outdoors Store:
- 3551 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
- 621 Central Ave., Highland Park
- 901 W. Church St., Evanston
- Moosejaw: 1445 W. Webster Ave., Chicago
If you were thinking of shopping for more athletic apparel this winter, consider taking advantage of this offer to keep a few dollars in your pocket while raising money for better biking, walking and transit in Chicagoland. Win-win!
Thank you Icebreaker! Active Trans is grateful for your support.
Public meetings for Ashland BRT: The scoop on what an environmental assessment is and why we need you to show up!
Calling all Bus Rapid Transit supporters! We need you to keep up your great work in pushing for BRT to come to Chicago. The CTA recently released the environmental assessment for the project and is holding two public meetings to gather input about their plans to make transit faster and more reliable along 16 miles of Ashland Avenue.
In addition to attending one of those meetings, please join us for a rally on December 10 to show your support for the project!
What’s an environmental assessment?
Over the summer, the CTA and CDOT got to work analyzing the social, economic and environmental impacts of building the BRT project. This is standard procedure for all transportation projects of this size and it’s a requirement for receiving the federal dollars used for this study. It’s also good practice to make sure everyone understands how a new project may change the surrounding area.
The environmental assesment is now complete and CTA and CDOT would like your comments on it, which can be made at the public meetings or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s going on at these public meetings?
The meetings will summarize studies of the project impacts, including traffic analyses that have been performed as part of the formal environmental assessment. This is a chance to take a detailed look at the effects of the Ashland BRT project on your street and the route overall.
CTA and CDOT heard from various key stakeholders about the plan for BRT on Ashland over the past 6 months. Now they're holding two public meetings as an extension of this outreach to gather additional input from all Chicago residents. The Ashland BRT design is not yet final, and the CTA and CDOT are still considering options and modifications (adding more left turns to the plan for example) based on feedback they get at the meetings. This is an excellent opportunity for riders and residents to show up and let them know what you think.
Why should we go?
CTA and CDOT will consider the results of their analyses, the impacts of any possible changes to the BRT plan and all public comments before they move forward with the next phase of the project.
For supporters of BRT on Ashland, this is an important time to stand up and let people know why we're so strongly in favor of the project. We need to review the plans carefully and let CTA know that we want the fastest, most reliable service possible. For the more than 30,000 people taking the bus every day on Ashland Avenue, it’s important that we speak up to make gold standard BRT a reality.
Galindo Barrios, 33, wheels the family Chevy back to his apartment near a busy rail line on the far edge of the Logan Square neighborhood.
It's about 8 p.m., almost bedtime. He and his wife, Laura, watch their pajama-clad children squeal and scurry across the unit's wooden floors. The living room is largely decorated with a handful of sports trophies, family photos and toys.
In a few hours, the Guatemalan national will step back into the morning's chill, back to the car and back to his metalworking job. He'll return to his wife and three U.S.-born children nine or 10 hours later.
But Barrios' job comes with a persistent fear that his illegal entry into the U.S. about 15 years ago means he possesses no driver's license, potentially leaving him subject to arrest and deportation.
Now Laura Barrios is working, so far without success, to get her husband an appointment to apply for a specialized Illinois driver's license, applications for which will be accepted starting Tuesday. Authorities have estimated that as many as 500,000 could apply for the program.
"It's tough for those of us who don't have papers or a license," Galindo Barriossaid. "You leave home every day to earn your daily bread, but sometimes you can't."
Illinois legislators earlier this year cleared a path for Barrios to legally drive to work with the approval of a temporary visitor driver's license program. First available to legal visitors, the program will grant licenses to immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally, valid for driving in Illinois only.
Ten other states have passed similar laws, but not without controversy.California is preparing to roll out its version of the program in coming months, but Illinois officials expect to set the tone for the rest of the country.
"The experience in Illinois needs to work. It has to work," secretary of state spokesman Henry Haupt said. "We're the biggest state that's ever done this, and we're mindful of the fact that there are other states ... looking at us."
For Barrios and thousands of others trying to apply for it, the license will not make him a citizen or allow him to work under the law. But he will have the freedom to drive without fear of the authorities. An arrest for a traffic-related offense such as not having a license can lead to deportations. Officials insist that temporary license applicants' information won't be shared with other law enforcement agencies.
As Barrios puts it, something is better than nothing.
The path of the Barrios family began years ago. Laura Barrios, 31, recalls being barely 6 years old when she headed north from her native Mexico. Galindo Barrios was a teenager when he came north. Both had family members who they said paid smugglers to dodge border patrols, ferry them into the country and put them on domestic flights to Illinois.
Laura Barrios said she recently qualified for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a year-and-a-half-old initiative that avoids deportation and grants work status to qualified residents who arrived as children.
She volunteers with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association's early childhood development program and has completed courses to become a certified nursing assistant.
Galindo Barrios faces a more difficult path. He still owes $447 in fines toMcLean County, for example, after pleading guilty to driving with an expired license last summer, records show, although he didn't have a license. That's about a week's salary, he said. Records show Barrios also has been cited for traffic violations in Cook County, including driving without a license and insurance, but he says the car is covered now.
"Over there, to tell you the truth, people think it's better here because of the economy," Barrios said of his homeland. "And it is better here ... but there are a lot of jobs that you can't have because you don't have papers or a driver's license either.
"This is a country of immigrants," he said. "And we're living in the shadows."
Barrios is among thousands of people who hope the state's temporary license program will signify a step out of the dark.
