Thursday, December 4, 2008

When Facts Fail, Play The Class Warfare Card

Seems like Peter Holsten has been taking his Helen Lessons seriously!

We particularly appreciate this lob, served up by someone whose many subsidiary companies are making millions and millions of dollars from Wilson Yard. Does the phrase "poverty pimp" spring to mind?

"This group [Fix Wilson Yard] has been very vocal for quite a few years," Holsten said. "They're primarily homeowners and condo owners who've convinced themselves that any affordable housing will decrease their property values and they're scared."

The News-Star has come out with a Web Extra about the Fix Wilson Yard lawsuit and, as usual, Lorraine Swanson writes circles around the dailies. Check it out! You can also check out the coverage Fix Wilson Yard has received in the past day or so by clicking here.


  1. Hey Peter Holsten your building in our neighborhood and using our tax dollars, how about you show those "homeowners" and "condowowners" a little respect.

  2. And where do you live Mr. Holsten? Any subsidized housing that was forced down your throat in your neighborhood?

    Oh that's right. You live in Hinsdale!

  3. So the condo owners and home owners in Uptown are constantly being portrayed as the bad guy. But it is this "bad guy" that is supplying the tax money needed to pay Holsten and his builders. It is the "bad guy" that is paying the taxes to pay our alderperson and her staff, including their 5% raise this year. But that "bad guy" is now even more so because we question the throwing pearls before swine? Maybe it is Mr. Holsten and Ms. Shiller who are scared. Could this well be soon dry for you, Sir? This trough from which you feed off limits?

  4. I'd say Holsten's statement holds water, it's one of the many reasons for the opposition to WY, and probably tops on the list.

  5. I grew up about 5 blocks from where Peter Holsten lives in Hinsdale. My folks still live there.

    I'm not a homeowner in Uptown. I rent.

    The plan for Wilson Yard as it stands right now is an impending disaster. The land requires neither public assistance nor private-public developmental corporations like Holsten's racket to rise from the ashes.

    The land for Holsten's pet projects is all around his North Town Village and Park Tower Condo development. It's close to jobs. It's close to schools. It's close to public transportation. It's close to highway transit.

    To Mr. Peter Holsten I say this. Sell your home in Hinsdale. Move your family and your life to Uptown. Become a property owner here. Rent if you like. But come be a part of this community and witness what plagues it and contemplate the cures frequently posed on Uptown Update that can deliver it from this evil.

    I'll even subsidize your living costs free of charge. You can move in with me.

  6. I like how Holsten uses the phrase "any affordable housing" like it's just a small addition to a neighborhood that doesn't have any. The fact of the matter is there is a very high concentration of subsidized housing in Uptown. It's that unmanageable density that is the issue.

  7. Mondays..., if you like throwing your money in the toilet, please, feel free to do so. The rest of us who understand this situation can handle the adult work on this.

    Of course, if you are the type that believes it's the government's responsibility to feed you, clothe you, educate you, put a roof over your head and pay your medical expenses, and you don't care who is paying for it... I can imagine you wouldn't be fond of folks who would like to have their hard-earned money go into worthwhile endeavors, and not feed the corporate greed of Holsten... or the political greed of Shiller.

  8. Holsten's comment is a bit off base.

    who've convinced themselves that any affordable housing will decrease their property values and they're scared

    Not "any" affordable housing; but, the type of housing that is literally being forced down our throats with our money and without our input.

    Again, the issue is NOT about the housing, it's about the arrogant and careless manner inwhich our tax dollars are being frittered away.

    Had the Holsten/Shiller combine been upfront and transparent with their designs, and allowed for community input from sources beyond their cadre of allies, then maybe we wouldn't be in this position.

    Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

    Shiller only saw a 700 vote separation in her "victory".

    That is not a mandate and she needs to stop acting as though it were.

    Never before have I seen such blatant disregard for the concerns of the general public as has been displayed in this scenario.

    For some reason, I can't get the phrase "taxation without representation" out of my mind.

  9. Mondays...

    Let's not forget that the stakeholders that are funding the project are being left in the dark because of political motives.'s this type of taxation without representation that created this country.

  10. I could tell you a bunch of stories about how the opposition(homeowners, commercial property owners) works in Hinsdale when it comes to something basic like an underground parking garage near their downtown commercial district.

    This opposition literally opposed the building a two story underground parking garage to supply desperately needed parking in the area on the grounds that and underground garage, despite having security cameras and a security guard, would be haven for drug trafficking.

