Thursday, December 25, 2008

Letters To The Editor

From the News-Star:

Gentrification in Uptown won't work: It is a fact that those who bought condos and townhomes in Uptown thought that they would have a Lincoln Park North ["The gloves are off," News-Star, Dec. 11].
Uptown is the only neighborhood in the city where re-gentrification has not and will not work. [Property owners'] investments are not panning out as planned. There are too many halfway houses for the mentally ill, social services for the poor, low-income buildings that they are unable to make disappear. Their efforts to drive out those who need help, the poor and the mentally ill, are futile.
They speculated and lost. This is what they are angry about. They bought in for low prices expecting property values to go sky high and greatly increase their wallets.
This has not happened and won't happen. The thought of more help for the working poor with children is causing them great distress. Low income housing at Wilson Yard has them in a state of emergency.
Shame on them! These people are part of humanity that puts us to shame. Shame on them!
Lila Wayne, Uptown

Wilson Yard lawsuit is about accountability: Wouldn't there be more funds for the city to aid people in need if the tax dollars that were collected were not given to private interest? This law suit is NOT about affordable housing ["The gloves are off," News-Star, Dec. 11.]
It is about holding the city accountable for what it does with our tax dollars. If it weren't for the condo owners, there would be no tax base to help the low income residents. It is in lower income residents' interest to join in to help this suit succeed
Whether the mayor is trying to build funds for his Olympics or get his other pet projects completed, draining the bank accounts of tax payers is not the way to do it.
Larry Teolis, Uptown

Wants a place where everyone can live: I am not a condo owner, nor do I make a ton of money and I am against [Wilson Yard] because of the abuse of TIF funds ["The gloves are off," News-Star, Dec. 11]. As for the concentration of poor, mentally ill and homeless in the area. Those [residents] also bring a large amount of the drug traffic and gang activity to Uptown.
We had children shot in the streets this summer, and babies caught in the crossfire between gang bangers. I want everyone to have a place to live, but why can't we build a mixed-income building [in Wilson Yard], or buy up all of the foreclosed condos and make them mixed income?
Also, the developer has wasted $30 million of our tax money on this project. Do you know that each unit [in the affordable residential rental buildings] costs $450,000? With that money we could build a lot more in other places. Fix Wilson Yard is fighting the corruption.
Fred Mowery, Uptown

Right to say how tax dollars are spent: As a social worker that has spent the better part of 16 years working with the mentally ill and less fortunate ... The [Fix Wilson Yard] lawsuit as I understand it, is about how public money is used without the public's input or following the rules set up by the state of Illinois for TIFs ["The gloves are off," News-Star, Dec. 11].
There are social and criminal problems in the neighborhood and as someone who has some experience with them, as a professional, I would like the opportunity to be heard by the people who represent me.
This has not taken place during the 5 years I have lived here. I am also a tax-paying citizen and feel it is my right to have a significant say in how my tax dollars are spent in my neighborhood.
I am not "scared of public housing or the mentally ill," as I have spent more time with both than many people. Over the past several years I have attempted to be active, with many of my neighbors, requesting a more transparent process from our elected officials.
During this time I have never heard anyone mention his or her only problem with the project as it is proposed is "public housing." There are just too many other issues with the TIF process that need to be addressed. I am sorry that some with a lot of money to be gained from the project, as it currently stands, continue to offer such an unsophisticated explanation for why this is issue is not going to court.
David Andes, Uptown

