WBEZ | Southwest Side http://www.wbez.org/tags/southwest-side Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Southwest Side braces for loss of Oreos, and 600 jobs http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/southwest-side-braces-loss-oreos-and-600-jobs-112739 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Oreos_resize1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Growing up in the 1950s, Jim Capraro remembers the sweet aroma of cookies that wafted through homes on the Southwest Side, one of the perks of living near the giant Nabisco plant at 73rd and Kedzie.</p><p dir="ltr">Capraro says he used to tease relatives who lived several miles away.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My cousins who lived in the Back of the Yards lived next to the stockyards and we used to say our smells are better than your smells,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Decades later Capraro got to visit the factory &mdash; then the biggest bakery in the world &mdash; and witnessed a Willy Wonka-like operation.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The top floor is a whole floor of these huge mix masters. Each one of them looks like an 18-foot swimming pool,&rdquo; Capraro said. &ldquo;The flour and sugar and chocolate all goes to the top floor and then the dough is put on conveyor belts and it&rsquo;s actually gravity that brings them down to the second floor where they&rsquo;re cut into cookie shapes.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Oreo cookies, one of Nabisco&#39;s most beloved, best-selling brands was baked there. But that will soon change.</p><p dir="ltr">Parent company Mondelez International is shipping the production of the cookie, and 600 jobs, to Mexico instead of upgrading the local facility.</p><p dir="ltr">For years, Oreos and other iconic brands like Chips Ahoy generated huge profits and provided thousands of well-paid union jobs. Many lived in the surrounding neighborhoods of Chicago Lawn, West Lawn and Marquette Park.</p><p dir="ltr">Then, more than 20 years ago parent company RJ Reynolds threatened to move those jobs out of state. By this time, Capraro led the Greater Southwest Development Corporation.</p><p dir="ltr">He remembers getting a call from Valerie Jarrett, Chicago&rsquo;s commissioner of planning and development at the time. Jarrett is now a top adviser to President Barack Obama. Back then she worked with Capraro to keep the plant on the Southwest Side by giving Nabisco $300 million in tax increment financing dollars. The TIF money helped pay for infrastructure improvements.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I justified in my own mind working to support them. One was that &lsquo;the jobs would stay here,&rsquo; I thought, forever. Turns out I may be very wrong on that,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p dir="ltr">This summer Nabisco&rsquo;s current parent company, Deerfield-based Mondelez International announced it was shipping 600 jobs &mdash; half the plant&rsquo;s workforce &mdash; to Mexico.</p><p dir="ltr">That could affect Michael Smith, a utility worker at the plant. He said workers often wore shirts of the snack they baked.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We proudly wore that shirt because we represented a company that said you produce a product that&rsquo;s televised, that&rsquo;s on the radio and kids and adults alike across the country love,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p dir="ltr">Fellow worker Sabrina Pope is known as the Oreo queen. She&rsquo;s a processor at Nabisco who earns more than $26 an hour. The 35-year veteran originally had only planned to stay for three.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The pay was good. I was raising a son at the time and it was the American Dream that I had security there. I had security,&rdquo; Pope said. &ldquo;Right now, I don&rsquo;t even know what my future&rsquo;s going to bring because I&rsquo;m not old enough to retire. I got the years to retire but I just don&rsquo;t have the age to do it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The city said it wanted to work with Mondelez to keep the jobs here and discussed various incentives, but the company never took officials up on it.</p><p dir="ltr">Mondelez officials said its upgraded facility in Salinas, Mexico will open in the middle of next year. The jobs in Chicago will be phased out and Oreos will be made at other U.S. sites. Company officials said the Nabisco plant won&rsquo;t shut down entirely.</p><p dir="ltr">But Jim Capraro worries about the future of an area that already has a higher unemployment rate than the city&rsquo;s average.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It was places like Nabisco and the companies around it that gave me hope that we could offer alternatives to the underground economy that exists on the South Side of the city to young people who need to live, who need to work,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Capraro points to another big plant that used to be on the Southwest Side. More than a decade ago the Kraft-owned Kool-Aid factory closed its doors.</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of jobs were lost and never came back.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a>&nbsp;is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter.