Opposing Madison apartments doesn't mean you're racist

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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I live on Wesley, just north of Madison, and I was shocked by this proposal. Even more so, what kind of Kool-Aid was the village board drinking when they voted to send this proposal to the planning commission? Maybe they just wanted to pass this hot potato to another place.

I personally resent anyone on the village board insinuating that, because residents are against this proposal, they sound like "racists." I am white, 74 years old, and have spent most of my adult life working for racial justice and political power for powerless people. I've worked in the "project" both politically and to ensure fair elections. I worked on the West Side for many years to break the hold of the Democratic machine. I co-ran the campaigns of Jesse Madison, Earlean Collins, Arthur Turner and Danny Davis. I coordinated the five West Side wards for Harold Washington. No one can dare call me a "racist."

But I know the reality of who will reside in this proposed housing development. How many people on the Oak Park Housing Authority waiting list are people who have vouchers from the Chicago Housing Authority and want to transfer them into Oak Park? I read the literature regarding this group, and they state that some of their renters are former substance abuses, some are mentally affected people, single mothers — but the common denominator is mainly poor people stacked together in one building. Every urban study regarding putting poor people together has shown that it ends in disaster. Every person who will be "eligible" will bring their personal "baggage" with them. Kids will be culture shocked by a very different environment. It will bring drugs, crime and instability in our schools that are already challenged. I for one would be afraid to walk to the store or just enjoy the life we have had in Oak Park.

The village board and the plan commission owe nothing to Chicago. There are many more places in Chicago for this organization to develop their housing. The Oak Park government is responsible to the people of this village only. We were an easy mark for this organization. They looked at little old liberal Oak Park and licked their lips.

Carol Zavala
Oak Park

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Reader Comments

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john murtagh from oak park   

Posted: January 3rd, 2011 10:13 PM

A search of village plans and minutes of board and commission meetings shows that there is no mention of a need for housing for singles. You will that there is a need for senior, family, handicapped, and mixed income housing in the village but not singles. As best as I can tell developers chose the Comcast Building site and then figured out how they could use it profitably %u2013 single housing. Not one OP single has been identified as eligible for the program.


Posted: January 3rd, 2011 9:42 AM

I agree that we cannot put much faith in IHDC statements. From Wednesday Journal, June 2008: "We don't want to just come in and impose our will on the neighborhood." Despite the NMR survey that clearly shows that the neighborhood is against this, IHDC has submitted their proposal without any substantive changes that address neighborhood concerns about density and tenant profile.


Posted: January 2nd, 2011 9:51 PM

@Real Facts: IHDC claims that while children are permitted they anticipate few or no children. Mind you this is the same organization that keeps spinning their target tenant profile, so some may choose to take that with a grain of salt. That said, the increase in property tax over the current vacant building is approximately $25k per year. I don't know what percentage of our tax goes to the schools, but I'm guessing that it wouldn't even cover the cost of one new student.

the real facts  

Posted: January 2nd, 2011 3:19 PM

This is a bad idea. When this was first proposed, it was only for single adults, and now it is for single adults with up to one child. This will possibly add 10-20 children to our already overcrowded schools, not to mention our stretched budget. Realistically, these people will not be paying their fair share in property taxes for the school system -so guess who will foot the bill? The already overburdened Oak Park taxpayers. I know no one is supposed to talk about this, but it's a real issue.

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 1:11 PM

@OP Resident: Are White single mothers being prevented from residing in this proposed building? It sounds like you heard that it was for single mothers and immediately thought BLACK woman. In any case, a building being "designed" for two people doesn't mean the occupants will adhere to the policy (unless it's somehow enforced). I am sure it's not uncommon for low-income people to "double up" when a relative gets evicted or loses a job. Then you have a higher density.


Posted: December 29th, 2010 10:23 AM

@OP Resident: I didn't call you a racist, nor have I ever made any comments involving race in any conversation on this development. I wouldn't have moved to Oak Park if I didn't highly value diversity. The fact that you are choosing to ignore are that the development isn't for families. That's not my opinion, but what IHDC has stated in multiple public meetings. Have you ever attended one? Unlikely, as it seems clear that you're not interested in the facts.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 3:12 AM

I am the Racist??? The proposal allows for one adult and children per unit. Chris, what don't you understand about those facts? Where do you want these special needs cast outs to live? Chris, where is your humanity?


