WBEZ | News http://www.wbez.org/news Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Worries rise in Russia as ruble falls http://www.wbez.org/news/worries-rise-russia-ruble-falls-111254 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/1217_russia-ruble-624x415.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Inflation is going up and purchasing power is falling sharply for Russians as the country&rsquo;s currency drops in value.</p><p>The Russian government has taken strong measures this week, sharply increasing interest rates to 17 percent, and selling off a chunk of its dollar reserves to shore up the falling ruble.</p><p>None of the moves have worked, and the ruble is trading at about half its value from the beginning of the year.</p><p>NPR&rsquo;s Corey Flintoff tells Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s Robin Young that while there is no panic on the streets, and no runs on banks, for Russian who have the money, &ldquo;it makes more sense to go out and by what we used to call durable goods &mdash; refrigerators and TV sets. They idea is that you&rsquo;ll have more value out of your refrigerator because it won&rsquo;t lose value as fast as your rubles do.&rdquo;Inflation is going up and purchasing power is falling sharply for Russians as the country&rsquo;s currency drops in value.</p><p>The Russian government has taken strong measures this week, sharply increasing interest rates to 17 percent, and selling off a chunk of its dollar reserves to shore up the falling ruble.</p><p>None of the moves have worked, and the ruble is trading at about half its value from the beginning of the year.</p><p>NPR&rsquo;s Corey Flintoff tells Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s Robin Young that while there is no panic on the streets, and no runs on banks, for Russian who have the money, &ldquo;it makes more sense to go out and by what we used to call durable goods &mdash; refrigerators and TV sets. They idea is that you&rsquo;ll have more value out of your refrigerator because it won&rsquo;t lose value as fast as your rubles do.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/people/2100491/corey-flintoff" target="_blank">Corey Flintoff</a>&nbsp;is a&nbsp;NPR international correspondent based in Moscow. He tweets&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyFlintoff" target="_blank">@CoreyFlintoff</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/worries-rise-russia-ruble-falls-111254 Chicago 'petcoke' handler says it'll enclose piles http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-petcoke-handler-says-itll-enclose-piles-111252 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rahm Petcoke 1_0.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; A company storing petroleum coke on Chicago&#39;s southeast side says it plans to build a huge structure to contain the grainy black piles and keep them from blowing around.</p><p>KCBX Terminals said Tuesday that it&#39;ll build a $120 million structure about 1,000 feet long, 200 feet wide and 100 feet tall to comply with a city requirement to enclose &quot;petcoke.&quot;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pet-coke-handlers-not-wanted-chicago-109694" target="_blank">Emanuel says pet coke handlers &#39;not wanted&#39; in Chicago</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Construction would begin next fall and take two years &mdash; even though the city requires that petcoke piles be enclosed by 2016. The company is asking the city to waive that timeline.</p><p>Petcoke is a byproduct of oil refining often used as industrial fuel.</p><p>Many residents want the piles removed, saying they worry about their health. A proposed city ordinance would limit the amount of petcoke stored in Chicago.</p></p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-petcoke-handler-says-itll-enclose-piles-111252 Obama re-establishing US relations with Cuba http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-re-establishing-us-relations-cuba-111251 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP561226672451.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and an easing in economic and travel restrictions on Cuba Wednesday, declaring an end to America&#39;s &quot;outdated approach&quot; to the communist island in a historic shift aimed at ending a half-century of Cold War enmity.</p><p>&quot;Isolation has not worked,&quot; Obama said in remarks from the White House. &quot;It&#39;s time for a new approach.&quot;</p><p>As Obama spoke, Cuban President Raul Castro addressed his own nation from Havana. He said that while profound differences remain between the two nations in such areas as human rights and foreign policy, they must learn to live with those differences &quot;in a civilized manner.&quot;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/us-and-cuba-brief-history-tortured-relationship-111255" target="_blank">A brief history of the US relationship with Cuba</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Obama&#39;s action marked an abrupt use of U.S. executive authority. However, he cannot unilaterally end the longstanding U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, which was passed by Congress and would require action from lawmakers to overturn.