As active members of COW (Community Organizing Works!) and 47ward.org, we take a special interest in your recent story "War of Words" [October 26]. Over the past few years we have taken part in public activities--leafleting, organizing, protesting--intended to address the housing crisis in the 47th Ward.
Although Alderman Schulter's lawsuit attempts to silence community criticism about his leadership, the facts still speak loud and clear. Over the last ten years, the pace and direction of development in the ward has had a devastating impact on the community's diversity and accessibility. As our satirical paper, "Alderpuppet Schulter Purports," points out--it's time for the alderpuppet to stop letting developers pull his strings and start listening to his constituents. (Rather than suing them!)
Whether the alderman listens or not, the facts speak loudly: Statistics gathered from government and housing market sources show that housing costs in the ward are increasing faster than incomes. Between 1990 and 2000, the average single-family home price increased 152 percent, and rents went up 115 percent. But incomes during the same period only increased by 44 percent. Connect those dots to a housing market oversaturated with new "luxury condos" (noted recently in local press), and we can see the outlines of a disaster.
While balanced development can revitalize communities, reckless development--the kind that favors high-priced over affordable housing--ruins them. As our affordable housing has been decimated, the North Center and Lincoln Square communities have seen a parallel, and disproportionate, loss of diversity. Census figures show that citywide there was a 10.5 percent decrease in the number of senior citizens between 1990 and 2000; our neighborhoods saw a 29.8 percent decrease. And incredibly, although the city has seen an increase of 38.1 percent in the Latino population, in our neighborhoods 26.9 percent of Latino community members left over the same time period. Again, connect the dots--high housing costs, fixed and low average incomes--and a picture of unwanted mobility, also known as displacement, becomes clear.
While Schulter wastes time and money harassing those who raise concerns about these issues, the community continues to wait for real leadership.
Your article misstated a few facts; corrections follow: (1) We did not burn the alderpuppet in effigy during the August 2000 antigentrification protest. However, we did post a mock eviction notice on Schulter's office door. And (2) 1,000 newsletters were printed, not 1,500.
COW and the larger 47ward.org group are not and were never involved in, nor do we condone "anti-yuppie," racist, or homophobic graffiti in the ward. However, in the absence of legitimate forums for discussion about the area's housing crisis, we fear it's likely that similar eruptions of community distress will recur. It would be great if Schulter took the lead in promoting open dialogue, but we aren't holding our collective breath.
You can sue us but you'll never silence us,
Community Organizing Works!
Sergio Barreto replies:
Although the story about Schulter being burned in effigy has been reported elsewhere, it's apparently apocryphal.