<a href="mailto:mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;You can follow Natalie on&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" target="_blank">Google+</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/southwest-side-braces-loss-oreos-and-600-jobs-112739 Southwest Side residents work toward racial healing http://www.wbez.org/news/southwest-side-residents-work-toward-racial-healing-112273 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/bridgeport roundtable june 30 nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-92bbb99a-44ef-60db-5c70-18726bf4d2e0">Last month two black people were brutally stabbed in a Canaryville park in what they say was a racially motivated attack by a group of whites.</p><p dir="ltr">Four people &mdash;Kevin Hoynes, David Rice,&nbsp;<strong>Joya Urbikas</strong>&nbsp;and Courtney Vega&mdash;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-4-charged-in-stabbing-attack-of-brother-sister-20150606-story.html" target="_blank">have been charged</a> with attempted murder and will be arraigned June 30.</p><p dir="ltr">In the nearby Bridgeport neighborhood, residents say this incident has them thinking more about racial dynamics on the city&rsquo;s Southwest Side. This swath of the city has long been known for white racial intolerance.</p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ South Side Bureau reporter Natalie Moore gathered a group of neighbors who want to work toward racial healing.</p><ul dir="ltr"><li>Tom Gaulke, pastor at <a href="http://firsttrinitychicago.blogspot.com/">First Trinity Lutheran Church in Bridgeport</a></li><li>Theresa Mah, community activist, McKinley Park resident</li><li>Ruby Pinto, chair of <a href="http://bridgeportalliance.blogspot.com/">Bridgeport Alliance</a></li><li>Suzanne Goebel, Bridgeport resident and advocacy coordinator for <a href="http://darstcenter.org/">Darst Center</a></li><li>Jotti Aulakh, Bridgeport resident and community engagement coordinator for <a href="http://darstcenter.org/">Darst Center</a></li></ul><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a> Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter.</a></em></p></p> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 12:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/southwest-side-residents-work-toward-racial-healing-112273 Why are we still collecting taxes to prevent white flight in Chicago? http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325 <p><p>A controversial decades-old program to prevent white flight in Chicago is flush with cash and still collecting taxes from residents of the Southwest and Northwest sides &ndash; despite racial change and housing shifts.&nbsp;</p><p>The programs&rsquo; origins can be traced to the racial panic that gripped many white ethnic communities after voters elected Harold Washington as the city&rsquo;s first black mayor in 1983. Often that fear played out in the housing market with white bungalow belt families worried that blacks would move in and decrease their property values.</p><p>The money collected in the so-called home equity districts was used as a kind of insurance program &ndash; homeowners could file a cash claim if the value dropped upon selling.</p><p>The three little-known taxing districts are the <a href="http://www.nwhomeequity.org/" target="_blank">Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program</a>, the <a href="http://swghe.org/" target="_blank">Southwest Guaranteed Home Equity Program</a> and the <a href="https://www.swhomeequity.com/" target="_blank">Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program</a>.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAP: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#wheredistricts">Where are the home equity districts?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>In the decades since they were created, most neighborhoods have experienced a racial transition on their own; they are no longer white enclaves. And yet the three home equity programs are still there, still collecting money from thousands of homeowners and not doing much else.</p><p>Collectively, these taxing districts sit on millions of dollars and some activists want that to change.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Save our neighborhood</span></p><p>The 1980s may seem a little late for <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/147.html" target="_blank">panic peddling and blockbusting</a> by unscrupulous realtors. After all, white flight had already happened decades earlier once blacks could legally buy homes wherever they wanted.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/home%20equity3_140611_nm.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px; float: right;" title="A brochure explaining the home equity program on the Northwest Side. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></p><p>But segregation never really went away.</p><p>&ldquo;You had these bungalows near the stockyards, which to be blunt about it, wasn&rsquo;t exactly desirable real estate. These folks living in those bungalows &ndash; six rooms, a knotty pine basement, one bathroom and was there any racial acceptance? No!&rdquo; said Paul Green, Director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University.</p><p>Historically, African Americans weren&rsquo;t a strong presence in the bungalow belt. And Green said longtime residents didn&rsquo;t exactly roll out the welcome wagon.