</p><p>Wednesday&#39;s announcements followed more than a year of secret talks between the U.S. and Cuba, including clandestine meetings in Canada and the Vatican and personal involvement from Pope Francis. The re-establishment of diplomatic ties was accompanied by Cuba&#39;s release of American Alan Gross and the swap of a U.S. spy held in Cuba for three Cubans jailed in Florida.</p><p>In a statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis &quot;wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.&quot;</p><p>Obama said Gross&#39; five-year imprisonment had been a major obstacle in normalizing relations. Gross arrived at an American military base just outside Washington Wednesday morning, accompanied by his wife and a handful of U.S. lawmakers. He went immediately into a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry.</p><p>As part of resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba, the U.S. will soon reopen an embassy in the capital of Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between the governments. The U.S. is also easing travel bans to Cuba, including for family visits, official U.S. government business and educational activities. Tourist travel remains banned.</p><p>Licensed American travelers to Cuba will now be able to return to the U.S. with $400 in Cuban goods, including tobacco and alcohol products worth less than $100 combined. This means the long-standing ban on importing Cuban cigars is over, although there are still limits.</p><p>The U.S. is also increasing the amount of money Americans can send to Cubans from $500 to $2,000 every three months. Early in his presidency, Obama allowed unlimited family visits by Cuban-Americans and removed a $1,200 annual cap on remittances. Kerry is also launching a review of Cuba&#39;s designation as a state sponsor of terror.</p><p>Obama said he continued to have serious concerns about Cuba&#39;s human rights record but did not believe the current American policy toward the island was advancing efforts to change the government&#39;s behavior.</p><p>&quot;I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result,&quot; he said.</p><p>There remains a divide on Capitol Hill over U.S. policy toward Cuba. While some lawmakers say the embargo is outdated, others say it&#39;s necessary as long as Cuba refuses to reform its political system and improve its human rights record.</p><p>Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the new U.S. policy would do nothing to address those issues.</p><p>&quot;But it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come,&quot; Rubio said.</p><p>U.S. officials said Cuba was taking some steps as part of the agreement to address its human rights issues, including freeing 53 political prisoners.</p><p>Cuba also released a non-American U.S. intelligence &#39;asset&#39; along with Gross. Officials said the spy had been held for nearly 20 years and was responsible for some of the most important counterintelligence prosecutions that the United States has pursed in recent decades. That includes convicted Cuban spies Ana Belen Montes, Walter Kendall Myers and Gwendolyn Myers and a group known as the Cuban Five.</p><p>The three Cubans released in exchange for the spy are part of the Cuban Five &mdash; a group of men who were part of the &quot;Wasp Network&quot; sent by Cuba&#39;s then-President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida. The men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S.</p><p>Two of the five were previously released after finishing their sentences.</p><p>Gross was detained in December 2009 while working to set up Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which does work promoting democracy in the communist country. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship.</p><p>Bonnie Rubinstein, Gross&#39; sister, heard the news from a cousin, who saw it on television.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re like screaming and jumping up and down,&quot; she said in a brief telephone interview from her home in Texas.</p><p>Cuba considers USAID&#39;s programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.</p><p>Gross&#39; family has said he was in ailing health. His wife, Judy, said in a statement earlier this month that Gross has lost more than 100 pounds, can barely walk due to chronic pain, and has lost five teeth and much of the sight in his right eye.</p></p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-re-establishing-us-relations-cuba-111251 Topinka remembered as honest, tough at memorial http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-remembered-honest-tough-memorial-111250 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/topinka_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>COUNTRYSIDE, Ill. &mdash; Late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has been remembered as a tough, honest leader with a signature sense of humor.</p><p>Crowds filled a union hall in suburban Chicago on Wednesday to pay respects. Individuals included the state&#39;s top leaders, lawmakers, local leaders and Illinoisans who knew her for more than 70 years.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-comptroller-judy-baar-topinka-dies-111213">Judy Baar Topinka in her own words</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Gov. Pat Quinn says Topinka took on tough challenges in life. She was also a former state treasurer, GOP head and lawmaker.</p><p>Portraits of Topinka lined an entrance, along with photos of past campaigns, her family and dogs.