    Can I borrow $5,000? It's costly to get answers from Peter Holsten so I require the services of, former advocate for violent demonstrations of revolt for the public good, Marilyn Katz.

  11. Farrell...
    It's amazing how much you can suppose from a 3 line comment. Are you saying the ensuing fall in property values that will occur is not the overwhelming reason for the opposition to WY. Let's be adults, we all know the world revolves around the almighty dollar. I'm not saying it's wrong to want to protect our property values, all I'm saying is trying to hide behind an "altruistic" arguement doesn't do any good.

  12. Mondays... again, try reading. It's far more than property values. This will lower the property values on ALL buildings, so...if you are a renter, and your landlord can not afford the property tax increases needed to pay for the TIF funding of WY... guess who he/she is going to go to for that additional money? Renters... so ALL of us, will be paying for Wilson Yard, in some way, shape or form.

    The problem is, is those of us who will be the hardes hit with this, have ZERO say over it, we have NO choice, our opinions on this matter have not only been ignored, but we've been downright DENIED our right to participate in dialogue regarding this issue.

    We've been told to PAY UP, and SHUT UP. And to top it all off, while these greedy corporate goons and corrupt politicians have thier hands buried in our purses and our wallets, they are telling anyone who will listen that WE are to blame for the social ills of Uptown. THAT is unnacceptable... unethical, and a prime example of the corruption of the city of Chicago as a whole.

    The person who cited 'taxation without representation' is correct.

    It is obvious you are incapable of seeing the bigger picture here... and can only see what is right in front of you, and what you want to see. It's a shame, because we will ALL pay for WY... homeowners, renters, and the people living in and around WY who will deal with the inevitable fallout.

  13. the Progressive Illinois blog post serves up the class warfare talking point too, looks like a fax went around

  14. Farrell, please don't chastise me, I lived and owned in this community and others for the past 25 years. I dont enjoy paying a $12,000 tax bill and seeing my money thrown into a "housing project." I'm saying that the best argument against WY is the money argument. Everyone here wants to skip around the issue, but it's the best argument. People will more readily understand and be on the property owners side when they hear that people will live in $400,000 units for peanuts per month while we are getting gouged. The old crime and drug argument does not affect people anymore, the money issue especially in the current economic climate has more play.

  15. Progress Illinois is bought and paid for by the Service Employees International Union of Illinois. It's their only sponsor. SEIU-Illinois is the same group that organized the signature drive for the rigged nonbinding survey questions.

    They allow comments on their site. Ask them to disclose everything about their relationship with SEIU-Illinois.

    The Progress Illinois post is authored by the same writer that erred in her reporting of the 46th Ward non-binding survey question from the election day ballot. This report is practically cutting from the cloth of the SEIU money train.

    "What’s actually going up is 178 affordable units, of which 100 will be reserved for senior citizens and another 26 for teachers, nurses, and other moderate-income folks. The remainder will be set aside for truly low-income families."

    From where did this "teachers, nurses, and other moderate-income folks" originate? This is SEIU-speak.

  16. People will more readily understand and be on the property owners side when they hear that people will live in $400,000 units for peanuts per month while we are getting gouged.

    Winner, winner.

    Chicken dinner.

  17. Progress Illinois: About Angela Caputo

    "Angela spent five years working in social service organizations and as a community organizer in Chicago's Uptown, Rogers Park, and Edgewater neighborhoods."

    Hmm. Like Northside Action for Justice. Maybe Organization for the Northeast. Perhaps Jobs with Justice.

    Breaking News: Alderman Shiller hired by Chicago Tribune as Editor of the Editorial Page.

  18. Murray,

    Maybe it's not all one big conspiracy. Maybe every liberal position isn't inspired by the SEIU. Maybe there are some people in the world who actually believe that things like class warfare and racial injustice are real. Helen Shiller, the SEIU, and North Side Action for Justice aren't the only people who believe that these things exist. Maybe there are more than two people who think that things like free trade and global consumer capitalism are bad things.

  19. Maybe disclosure kind of, sort of, probably does matter to you, me, and the SEIU. Hopefully it matters to Josh Kalven and his new rag Progress Illinois. I certainly hope it matters to Angela Caputo who appears may have worked with the organizations she's now reporting about.

    One thing is clear. The SEIU is the biggest advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act that will eliminate the secret ballot in union election organizing. So they clearly want to know how certain laborers voted in ballots to organize as a union or not.