Let's talk about real issues: I just moved to Chicago in August and I had no real preference on where to live other than I wanted to be close to the red line ["Shiller comes out fighting, News-Star, Dec. 18].
Since I moved here I have seen many comments get thrown around, either quotes from Ald. Shiller, or quotes from area residents in the news or on [the] Uptown Update [blog].
I don't own property, I rent.
I haven't given any money to Fix Wilson Yard, but I did go to a meeting to learn more about it.
I have tried to ask Ald. Shiller's office about several different concerns and I have heard nothing from her office. I initially wrote this off, as she is a busy person. I have no beef with Ald. Shiller, I haven't lived here long enough. I do wish that her office had a more open atmosphere and that she would do more to build trust in the community, but as I said, I haven't lived here long enough.
It really bothers me though to see this pitched as a battle (or jihad) against the poor. When you frame the argument in that way it makes anyone who disagrees sound like a real Grinch (or jerk, if you prefer.) It would be akin to saying "agree with my opinion or I'll kill this puppy/club this baby seal, etc."
My reason for leaning towards the side of Fix Wilson Yard has nothing to do with property taxes. It has to do with what I think is the right thing for the neighborhood.
I am also bothered by the "if you don't like it, move" crowd. Since I have lived here, there have been several murders, guns found on the street, guns fired, armed robberies, burglaries and various other crimes. Is this acceptable to anyone? Next July when my lease is up, I may decide to move out of Uptown. If I do, it won't be because of the poor. It may be because of the crime. Is it wrong to want to live in a safe place?
Fix Wilson Yard may do nothing to solve the crime problem in Uptown, but let's talk about the real issues here and not polarizing cop-outs like a war waged by the rich on the poor or by people who want to live in another Lincoln Park, etc. I don't think Uptown residents want much more than anyone else ... to live in a healthy, safe, and vibrant community.
H. Andy Goss, Uptown


  1. Lila, if you editorial weren't so smug (comes across as an "I told you so" statement) then it may be legitimate. However, what you don't understand is that it is those same people that did purchase in Uptown that are being forced to subsidize your people's free to almost free public housing. This isn't right, and I dare say if you are ever motivated enough to actually purchase a home of your own rather than live off of the public's tit, then you may have a better understanding of what homeowners are going through.

    Shame,yes there is shame. Shame on Ald. Shiller for bilking millions of tax payers dollars to fund for her pet project.

    Shame on you, Lila, for your shortsighted view of things.

    There is plenty of shame to go around on this one, but to continue to pit the tax paying homeowners versus the tax draining poor is going to lead to a whole of lot bad things for one group. And I can tell you it isn't going to be the homeowners.

  2. Lila's comment seems to be bogus at best.
    I don't know any 'condo owner' in Uptown, who bought a decent, reasonable place to live, believing they had stumbled upon 'lincoln park north'.
    I (we?) just wanted a place to live...what I didn't bargain for was a ward, who's Alderman had such a reptilian, opaque, and out of touch vision.
    The 'shame' should be on her.

    This isn't the stock market up here.....I didn't plan to cash in and run....I'm here long term.
    I can only hope enough people recognize the dead weight we have in office up here.
    I think they have.

  3. Lila, you are so far away from the truth. I purchased a condo in Uptown because you got more bang for you buck. Since you do not own, I feel you truly have no right to assume why people buy condos in Uptown. I'm sick of this "Haves and Have-nots" attitude people like you have. You sound a little jealous to me.

    I grew up poor and have worked extremely hard to get where I am now in my life so stop acting like the poor want to stay poor. It was the neighbors I grew up with (the home owners and people with nice jobs) which made me realize wanted more to my life than the cards dealt to me. Stop pitying the poor with your "Woe is me" attitude and start doing something to get them out of their predicaments.

  4. I’ve lived here a long time and I have seen four, maybe five cycles where first-time buyers move in and then move out after just a few years. And yes, many of these buyers moved in because it was a good housing value and then moved out because the area did not improve as they expected. Others moved because their jobs relocated, or they decided to buy a house in the suburbs, or . . .

    Whatever the reason for moving, many buyers were able to sell at a profit, even after holding a property for a short time. That’s because real estate values escalated at double-digit rates for nearly ten years, fueled by deregulation and cheap credit.

    But today it’s different. If someone bought in the last year or two, forget about profit, I can’t imagine a recent buyer selling without leaving flat or losing some equity.

    Some readers may not like what Lila wrote but she’s not wrong; she just may not be describing you. Posters here on Uptown Update may not be speculators or discontents, dissatisfied with Uptown’s rate of improvement, but that doesn’t mean that a large number of Uptown's residents aren’t (or weren’t).