</p><p>Former Gov. Jim Thompson says Topinka would have appreciated the bipartisan crowd gathered at the memorial.</p><p>Topinka died last week after suffering complications from a stroke. She had won a second full term in November. A replacement hasn&#39;t yet been named.</p></p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-remembered-honest-tough-memorial-111250 Jordan on the Frontline: An International Town Hall http://www.wbez.org/news/jordan-frontline-international-town-hall-111249 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/jordantownhall.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&#39;s been three years since the Arab Spring and the Middle East is still in turmoil. War, unstable regimes, Islamic extremism, and an unprecedented refugee crisis plague the entire region. And right in the middle of it all sits the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Join the conversation on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AAMTownHall?src=hash" target="_blank">#AAMTownHall</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>In this cross-continental discussion, &quot;America Abroad&quot; hosts Jacki Lyden and Yusuf Mansur along with a team of experts will address the issues facing the region today, including the Syrian refugee crisis and the rise of the Islamic State. Watch the livestream here:</p><p><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,47,0" height="350" id="flashObj" width="620"><param name="movie" value="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&amp;isUI=1" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF" /><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=3932702254001&amp;playerID=3302630362001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAADADbysPE~,v9uB0xHqJXvH8wiSynHdeXZ0HnsD804T&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" /><param name="base" value="http://admin.brightcove.com" /><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true" /><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" base="http://admin.brightcove.com" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashvars="videoId=3932702254001&amp;playerID=3302630362001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAADADbysPE~,v9uB0xHqJXvH8wiSynHdeXZ0HnsD804T&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" height="350" name="flashObj" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash" seamlesstabbing="false" src="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&amp;isUI=1" swliveconnect="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></object></p><p><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script></p></p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 10:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/jordan-frontline-international-town-hall-111249 Vatican signals new tone on US nuns http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/vatican-signals-new-tone-us-nuns-111243 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP475133071654.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An unprecedented Vatican investigation of U.S. women&#39;s religious orders that alarmed Roman Catholic sisters when the inquiry began years ago ended Tuesday with a report signaling a softer approach under Pope Francis.</p><p>The report praised sisters for their selfless work caring for the poor and promised to value their &quot;feminine genius&quot; more, while gently suggesting ways to serve the church faithfully and survive amid a steep drop in their numbers. There was no direct critique of the nuns, nor any demand for them to change &mdash; only requests that they ensure their ministries remain &quot;in harmony with Catholic teaching.&quot;</p><p>&quot;There is an encouraging and realistic tone in this report,&quot; said Sister Sharon Holland, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella organization for most U.S. religious orders. &quot;Challenges are understood, but it is not a document of blame, or of simplistic solutions. One can read the text and feel appreciated and trusted to carry on.&quot;</p><p>The laudatory language contrasted sharply with the atmosphere in which the review started under Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Franc Rode, who in 2008 initiated the nationwide study when he led the Vatican office that oversees religious orders, said there was concern about &quot;a certain secular mentality that has spread in these religious families and, perhaps, also a certain &#39;feminist&#39; spirit.&quot;</p><p>Rode left the post while the review was still under way, and his successors had said they wanted a friendlier relationship with the sisters.</p><p>Still, many nuns remained concerned about the outcome of the investigation under Francis&#39; still-young pontificate. Some nuns had taken legal steps during the inquiry to shield the financial assets of their religious orders in case of a Vatican takeover.</p><p>The report expressed hope that sisters would take &quot;this present moment as an opportunity to transform uncertainty and hesitancy into collaborative trust&quot; with the church hierarchy. Many sisters have complained that their work often went unrecognized by priests and requested improved dialogue with bishops to clarify their role in the church and give them greater voice in decisions, according to the report.