</p><p>&ldquo;They were all basically white ethnic neighborhoods. The reality was is that the good people living there were afraid that they were going to lose the value of their homes, the only place they knew.&rdquo;</p><p>That fear gave birth to the white <a href="http://www.lib.niu.edu/1988/ii880524.html" target="_blank">Save Our Neighborhood/Save Our City coalition</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;You literally had racial change taking place mile by mile going west on 55th, 63rd, 71st. And those people didn&rsquo;t have anyplace to go,&rdquo; Green said. &ldquo;At that time there was very little reintegration after you had segregation. In other words, you look at the South Side of Chicago, you did not have neighborhoods that went from white to black to mixed.&rdquo;</p><p>The coalition pushed for an equity program to protect them from falling property values. Mayor Harold Washington, who understood white ethnic fear, got behind it. City Council considered an ordinance to implement the program. But black aldermen found the notion that whites needed home equity insurance racist. Washington publicly withdrew his support.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAP: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#racemap">How the racial makeup of Chicago neighborhoods has changed</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Then in 1988 Southwest Side politician Michael Madigan stepped in. The powerful speaker of the Illinois House helped pass a state law that created three home equity taxing districts &ndash;&nbsp;including two on the southwest side. Another district was created on the northwest side.</p><p>Madigan declined an interview request.</p><p>&ldquo;The premise of the program was I think much more psychological. The psychology was people fear change and when you put into place this institutional mechanism, you create a way of responding to that fear,&rdquo; said Phil Ashton, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who&rsquo;s studied home equity districts.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">How home equity districts work</span></p><p>All homeowners in a designated district pay a small tax, sometimes as little as a dollar and fifty cents a year. That money goes into a fund and homeowners voluntarily enroll in the equity program. If the appraisal is less than the original purchase price when they decide to sell, homeowners receive a cash claim for the difference.</p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that Oak Park started a similar program in the late 1970s to manage racial integration. No claims were ever paid out and the program ceased.</p><p>But liberal Oak Park is much different from blue collar Marquette Park, where angry whites jeered at and stoned Martin Luther King in 1966 when he marched for racially open housing laws.</p><p>A horrified 16 year old Jim Capraro witnessed that incident a block away from his home. And he carried it with him as a young man.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember seeing Stokely Carmichael speak in Chicago, a civil rights leader. When he was done speaking, a white kid kind of raised his hand and said &lsquo;what should white kids do to change this?&rsquo; And Stokely said &lsquo;white kids should go back to where they came from and change it there,&rsquo;&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>He returned home to the Southwest Side and led the Greater Southwest Community Development Corporation for decades in Chicago Lawn.</p><p>Capraro served on the board of the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program until 2010. He wasn&rsquo;t active in getting it started but has thought a lot about its effect.</p><p>&ldquo;Does a program like this support racism or thwart racism? Even the people who aren&rsquo;t racist might end up getting hurt because the very act of a large number of people fleeing puts more supply on the housing market than would normally be,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>Whatever the intent, none of the 20-odd neighborhoods in the three home equity districts experienced white flight. Take Chicago Lawn for example. Decades after the ugly backlash against Dr. King, it experienced a smooth racial transition during the 1990s. Today 63rd Street is a bustling strip with mosques, a Harold&rsquo;s fried chicken, and a Belizean restaurant.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/home%20equity2_140611_nm.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px; float: left;" title="A boarded up building in Chicago Lawn. Neighborhood activists say fixing vacancies should be a priority of the home equity districts. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" />Meanwhile, farther west, union signs hang on the front porches of blondish brick homes. Here, in the Clearing neighborhood, the area is still mostly white.</p><p>Many other neighborhoods in the home equity districts are largely Latino now.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&#39;Why should that money be sitting there?&#39;</span></p><p>At the Northwest Side Housing Center on west Addison Street, Polish signs hang inside the storefront. The office is crowded with people seeking help to keep their homes. The surrounding bungalow communities of Dunning, Portage Park and Irving Park used to house the largest concentration of Polish families in the city. Families like Ernie Luconsik&rsquo;s, a housing volunteer.