    Stark Mad is right to focus on Alderman Shiller. The Alderman has failed to communicate responsibly or respectfully, exacerbating the worry that the wool is being pulled over our eyes. The failure of a public official to be publicly accountable is unacceptable but in the shadow of TIF abuse and the Mayor’s obfuscation, it is inexcusable.

    Still, there are bigger fish to fry. 700 billion to be exact. The bailout, including the dollars allocated to Bridgeview Bank should---perhaps even more than Wilson Yards—enrage and activate everyone for change.

  5. Perhaps dear Lila simply meant to be wryly ironic, a la Jane Austen: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

    Because no one could seriously mean something like "It is a fact that those who bought condos and townhomes in Uptown thought that they would have a Lincoln Park North."

    Kudos, Lila, for wittily skewering those who might harbor bigotry against their neighbors who own instead of rent.

  6. While Lila is wrong to assert that ALL property owners in Uptown harbor expectations of gaining an early foothold in “Lincoln Park North,” so is TrumanSquareNabr for saying that no one could seriously mean what Lila said.

    What Lila describes, albeit with too much generalization, is exactly what many long-time Uptown residents, whether owner or renter, have observed---and repeatedly.

    So I for one take her seriously and although I would have expressed them differently, I do not find her views worthy of ridicule.

  7. Most people in Uptown don't give a crap about Lincoln Park or this neighborhood being just like LP.

    Helen Shiller is the one that started that to divide the different groups here in Uptown.

    When I was looking there was no LP factor to my buying decision.

    The biggest reason I ended up in Uptown is because of the availability of new condos and being close the Red Line and Lakeshore Drive.

    Most people that bought homes that I know bought because they wanted to own vs. pay rent in order to take advantage of the tax exemptions etc.

    My only problem with WY is that when I was looking in Uptown there were supposed to be theaters and Target open by now. And we were told it was a mixed income project. Not all low income.

    Also finding out that I paid less for my 1100 sq. ft new condo than each unit Helen and Peter are building really is the reason I support stop Wilson Yard.

    I think Lila and Suzanne are the ones that wish this was LP.

  8. I might add we have low income units in our building and they are the best neighbors.

    But I think we would have problems if you could live in a place and have zero income.

  9. Nah, as far as lake front communities worth emulating go, I'd prefer Uptown be more like Tel Aviv, especially since Lincoln Park has, at least in Uptown, become a metaphor for something ugly and intolerant. And while you may not yet know this, that is not me.

    R, please re-read what I and others have written and consider for a moment that (a) it is not an accusation or a description of you, and (b) it's worth considering the point of view of others whose experience differs from yours because, if nothing else, learning to appreciate another’s perspective--without accusation, ridicule or invective--is an essential skill for building the community we all say we want.

  10. I know a few people who bought here because they got a great deal on a condo and knew they could sell at a great profit - BUT the majority of those people moved because they couldn't stand Helen's third world politics. She is the cancer that is killing this ward. Without her, many people would have stayed.

  11. I would sell my condo to Peter for 400k though.

  12. Suzanne,

    You are completely missing the point. It's people like Lila, and supporters of Helen Shiller who blanket ever person who owns in Uptown as an evil gentrifier who only wants to make a fast buck on their purchase.

    If a person contacts the Alderman's office to complain about violence and crime... if that person just HAPPENS to own a condo or a home... they are told to move to Lincoln Park, and that the only crime-free place is heaven.

    If a person complains to the media regarding violence in Uptown, and the Alderman's blatant ignorance over it, if that person HAPPENS to own a condo, they are labeled and attacked by Helen and her supporters for having sour grapes over their housing values plummet.

    The actual REAL issues are NEVER... I repeat, NEVER addressed by the Alderman, her staff or supporters. They consistently deflect these issues by calling home owners evil, while at the same time, digging their claws further into our purses and wallets to pay for her pet projects.

    I didn't buy my condo in Uptown because I was looking to turn a profit. I bought here because I could not afford to buy in Lincoln Park, or Lakeview, and because I didn't have a car at the time, I needed to be close to public transportation.

    I bought in Uptown because I could finally afford a home of my own, and not flush my money down the toilet every month in rent. Plain and simple. I am willing to bet that FAR more home owners in Uptown are in the same boat as me, than someone who bought and thought they could turn a quick profit.