</p><p>Before the news conference releasing the report in Rome, leaders for the sisters and the nun who oversaw the review, Mother Mary Clare Millea, attended the pope&#39;s daily Mass in the Vatican hotel where he lives and spoke with him briefly, where he offered his blessing.</p><p>Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, based in Maryland, said in a statement the document signaled &quot;a hope for future dialogue and communion among and between women religious and church leaders.&quot;</p><p>&quot;The report is clearly focused on cooperation. It&#39;s clearly focused on dialogue, which I think is not necessarily what people expected back in 2008 when this issue came up,&quot; said Jana Bennett, a specialist in Catholic theology and ethics at the University of Dayton, Ohio.</p><p>Still, American nuns are dealing with the fallout from a separate investigation from a different Vatican office. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012 ordered an overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of U.S. sisters. The doctrine office said the organization strayed from church teaching and promoted &quot;radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.&quot; Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain was appointed to oversee the Leadership Conference, potentially through 2017.</p><p>Holland said she was &quot;working hard and working well&quot; with Sartain and other Vatican-appointed delegates, and the process might end sooner than originally expected.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re moving toward resolution of that,&quot; she said.</p><p>Both investigations prompted an outpouring of support from many rank-and-file American Catholics who viewed the inquiries as a crackdown by the all-male Vatican hierarchy against the underpaid, underappreciated women who do the lion&#39;s share of work running Catholic hospitals, schools and services for the poor.</p><p>Theological conservatives have long complained that after the modernizing reforms of the 1960s Second Vatican Council, women&#39;s religious orders in the U.S. became secular and political while abandoning traditional prayer life and faith.</p><p>The nuns insisted prayer and Christ were central to their work.</p><p>Along with praise, the report offered a sobering assessment of the difficult state of American religious orders. The current number of 50,000 U.S. sisters represents a fraction of the 125,000 in the mid-1960s, although that was an atypical spike in U.S. church history.</p><p>Financial resources to care for sisters are dwindling as they age, and the orders have struggled to attract new members. The report asked the sisters to make sure their training programs reflect church teaching and their members pray and focus on Christ.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 16:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/vatican-signals-new-tone-us-nuns-111243 Chicago mayor's commission unveils plan for a safer Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mayors-commission-unveils-plan-safer-chicago-111241 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP973232440855.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago released <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/supp_info/the-mayor-s-commission-for-a-safer-chicago.html" target="_blank">a report</a> today with 28 recommendations to address the city&#39;s youth violence problem.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Mayor&#39;s Commission for a Safe Chicago released the report. The recommendations include adding eight &quot;peace rooms&quot; in Chicago Public schools for conflict resolution and connecting families with counseling.</p><p>&ldquo;Every child in the city of Chicago deserves a childhood, and that childhood cannot be stolen from them,&rdquo; Emanuel said in unveiling the plan. &ldquo;And every adolescent deserves their adolescence free of violence. So I hope we take this work &hellip; not just as another report [but as] a call to action.&rdquo;</p><p>While it is billed as a strategic plan for 2015, most of the report&rsquo;s 64 pages are dedicated to celebrating past accomplishments by the Emanuel administration. Of the 60 violence prevention programs highlighted in the report&rsquo;s executive summary, 13 of them are new or updated for 2015.</p><p>One of the new ideas presented in the plan calls on the Chicago Police Department to explore alternatives to arresting first-time juvenile offenders.</p><p>&ldquo;We recommend exploring possible alternatives to arrest for first-time juvenile offenders such as tickets or &hellip; community service,&rdquo; said co-chair Eddie Bocanegra with the YMCA.</p><p>And the written report says the police department will do just that in 2015. But spokesmen for the mayor&rsquo;s office and CPD declined to provide any specifics on the plan.</p><p>The commission&rsquo;s plan focuses on youth violence because, according to the city, people 29 and younger have made up more than 60 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s homicide victims over the past five years. It aims to decrease crime by treating youth violence as a public health issue. That means a focus on education, trauma therapy and youth employment.</p><p>Emanuel pointed to <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/new-study-reveals-local-summer-jobs-program-reduces-youth-violence" target="_blank">a recent study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Pennsylvania</a> that showed the One Summer Plus youth jobs program helped reduce arrests by more than 40 percent over a 16-month period.