Thursday, March 13, 2008

Did I Say That?

A reader writes in:
"This email was sent out from Shiller's assistant, Maggie Marystone, in April 2005.
It was sent after UNC met with IHDA folks to discuss why giving Holsten low income tax credits for Wilson Yard housing did not represent the good of the community.
Since this memo clearly states: The Target, movie theaters and affordable housing are inextricably (Webster dictionary--inextricable--So involved that extrication is impossible) connected, why didn't the entire plan collapse when the movie theater pulled out??"

From: Maggie MARYSTONE <>
Date: Apr 5, 2005 1:45 PM
Subject: Open Letter from Ald. Shiller to the UNC
Open Letter from Alderman Shiller to the UNC:

Do you want a Target and/or a Movie Theater? If you do, affordable housing is part of the package at Wilson Yard. The three are inextricably connected because each is necessary for the other to make the financing work. A recent email from the UNC encourages people to contact IHDA to oppose the tax
credits for this project. At least know that saying no to the tax credits is also saying no to the movie theaters, the Target, 16,000 square feet of small retail and a small business incubator.

Helen Shiller
Alderman, 46th Ward


  1. Nice threat Helen. She's a real piece of work.

  2. Where is the proof that any of this is "a small business incubator"? Just because you get a major retailer to take on A LEASE doesn't necessarily mean that you are creating the conditions in which small businesses can thrive.

  3. It was my understanding that the "small business incubator" would be small stalls for the homeless to sell some of their wares. I know it sounds crazy, but I'm not kidding. We should get some confirmation from Helen, but I realize now she's keeping mum about anything happening there right now.

    If Target is really going in, there is no way they would go for it. It will be one or the other, but not both.

  4. anon 9:02, you've got to be kidding. She wants to create a suq alongside a Target?

    And where would these vendors create their products and store them? And isn't it a little bit romantic to think that just because someone is homeless that they necessarily have some kind of handicraft skill that would result in a product that would be attractive to the affluent or aspirationally affluent shoppers that Target wants in their stores? Its like some kind of twisted globalization nightmare to think about Target's rows of imported goods from China competing for dollars with items assembled or collected on the streets of Uptown by the people our society chooses to forget all about.

    Do you have any "proof" about this plan? And, why is she wasting money on these half-baked schemes? She has had years to open up a job training center connected to some affordable housing and some social services. She has had years to create a legacy and meaningful change for the people she claims to serve. If it didn't happen, she needs to take a look in the mirror rather than pointing fingers and pursuing these last-ditch schemes.

  5. a classic

    you can't post this e-mail often enough

  6. I don't have proof but I heard her allude to it 3 or 4 years ago in a public meeting. I can't even recall which public meeting. But as I recall, the business incubator was for people in the area wanting to start up a small business selling trinkets and the like and some of these potential little business starters would be from the area shelters. It was a way of getting them some income. She said very little about it and no one asked questions to get more details.

    It's worth getting more detail about this. It sounds similar to what the Wilson Mall is currently, only worse. I realize of course that Shiller won't answer any more questions from the public or the press, but there has to be a way of getting more details on this. I always dismissed this notion anyway because I knew Target wouldn't allow it.

  7. I was so blown away yesterday that I came straight here this morning to see if anon 9:02 had written. You have. Thanks.

    I will try to set this little tidbit aside because it is not confirmed. And, I agree that a major retailer would throw up roadblocks. However, Helen has just enough hubris to think that she would be able to demand it (or something like it) because she could always say that the company is taking tax money but not willing to give anything back to the people of Uptown. We know the story...

    To the extent that it may offer a glimpse into her perspective, though, I am really concerned. The struggling people in Uptown don't need "some income" they need INCOME...from real jobs that pay real wages. They don't need to be turned into other people's fantasies of the poor. (i.e., gritty urban characters, God's lost lambs, the lumpenproletariat.) Feed them, clothe them, care for their health issues but most of all respect them enough to give them ALL the tools they need to make their own choices and become self-sufficient. There just aren't enough quality programs in the City for people who are ready to get that process started. And, for the poor people who are getting priced out of the area...they also need real jobs, legal advocacy and opportunities to retrain or upgrade their skills.

    Let's not debate whether or not these services should have been put in Uptown. There is a larger critique that needs to be made in that she claims to be the person who wants to help these people but she has not delivered the resources that these people need. Yes, she has been a safe harbor for others who want to open their doors here. But as welfare supports have gradually fallen away over the years, she has not stepped up to the plate demanding that we do more than just feed and house the people who have fallen behind. And, what is more, the leaders of this city have been content to largely let one person in City politics be the voice of the poor. In abdicating their responsibility to get engaged and to do something, we are left with this sick situation in which she gets to say "I am the voice of the poor. Do as I say." If you are against her, you are ipso facto against the poor.

    I am all for a small business incubator here and a number of local businesses called for such a thing when the Borders went in (said it would be a better use of tax money.) However, this is a serious, complex and expensive thing to try to accomplish in a community with our challenges. Good intentions only get you so far and I am continually blown away that few people/organizations in Uptown are willing to accept that reality, move past it and get something real accomplished.

  8. This is an odd debate you all are having. Filling an empty space uptown and including lots of low cost housing seems like a good thing to me! What exactly would you rather goes there, a parking lot? How bout another bar or pizza joint? Seriously.

    Also, you all seem to be looking for 'proof' that this will be a business incubator. Are you crazy? Who can offer that, and what data could they come up with to show that? Any given would be debatable, not to mention a waste of time.

    If you spent less time worrying about these conceptual issues and more time considering the REALLY important issues, you would turn from 'bloggers' to real activists. How come no one here has considered the increased tax revenue (and hence more money to do other things) in the long term provided by more money flowing through the area.

    Also, a lease is legally binding over the term, if you didn't know.