Emanuel replaces CHA board chair

November 23, 2011

James Reynolds (photo courtesy of CHA)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has replaced the board chairman of the city’s public housing authority.

James Reynolds, who has served on the Chicago Housing Authority board since August 2010, is now on the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority board. Emanuel replaced Reynolds with Z Scott, a prominent local attorney.

Resident J.R. Fleming is an ardent CHA critic. He said Reynolds’ departure is ‘hurtful’ and a ‘big mistake.’

“He put a lot of emphasis on resident-owned businesses and changes in which the way the Chicago Housing Authority operated when it came to contracts. He was clear. He was transparent. And more than anything he was inclusive and accountable to the residents,” Fleming said.

One of Reynolds’ pet projects was making sure residents got federally mandated jobs and contracts. In recent years, this has been a sore subject among CHA residents, who feel they have been passed over.

Fleming said Reynolds put in oversight and won praise from residents.

“I’ve been doing activism for a long time against the CHA and on behalf of residents. This was unseen,” Fleming said. “This type of acknowledgment from the residents on him [Reynolds] … it was just tremendous, the outpouring.”

Reynolds is founder and CEO of Loop Capital Markets, a Chicago-based global investment banking and brokerage firm. It’s the largest minority-owned investment banking firm in the United States. He’s a native of the Englewood neighborhood and seemed to relate to CHA tenants. At board meetings, he carefully listened to residents’ concerns and often stayed longer to hear everyone out.

Several months ago, CHA proposed drug testing all leaseholders. In June, Reynolds announced at a board meeting that the plan was not a good idea and scrapped the proposal.

Earlier this year, Reynolds donated his $100,000 CHA board chair stipend to a college scholarship fund for public housing residents. In addition he kicked in another $25,000 of his own money.

At the time Reynolds said, “I took the position as chair of the board of the CHA actually not even knowing there was a stipend attached. When I found out there was a stipend, I never once thought of keeping it. I don’t need the money – I thought the best use would be to help the kids.”

In a statement, Emanuel said, “Jim Reynolds served the CHA admirably during his tenure as Chairman of the board, and as a city we are thankful for his service. Jim led the CHA through important reforms and advancements, and he will continue to advocate for reform in his new role on the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.”