    Tell you what. Let's put your question on the ballot together. We can ask a non-binding question about the development of Wilson Yard as it stands now, but this time we'll ask all the precincts.

    What do you say Nathaniel? You in?

  20. Stop sign: check

    Downed victim, begging for mercy: check

    Silhouette of cop brandishing night-stick wailing on victim: check

  21. Without us evil condo owners, there would be no money for these people. I just don't get how people buy into that.

  22. Does anyone know if Peter has "earned" money other than public? Has he risked any of his personal wealth on this? If, as I infer from his dealings he hasn't, then he has a lot of gall saying those of who have invested in the neighborhood are being selfish. And could someone please explain to me how a project that we'll be paying Peter for 30+ years with tax credits on top of paying to support the residents is going to add to the neighborhood?

  23. Nathaniel:

    I think racial injustice is real.
    I think class warfare is real.
    I think global capitalism has very far to go on the social justice scale.

    Yet, I am against the current Wilson Yard project. Why? Because Wilson Yard is a reflection of racial injustice, class warfare and global capitalism at its worst rather than a unabated remedy. It is a perfect example of government waste and abuse of power. Wilson Yards was always going to offer over 100 units of affordable housing. The issue is what the project has turned into, not the mere fact that affordable housing will be at this location. So, while I can certainly appreciate some people's unwavering support for anything having to do with affordable housing, I am severely disappointed that so many people from this group have left their thinking caps at the door.

    racial injustice
    Despite the requirements of the Gatreaux case, the majority of the Chicago area low-income housing projects are still concentrated in poor black (and now poor Hispanic) communities. Uptown (and to a lesser extent Roger's Park) are the only high % white communities active on this issue. So, good for Northside Action, etc. While the northside has gentrified, Uptown and Roger's Park have maintained a commitment to affordable housing. But the issue is that while the city is demolishing dense public housing across the city and replacing it with mixed income developments or simply fewer units (see Holsten's OTHER properties) it has not yet replaced the units that were lost. These units need to go somewhere and Shiller, unlike other aldermen, is more than willing to bring some more here. My point is that while neighborhoods on the near west side and in the south loop have also experienced a wave of gentrification, no such commitment to affordable housing has been made.

    class "warfare"
    Don't forget that it is developers who are really the ones to benefit most from being able to take an area and drive up the price of the land. Let's just imagine that someone wanted to build a Wilson Yard like development at Roosevelt in the south loop where there is a Target. Don't you think that the developers of all those expensive highrises (in which there are NO affordable set-aside units) wouldn't cry bloody murder? To think that the bruhaha over Wilson Yards is just about a bunch of fearful small minded people is simply naive. Wilson Yards is very much connected to Chicago's long history with segregated communities and the rich (or at least clouted) making a buck where and when they can.

    global capitalism
    And as for global capitalism, is it interesting that you should mention that. Target is a major corporation yet it just purchased prime retail land for a bargain, especially when you consider that the actual cost will be further off-set by various federal tax credits for coming to a supposedly poor inner-city neighborhood. It is like me and my mortgage. I got a good deal from a bank who was caught redlining here. Yet instead of doing something to help the disadvantaged groups who where actually hurt by redlining in Chicago, this bank paid their debt by offering credit to someone is not a credit risk at all. They are all playing the game, my friend.

    Affordable housing is a major issue but I cannot let my commitment to it blind me from the fact that the people with the power to push this through with little public comment are not "the good guys." Holsten is a developer in it to make money. In time, he will probably be like Rezko and other Chicago developers who start out in low-income housing, make some money and then use that clout and capital to move on to entirely market rate projects for more $$$$. City Hall is getting a high number of low-income units on the north side. Target is getting "wealthfare."

    It is just not a simple balance of good/evil. Local residents are sticking up for their rights as citizens and as property owners. They may not win, but it is their right to fair redress. Anyone who fights for a just society should recognize this and say, "I don't agree with what they are saying but I will fight to the death for their right to say it."

  24. **Does anyone know if Peter has "earned" money other than public? Has he risked any of his personal wealth on this? If, as I infer from his dealings he hasn't, then he has a lot of gall saying those of who have invested in the neighborhood are being selfish.**

    You guys are going to love this. Due to some lending rule, the TIP money is coming to Holsten in an interesting way! It is NON-FORECLOSIBLE.

  25. Here is some more affordable housing!! Why should we pay $400,000.00? For new construction when these new construction units can be had for half?