</p><p>This is the first report by the Mayor&rsquo;s Commission for a Safer Chicago. It was written after three forums held over the summer attended by government representatives, faith groups and community organizations.</p><p>The commission also sought out opinions from about 200 young people in more than a dozen Chicago communities.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mayors-commission-unveils-plan-safer-chicago-111241 Cook County to join cameras-in-court program http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-join-cameras-court-program-111240 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Illinois_Supreme_Court wikimedia.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court has allowed the use of cameras and audio recording devices in Cook County courts on an experimental basis starting next month.</p><p>Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans made the announcement Tuesday morning. Cook County is the largest and latest of dozens of counties in Illinois that have joined a state high court camera pilot program that launched in 2012.</p><p>Court officials say the program will begin Jan. 5 in the felony courtrooms at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago. It&#39;s been the site of many high-profile trials. Bond hearings are excluded from the pilot project.</p><p>Illinois has allowed cameras to be present during Supreme Court and Appellate Court hearings since 1983.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-join-cameras-court-program-111240 Unions sue to stop Chicago pension overhaul http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/city hall chicago flickr daniel x o nell.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Current and retired city workers and their labor unions have filed a lawsuit arguing a law overhauling Chicago&#39;s pension systems is unconstitutional.</p><p>The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court also asks a judge to stop the law from taking effect Jan. 1.</p><p>Chicago has the worst-funded pension system of any major U.S. city.</p><p>Legislation approved last year seeks to eliminate a $9.4 billion unfunded liability in two pension systems by increasing contributions and cutting benefits. It would affect about 57,000 laborers and municipal employees.</p><p>The plaintiffs are 12 current and former workers and four unions, including AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Nurses Association.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the law is constitutional. He says the changes are needed to ensure pension funds remain solvent and retirees receive benefits.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 In 'up-and-coming' area, what's the tipping point for gentrification? http://www.wbez.org/news/and-coming-area-whats-tipping-point-gentrification-111236 <p><p>On a recent weekday, Reid Mackin of the Belmont Central Chamber of Commerce shows off one of the main commercial strips in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood on the Northwest Side.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a Cricket wireless store on the corner, A&amp;G Fresh Market down the street and a Polish restaurant that nods to the area&rsquo;s past.</p><p>&ldquo;We used to have a lot of franchise foods, but because of the independent restaurants, the franchise food places couldn&rsquo;t compete with those folks,&rdquo; Mackin said.</p><p>But these aren&rsquo;t the restaurants you&rsquo;d find in a destination neighborhood like Logan Square. Over the years, that neighborhood has obviously gentrified. The rent&rsquo;s gone up and the white population has increased. The median home price for 2013 was $360,000, above its previous peak.</p><p>Belmont Cragin isn&rsquo;t experiencing anything like Logan Square&rsquo;s turbo-charged economy. But as it comes back from the housing crisis, some wonder: is this healthy redevelopment or the beginnings of gentrification?</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t tell you how many clients that have started in Logan Square or they&rsquo;ve started in Humboldt Park and they end up looking in Belmont Cragin,&rdquo; said <a href="https://www.redfin.com/real-estate-agents/clayton-jirak">Clayton Jirak, Redfin realtor</a>.</p><p>Jirak says new buyers are attracted to the neighborhood&rsquo;s bungalow belt. They like the solid housing stock and prices ranging from around $150,000 to $300,000.</p><p>&ldquo;The other big factor in Belmont Cragin has been the redevelopment and the renovation that&rsquo;s been going on with a lot of distressed properties that were left over from the real estate recession,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Belmont Cragin hasn&rsquo;t fully recovered, but in 2013 its median home price was up nearly 24 percent from its lowest point after the housing crash. At the high end of the market, a newly flipped home was recently listed at $435,000.</p><p>Those types of sales worry Julio Rodriguez. He&rsquo;s the director of financial education for the Northwest Side Housing Center.</p><p>He says some longtime residents are getting priced out because of those investors.