More than 5,000 people -- about 1,300 of them living in Chicago -- had successfully applied for license application appointments as of last week. Barrios and an untold number of others are still waiting to get in line as officials plan to open more than 30 total application sites during the next two months.
Officials say the licenses, renewable every three years, can't be used for other identification purposes, such as boarding a plane, buying a gun or voting. The card can be issued only by the Illinois secretary of state. Its distinct markings don't represent a change in federal law, as it only legalizes driving within state borders.
To be eligible, applicants must prove they've lived in Illinois for at least a year, a provision that requires them to provide a copy of a lease, utility bills or other proof of their residency. An applicant also must obtain insurance and pass vision and driving exams before the license is mailed.
Prospective applicants often speak about how the program doesn't accomplish their goals for revised immigration laws, or are skeptical that if they apply, information about their legal status won't be used against them.
Still, some say, the ability to drive without a constant eye on the rearview mirror is an important step.
"Look at this through a human lens," said Yesenia Sanchez, head of the West Suburban Action Project, a local immigration advocacy group. "This is a vital issue for people. They've been waiting for this for decades."
The document's importance isn't limited to driving privileges. In some communities, Sanchez said, the license can symbolize protection from deportation.
"That itself -- even though it doesn't provide a path to legalization, or working or even getting on a plane -- even then, for people it's such a necessity. It's liberty from fear. And that is priceless."
For many Mexican nationals, meeting a crucial requirement in the license application process means a visit to that country's consular office on Ashland Avenue.
During a recent lunch hour, the busiest time of the consulate's business day, 29-year-old Humberto Huerta sat among hundreds of his countrymen. All were waiting to apply for the Mexican passport or consular identification card thatIllinois will accept as one piece of proof of identity and residence.
The consulate says it issued about 158,000 passports and ID cards this year through October, already an 8 percent increase from last year's total. Officials believe the spike is due to interest in the license program.
Clad in jeans, boots and a heavy jacket, Huerta needed updated paperwork to apply for a temporary license.
He said he arrived in the Chicago area after crossing the border when he was about 15 years old. It was a sort of family custom, Huerta said: finish secondary school, then head north. A wife and toddler await him back home.
"The town I'm from is a town of immigrants," Huerta said. "My grandfather was an immigrant, my father was an immigrant, we were all immigrants. And I don't want that for my son."
Huerta found work -- three jobs, he said -- requiring up to 90 weekly hours of busboy and bar-back duties in the suburbs. Now's the best age to bear that kind of load, he said, when six hours of sleep is enough for a night.
"I'm married now. I have my wife and son, and my goal was to start a business and then return to live there. But, who knows, because of the violence there. No one can do anything because of that."
When Huerta drives, he follows a mantra similar to one described by other residents living in the U.S. without legal permission who take the wheel: try to drive well, use familiar roads, watch out for the police. A roommate who knows Chicago streets drove Huerta and some of his family to the consulate.
"One always drives carefully because if they get you once for not having a license, it's more likely they'll get you again. And if they keep getting you, your problems grow more complicated," Huerta said as he waited for a group of consular employees to assemble his documents.
Huerta is quick to cite the perceived benefits of a driver's license, though. He's been in accidents before, he said, and was fortunate to be in vehicles covered by family members' insurance policies.
"This way, I can have insurance under my name and drive freely without thinking that they'll come grab you and deport you. If I was arrested today, and they took me to jail for not having a license or identifying documents, I wouldn't be able to call to my three jobs and tell them I can't be there."
Miles away, in Melrose Park, Estela Vara and her husband, Oscar Hernandez, follow the same routine almost every morning.
A volunteer with the West Suburban Action Project, Vara is usually up by 5. She has English classes two days a week, community meetings on Mondays and work. Her husband helps get the kids ready for school before leaving the family's home around 7 a.m.
Two children, deferred action recipients, head to college and high school. A third, a U.S. citizen, is in middle school.
Hernandez then heads to his GED classes from 9 a.m. until noon, four days a week. Then it's off to the Schiller Park manufacturing company the couple have worked separate shifts at for years. Hernandez usually returns home by 10 or11 p.m.
"We practically only see each other at night," Vara said in Spanish.
"And she's often sleeping by the time I get home," her husband replied.
But the couple's workload is motivated by a desire to advance the family, he added.
"And also to go with the system," Hernandez said. "Because we're trying to learn English and better ourselves."
The couple are two of the 5,000 people able to schedule application appointments with the state, one in December, one in January.
They often use main, well-traveled roads to get to work. In certain areas reputed for aggressive law enforcement, however, they'll take a roundabout way.
"My husband is very fearful that he might be detained by the police, so we'll use the side roads, but we still drive," Vara said, adding the family has insurance on their vehicle. Vara has been cited for traffic violations, including driving without a license and insurance, in the past, records show.
Traffic fines, bail and towing fees can devastate a slim monthly budget, the couple said. They also fear authorities' ability to detain residents and put them into deportation proceedings.
"The license, for me, would be a small relief," Vara said. "It's not a triumph for us, but it's something small that we haven't had, and something that will help us.
"We're not partyers. But we do have to go to the supermarket and work. ... And we could drive without fear."
God willing, Hernandez said, they'll be able to remain in the state.
"Because that's exactly why we came here, for a better future for ourselves and principally our children," he said.
Access Official Website for Illinois Secretary of State http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/drivers/TVDL/home.html