    Yet, despite the fact I had honest reasons for choosing to buy here, I am still looped in and dismissed outright as some sort of evil gentrifier who hates the poor. I have had Helen Shiller tell me to my face in a community meeting, that 'this isn't Lincoln Park' when I asked what was being done about the uptick in gang violence. She doesn't know a thing about me, or my reasons for moving to Uptown... and neither does Lila, or any of the Shiller supporters. THEY are the ones making assumptions, and THEY are the ones that perpetuate this 'Have vs Have Not' mentality.

    After four years of living in Uptown, and watching the violence get increasingly worse, and not better... after having a 17 year-old kid shot in the gut outside my bedroom window, after witnessing the first murder attempt on the kid who was shot outside of Lawrence House, after waking up to the sound of a semi-automatic being fired at 6:00 a.m., and after being treated like a supporter of the Nazi regime by Helen Shiller and her supporters because I had the nerve to ask what she was going to do about it, I decided to move.

    Why? I got tired of working so darn hard to come home to a neighborhood that I was afraid to walk through after dark. I got sick of being woken up every night, at all hours of the night, by drug dealers whistling and signaling each other, screaming teenagers who were out way past curfew, screaming mental patients, screeching tires, gun fire, fire trucks, and obnoxiously loud base coming from hoopdies.

    I began to realize that while I may have been throwing my money away renting in a better neighborhood, here I was locked into a mortgage owning a piece of a neighborhood that is struggling so hard to grow despite the omnipresent ignorance of Helen Shiller and those like her who thwart progress for their own personal gain.

    As far as making a profit? Please, I still own that condo because it can not be sold even close to market rate at this point... I would be happy to sell it just at what I paid for it, but even that is impossible. Not only because of the housing bubble bursting, but also because of what people were seeing when they came to look at the condo to consider purchasing it.

    It's a real indicator of the type of things a new person can expect in their neighborhood over the long haul, when the day they are coming to view the place, they literally have to walk around a drug deal going down at 11:00 a.m. in the morning to buzz the gate. It's raises a bit of red flag for potential home buyers when they pull up to a building and see a bunch of kids sitting on cars that aren't theirs, and gambling on the sidewalk. It makes a person think twice about making a buy, when they witness a man punch his girlfriend in the face at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon because she smoked some of his stash.

    Needless to say, because I can't afford to eat at least $40,000 to get rid of that condo, I am stuck with it until the market and the neighborhood improves enough for me to break even.

    And for those who ask... why did you move to Uptown to begin with, why didn't you do your research? I did, and my husband and I visited the neighborhood multiple times, and during the first two years we lived there, we hardly had any issues. We loved the diversity, and the local restaurants, and the closeness to the lake, and public transportation... these are the things we still miss now that we have moved away.

    The only thing I didn't research enough is Helen Shiller. When I first started hearing about her, I thought her social activism was a great thing, until I moved here, and came to understand how she truly conducts business, and how her methods only further disable the downtrodden in this community by keeping them right where she wants them... poor, desperate and easily influenced. When I saw how her politics are straight out of the Daley Corruption Hand Book, I realized I had made a big mistake.

    Bottom line Suzanne, your comments are business as usual... pot vs. kettle. Until you or Lila can provide statistics that show that all, the majority, or even 30% of home owners bought in Uptown 'to make a fast buck' or because they thought this was the next "Lincoln Park" then I call B.S. Anyone who visits Uptown, or even drives through it would NEVER think for a minute that Uptown is anything like Lincoln Park or Lakeview, or even Helen's Andersonville, is either blind and deaf, or completely delusional.

    It's time to stop pussyfooting around the real issues in Uptown, and its time for Helen Shiller and her cohorts to find a new battle cry. Stop blaming homeowners for the ills of Uptown while at the same time screwing us out of our hard-earned money via taxation without representation and back-door deals, stop pretending that gang violence and murder in Uptown is just the way it is.

    No one, except the people who directly benefit from Helen Shiller's policies, are buying it anymore.