  26. Here’s different angle to look at this “Fix Wilson Yard” lawsuit: this is a political move for the 2011 aldermanic election.

    Based on the timelines given with the recent official Target announcement, any delay will miss the February 2011 election, be excellent fodder for the election.

    If the housing and Target does get completed by the end of 2010, you’ll have ~200 extra votes. In addition, those who desire economic development (i.e. thriving businesses & jobs for locals), the Target will be seen as a success, and the lawsuit as an unneeded detreminet to Target being completed. And if the housing market picks up by summer 2010, some anti-Shiller votes will be lost.

    In this economy, people are a lot more sympathetic to housing needs, and due to the mortgage crisis, less sympathetic to those who were part of the condo craze/overvaluation of real estate in the area.

    The time to have dealt with crusading for the “middle class” was back in 1998. While it should have been obvious that a significant part of the community was against more subsidized rental housing, and should have been equally obvious that ANOTHER significant part of the community wanted SOME kind of affordable housing.

    The solution would have been to push for Habitat for Humanity or similar home ownership program. Instead, the only thing we saw was a last minute, ill conceived plan for an “artists’ residence” by the Uptown Neighborhood Council that was rejected by all sides.

    By 2002, many of those people who would have qualified as slightly higher than low income (now favored by the Fix Wilson Yard crowd) had been moved out of their homes as they went condo. 3 flat after 3 flat, and even some apartment complexes, like 812-820 W. Sunnyside. Had someone been fighting for them, and pleading to make sure they had an opportunity for Wilson Yards housing. Instead, on the message boards and blogs, any pleading for them was met with comments similar to“if they can’t afford to move here, too bad. ”. NOW these kind of people matter…

  27. JP:

    You prove the point of this post.

    "When Facts Fail, Play the Class Warfare Card".

    You are not playing with a full deck, my friend.

  28. Great post, Sassy. The alderman seems to think that putting in low income housing is a simple issue, but it is a very complex one. African American residents of the low income housing in this neighborhood see this as a segregated neighborhood, and they're right. I, a white condo owner, am friendly with the low income residents in the building next door, who seem to be very nice people with jobs, not too many gang/drug problems in the last 10 years that I've lived here. But I have very little in common with the low income crowd at Sunnyside/Magnolia and have never talked to any of them; most of the time the people that hang around there just scare me. There have been major problems with gangs and drugs, and there is frequently garbage all over the place. How is this "working" in this community? What chance do the kids who grow up here in low income housing have of staying out of the gangs? If people think that putting in low income housing will desegregate a community, I think they're mistaken. I agree that something needs to be done about the housing situation, but the powers that be need to look at the research and study all sides of the situation.

  29. I don't buy your analysis, JP.

    This is not about votes in an aldermanic election. People are pissed off that their voices not only do not count but that they have been lied to, silenced and insulted at almost every step of the process! And, in this economic climate when some of these taxpayers are losing their jobs, seeing their home values decrease as their property taxes stay at inflated levels, they are upset about the waste involved in this plan. Seriously, now. $400,000+ rental units when the City can buy foreclosed properties through HUD for pennies on the dollar? Check out Holsten's properties too. Units at the mixed-income properties have only basic contractor grade finishes. Where does the money go and why do the LLCs have enough money to give political contributions? If the goal is to provide the most & best affordable housing to the needy---do it! No fluff. Pump ALL of the money into building the best damn affordable housing money can buy and move on and do it again someplace else in the City!

    Whatever number of votes are up for grabs at election time are negligible. An influx of 200 votes may be help Helen (or whomever the machine wants to put in her place) but even with some people moving out you've got a much more revved up group of voters who will be anti-incumbent. In my opinion, all of the tactics have only solidified these people as a group and the fact that so much money has been raised here as of late should indicate that people will open their wallets at election time too. Uptown Refugee, you have moved but are still engaged here. What do you think?

    JP, you have raised this issue about a wasted opportunity back in 1998. I think you will always have people who will make the "we have enough" argument here. I tend to agree with you that there was a missed opportunity to broker a middle ground solution. I think there was a missed opportunity to truly educate and engage people on the issue of affordable housing. On the other hand, all of that happened in the context of the bizzaroland world of Uptown politics. Helen has not been known for her ability to generate consensus across divergent groups. She is an activist and an agitator and she and her cohorts have not been above dirty tactics. There is and has been an awful lot of mistrust around here too.