</p><p>&ldquo;Our goal is to have it community owned and have community residents involved. But it&rsquo;s kind of hard to accomplish that when we have so many developers coming in buying, flipping it and renting out for a couple of years and selling it once home prices go up,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The organization&rsquo;s executive director James Rudyk points to Logan Square where a small number of investors own a lot of property.</p><p>&ldquo;What may have started off as a good idea &mdash; let&rsquo;s get some new apartments, let&rsquo;s create loft space, or lets put in new retail or a coffee shop. Great, great, great. But when that happens then all of a sudden folks who have been renting for $800 and now have to pay $1200 or have to leave their home or lose their home, it&rsquo;s not affordable,&rdquo; Rudyk said.</p><p>He finds himself asking where the line is between redevelopment and gentrification.</p><p>&ldquo;How many new condos are too many? How many Starbucks are too many? So I think there&rsquo;s a tipping point a neighborhood has to reach. What it is? I don&rsquo;t know,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But not everyone in this neighborhood thinks that tipping point is imminent.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BC%20gentrification%201.jpg" title="Peggy Mejias stands outside her Belmont Cragin home. Her family was the second Latino household on the block. Although more whites are moving in, she doesn’t think the neighborhood is gentrifying. “These are just average families,” she says. (WBEZ/Susie An)" /></div><p>Peggy Mejias has been living in this house in Belmont Cragin since the 1980s, when home prices were near $50,000. Back then her household was the second Latino family on the block. Over the years she&rsquo;s seen the neighborhood shift from mostly white to mostly brown.</p><p>&ldquo;Now it&rsquo;s more Mexican. But now I&rsquo;m starting to see more Anglos in the area,&rdquo; Mejias said.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="320" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/gentrification/widget/19/" style="float: left; clear: left;" width="400"></iframe></p><p>Mejias says there are more businesses opening up, like a busy laundrymat that she calls &ldquo;nice and expensive&rdquo; and a Dunkin Donuts that&rsquo;s packed in the mornings.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s the vacant bar near her house. It&rsquo;s been converted into a trendy-looking hot dog eatery that&rsquo;s set to open next month.</p><p>&ldquo;I caught one of the construction guys and he said the person who purchased it, he&rsquo;s been working for him for a long time. He&rsquo;s an investor and he goes into neighborhoods that he sees are up-and-coming. And I walked home thinking, &lsquo;Oh yeah, up-and-coming. Here we go,&rsquo;&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Mejias doubts this shop will be wildly successful. She knows values in the neighborhood are going up, but she considers that normal redevelopment rather than the early signs of gentrification.</p><p>&ldquo;Gentrification is kind of bringing in a completely different class of people. The artistic. Like you see in, West Town, Bucktown when you saw all of that, it was the hipsters. It was all of that. These are just average families,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>That kind of stable growth is the same thing the Northwest Side Housing Center is seeking. It offers things like foreclosure prevention and financial education programs to keep the neighborhood affordable.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BC%20gentrification%202.jpg" title="Gloria Valencia cooks dinner in her Belmont Cragin home. With the help of the Northwest Side Housing Center, she was able to buy her home last year. (WBEZ/Susie An)" /></div><p>Gloria Valencia took advantage of some of those services by taking a free homeownership class. She then applied for a loan from the Federal Housing Administration that allowed her to buy a four-bedroom house in the neighborhood last year.</p><p>The Northwest Side Housing Center even helped her start a block club.</p><p>&ldquo;We talk about what&rsquo;s going on with our block, our neighborhood and the whole city of Chicago. It could be small things like, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m missing a blue recycling bin&rsquo; to other things that are a little more important to our neighborhood and our block, such as gang violence,&rdquo; Valencia said.</p><p>James Rudyk says affordability doesn&rsquo;t mean housing values have to remain stagnant or that certain people or businesses should stay out.</p><p>&ldquo;If residents on Diversey and Laramie really do want a Starbucks, then let&rsquo;s put in a Starbucks. If they really do want a Trader Joes, then let&rsquo;s put in a Trader Joes. If they&rsquo;re really fine with the fruit market, let&rsquo;s leave the fruit market. So the question is, who makes that decision?,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Rudyk hopes it&rsquo;s the people who live here, and not outside investors. He says that may determine whether Belmont Cragin redevelops or gentrifies.</p><p><em>Susie An is WBEZ&rsquo;s business reporter. Follow her</em><a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> <em><u>@soosieon</u></em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 07:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/and-coming-area-whats-tipping-point-gentrification-111236