The last time I wrote to you all was in July when I said this:
“Black people are leaving Chicago in droves. According to the IHS Data Clearinghouse, 42,504 black people left between 2010 and 2016. They have had enough of the crime, food deserts, job deserts, red light camera taxes, poor schools, high taxes, and the like. They have voted with their feet. This is not politician bashing as some are prone to do. It’s not the Mayor’s fault or an Alderman’s fault or frankly any political leader’s fault. Government responds to proposals put forth by leaders. The downtown crowd proposes and initiates on behalf of their interests. Frankly, they did not need the Mayor or anyone else to make their $800 MM project happen. You can do that when you have the resources at your disposal. How do poor people put themselves in a position to negotiate their interests in Chicago? What are we proposing? How do we move from reacting to others to acting on our interests with an agenda that is grounded in the goals and aspirations of everyday people? I have a proposal.”
Since then, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that he’s not running in 2019 and a flood of candidates have jumped in the race. What I have heard from the pack of candidates, not only in the Mayor’s race but a host of other races, is that if we vote for them they will take us to the Promised Land. Instead of reacting to them, I am proposing something for them to react to.
My son had surgery a few weeks ago and while he was in recovery, his nurse said something that was very profound. She said that violent crime is nothing like it was in 1989 when she worked in the ER at Mt. Sinai. She said that they were literally mopping up blood every night. It is her take on the reporting of violent crime that it is a part of a carefully designed and orchestrated narrative to move Blacks out of Chicago and for whites to take back the central City. This a commonly repeated anecdote in south and west side community meetings. Recent data bears out that those fears are based in fact. According to a study released by The Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University entitled The Demographics of Economic Shifts Impacting Chicago’s Housing Market, there has been a net gain of 22,872 white residents, 11,695 Latino residents and 18,594 Asian residents from 2010 to 2016. Meanwhile black residents have declined by 42,504.
North Lawndale is four miles from downtown Chicago and has easy access to three train lines (Pink, Blue and Green), two expressways, Ogden Avenue, beautiful housing stock and Douglas Park (where Riot Fest just finished). If political candidates want to ensure that current residents benefit from the development wave that is both feared and anticipated, then I propose the following: Build a state-of-the-art vocational school comparable to Dawson Technical Institute in the community of North Lawndale. This trade school would train local residents in the trades (welding, carpentry, electrical, masonry and cement, pipe fitting, plumbing, painting, roofing) and would provide the apprenticeship experience necessary to move to a journeyman. The school would also provide training in the logistics field and provide job opportunities in the intermodal yards on the border of the community. If the big foundations in town really want to do more than write wonderful editorials about how urgent the violent crime problem is, then they should urgently sit down to help us figure out how to build it. I believe that the City Colleges could manage it but aren’t able to fund it as they are currently in a big capital campaign for Olive Harvey and Daley. JB Pritzker has mentioned vocational education in his commercials and we’d like to take him up on this.
From where I sit, the time for fancy policy discussions is over. Let’s put people to work from this community in the billions of dollars of development around us. The Talented 10th can keep going to college. The Forgotten 90th need real skills that lead to real work. Forget about Amazon!! Let’s build something for people that are already here. We have a budget thanks to the Illinois Facilities Fund. We have sites in mind. We’ve reached out to tons of partners that are interested. We need someone with real money that is willing to make history. Who wants to be first in?