    As for the housing for artists thing, I think that was an attempt to focus the affordable housing. I mean, artists (broadly defined) are very often quite poor and have traditionally lived in places like Uptown for the cheap rents. Artists were likely some of those people who had to move as 3-flats and 6-flats were converted to condos. Attracting artists to the development should have had two results: 1) keeping the housing affordable to a group who had long made their home here and 2) helping to drive economic growth. At the time they were proposing it, the Daley administration was flying this guy in named Richard Florida who espoused the positive economic effects when cities promote artist/creative enclaves. During the tech boom, the Mayor and others were very taken with this idea of offering an environment to attract these creative types. Given Mary Ann Smith's longstanding desire to revive the Uptown Theater, the presence of the Green Mill, the Riveria, the Aragon, etc., this probably seemed like a logical way to connect economic development + affordable housing. I probably don't have to enumerate the reasons why this didn't gel with Helen's view of the world or what she felt needed to be done in Uptown. But the approach wasn't really out of left field. It was very much in sync with 'the new wave' of economic development across the city. It just couldn't work here given Uptown's particular political factions.

    I know you don't believe it but I do believe that there is a commitment to affordable housing on behalf of the opponents of WY. For some people it is a begrudging compromise but for others it is not an automatic "negative" to a mixed-use development. However, it is amazing that at this late date we still do not know what the affordable family housing will be. Too many conflicting pieces of information. If proponents are right in saying that this is the sticking point of the project, why not just clearly lay out how this is for "teachers, nurses, etc." to shut up all the doubters?

    Sorry about the long post.

  30. Too many conflicting pieces of information. If proponents are right in saying that this is the sticking point of the project, why not just clearly lay out how this is for "teachers, nurses, etc." to shut up all the doubters?

    Helen hasn't technically lied about the housing; she just withholds the truth. If she laid out the real percentages of income levels, it would be a whole different matter. That simply goes over the heads of the press and city government.

    She's handled this the way she handles every controversy and that is to divide and conquer. She would be spared so much grief if she simply laid out the cards and worked to find some middle ground, but her personality flaw doesn't allow it.

    Helen has never headed up a City Council committee because she is known for not being able to work well with others. She gets her loyalty through lies, intimidation and back room deals. Unfortunately, this type of style works well in Chicago., but blogs like UU will help to change that mentality.

  31. Sassy,

    I actually appreciate your long was well thought out and looking at the issue from another lens.

    (Also, thanks for trying to bring in other perspectives, such as reaching out to Uptown Refugee)

    While politics aren’t the primary purpose of the lawsuit, it’s undeniable that it can play a huge part of the 2011 election. It’s the same as whatever major activity Ald. Shiller does – it will affect the elections, and part of the deal in Uptown.

    The loudest voices we’re hearing (and have heard) are the extremes.

    On one side: The housing at Wilson Yards will NOT be Cabrini Green, or Robert Taylor. A better example would be the across the street neighbors of 4640 and 4645 N. Sheridan (Family & Senior housing, respectively), but on a SMALLER scale.

    Another side: well, I’ll let you guys give plenty of examples.

    As you have agreed with me on some aspects, I will certainly agree with you that there’s a lot of questionable activity going on. I ain’t going to defend it.

    But there really is a “middle ground”…comparable to independents in the presidential election, and they need winning over.

    I worked at University of Chicago Hospitals, where James Cappleman is now. I worked with Quality Improvement surveys for the support services. One such survey revealed that, even though statistically, the Parking Garage was actually the SAFEST place in the hospital, people PERCEIVED it as being dangerous. Even if the “facts” and “experts” said one thing, the hospital had to address the perception, and raise that.

    Sassy, I believe you when you say that there are people against Wilson Yards as it stands, but ARE for some type of affordable housing (such as Habitat for Humanity). I feel that if you want to succeed, you’ll have to address the PERCEPTION of not being for affordable housing, and working extra hard in that area.

    For example, the language on says this : “Organize your Condo Association, Block Club or just your neighborhood friends who have concerns regarding Wilson Yard”

    That leaves out tenant association, church, etc. – the language makes it sound like it’s for just the condo owners.

    In case the lawsuit doesn’t work, I would suggest that that even now, behind the scenes, some effort is made to somehow “recruit” (not quite the right word) the “right” type of residents, such as artists (as you described very well) and refugees (who often are great additions to society).

    Also, Sassy, I suggest you connect with Rae Mindock. She worked hard in 2003 trying to bring together people from different sides to see if they could work together to improve Uptown. Even if she’s not doing that now, she cold refer you to people who are. I think you could be a big help.