Posted: December 28th, 2010 8:18 PM

@OP Resident: IHDC (the developer on this project, if you don't know who they are) has stated multiple times that they do not anticipate their tenants would have children in many, if any, of these units. At 450 square feet they are far too small to comfortably house a parent and child. Your statement that this project is for young single mothers is simply inaccurate. I would suggest you get your facts straight before blindly accusing those in opposition of being racist.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: December 28th, 2010 4:51 PM

The children of these poor single mothers are our future. Ken please read the application. The apartments are being designed for one adult and one child. The resistance to this proposal is racist. If the single mothers were white, who would be voicing opposition? No one!


Posted: December 28th, 2010 3:21 PM

@OP Resident: you sound ill-informed, naive, and detached from real world concerns. You state the project is "for young single mothers"? The developer has not identified this group as a target, do you know something we don't?

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 28th, 2010 12:37 PM

@OP Resident: Um...correct me if I am wrong, but last time I checked I don't recall that Jesus had a 500K mortgage 14K tax bill to worry about annually. LOL! And your comment about what the village "should" do makes me wonder if you believe these "young single mothers" have any responsibility in their situation and in the lives of their "underprivileged babies?" This sounds like you wrote it from your turret in a 1896 Victorian painted lady in RF. ROFFLE...

Really from Oak Park  

Posted: December 28th, 2010 10:11 AM

Really - what would Jesus do? Can you really bring that to the table - this is about reality, and the reality is what Carol, who seems to know what she is talking about, has stated.

OP Resident from OP  

Posted: December 28th, 2010 8:35 AM

The project is for young single mothers without/low paying jobs. Where do you want these unskilled women to live after high school? The village should coordinate daycare and special needs preschool in the building. Please have some mercy on these underprivileged babies. What would Jesus do?


Posted: December 27th, 2010 8:09 PM

John, I personally have reservations on the project myself, as I have stated that it is poor planning to group all low-income persons together - mixed housing would be much better. However, Carol made an effort to argue she was not racist, but her arguments were littered with stereotypes and poor characterizations. Middle and upper income earners use drugs too. The difference? Much of it is prescription, and they pay their bills on time. We all have "baggage" as Carol puts it.


Posted: December 23rd, 2010 9:35 AM

BAD for OP Home Values! All in OP need to email Board members and show up at speak at meetings - against this crazy idea. Taxes are already too high, and this is even being considered - will only drive DN values. Hold your elected officials to be accountable to YOU. Silence lets them do what they want. Demand for them to be accountable!


Posted: December 23rd, 2010 8:22 AM

"They looked at little old liberal Oak Park and licked their lips." That really says it all, honestly. There's no proven need for this housing here. They can't legally offer preference to Oak Park residents. We're being taken advantage of for being a kind and liberal community. The only clear winners from this proposal are the IHDA and the large corporate investors (Exxon was mentioned at one time) who receive tax shelter from investing.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: December 22nd, 2010 3:00 PM

JOHN FRANKLIN - Cook County did a survey of residents in Permanent Supportive Housing in 2005 and found the 54 percent had severe mental illness, 38 percent were chronically homeless. They did not survey drugs and alcohol but acknowledge that they are a serious problem amongst residents. The proposed OP housing program is Permanent Supportive Housing. As far as crime, I can understand why a young, strapping person like yourself would have a different viewpoint than a woman of 74 years.


Posted: December 22nd, 2010 2:41 PM

I will be gone, probably going to leave anyway, too expensive for what you get.


Posted: December 22nd, 2010 7:12 AM

VILLAGE BOARD: This is not acceptable! If this passes you will run people out the town. OP is starting to come around. NO TO THIS PROJECT! Make this into a park or a parking lot!!!!!


Posted: December 22nd, 2010 12:01 AM

Though I do agree with you that studies show that it is much better to have mixed income, rather than group all poor people together, I think some of your comments are short sighted. Your comment that "It will bring drugs, crime and instability.." insinuates that poor people do and sell drugs and commit crimes more than others. This is false, and is a poor characterization.

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