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the reasons I moved to my area was because it was integrated. I found it fascinating that people got along and didn&rsquo;t look at people as any kind of color,&rdquo; Luconsik said.</p><p>These days there are nearly as many Latinos and Asians living in the neighborhoods.</p><blockquote><p><strong>CHART: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#districtchange">How the racial makeup of the home equity districts has changed</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;As a community-based organization and community residents who are supposed to be benefiting, where is the accountability about the funds and how they are being used?&rdquo; said James Rudyk, executive director of the Northwest Side Housing Center.</p><p>The Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program taxes approximately 48,000 homeowners. Fewer than 10 percent of homeowners in the Northwest Side district are enrolled in the program &ndash;&nbsp;even though all of them pay the tax.</p><p>The fund has $9.6 million.</p><p>&ldquo;Why should that money be sitting there? And if it&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s not going to produce back, then stop it overall. Because it&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s not being a benefit for the people or the community,&rdquo; community organizer Vanessa Valentin said. She said families could use that money for something other than claims: home repairs, small loans to prevent foreclosure.</p><p>Rudyk said they tried to organize around this issue several years ago, but got nowhere.</p><p>&ldquo;They have not returned our calls either or our request for a meeting. We were told why are we here, why are we questioning? This isn&rsquo;t our business,&rdquo; Rudyk said.</p><p>I know the feeling.</p><p>When I tried to talk to somebody from the three equity programs, no one agreed to a recorded interview. One of the programs wouldn&rsquo;t even give me their financials until the state attorney general got involved.</p><p>Judging the success or failure of the equity programs is hard. Did the psychology of having insurance keep white families from fleeing?</p><p>We may never know. While blacks never did buy many homes in the bungalow belt, today the northwest and southwest sides are no longer exclusive white enclaves.</p><p>UIC&rsquo;s Ashton said immigrants helped stabilize changing communities where the taxing districts exist.</p><p>&ldquo;Absent Latino homebuyers, white homeowners would&rsquo;ve struggled to find replacements for themselves when they were trying to move out through course of the 1990s. And they didn&rsquo;t move out because, I don&rsquo;t think, they encountered more minorities moving in,&rdquo; Ashton said. &ldquo;They moved out because they were getting old and their home was their major source of wealth and they wanted to retire or they were passing away and the family wanted to resolve the estate by selling the home.&rdquo;</p><p>Now those same immigrant families are facing a fresh set of challenges related to the housing downturn.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Residents want money invested in neighborhoods</span></p><p>Veronica Villasenor is a counselor for the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, which serves a low-income and working class Latino area.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m a Hispanic, I&rsquo;m a Latina. I know how my parents think. I know how my parents were victims of getting a mortgage that wasn&rsquo;t sustainable,&rdquo; Villasenor said. &ldquo;Just in general the community is not educated. I think the state should assign money to develop education programs for these families &ndash; financial literacy, for mortgages.</p><p>Where would that money come from? Villasenor has her eye on the $1 million cash reserve in the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the board Capraro used to sit on the board of that program. He said he can count the number of claims that went out. Usually because of an inaccurate appraisal, not because of a drop in home values.</p><p>Realizing the program was flush with cash, Capraro says the board took action.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We appealed to the legislature and actually got permission to do this: we were lending people money at interest rates that were much less expensive than a normal home improvement loan or home equity line of credit,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>It was a popular program until the housing market crashed. Suddenly, a roof repair wasn&rsquo;t as important as hanging on to one&rsquo;s home.</p><p>Separately, the Southwest Guaranteed Home Equity Program has more than $53 thousand dollars in the bank. Last year it collected $185,000 but it hasn&rsquo;t had any recent payouts.</p><p>The Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program last paid out a claim more than 15 years ago.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Let them explain to community residents what&rsquo;s being done with these funds and how we can work together it&rsquo;s not work against each other it&rsquo;s work together for the benefit of the community,&rdquo; Valentin said.</p><p>In 2011, the <em><a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/8177235-452/taxpayer-money-set-aside-to-curb-white-flight-helped-some-flee-city.html#.U5XsW1fvn_Y" target="_blank">Chicago Sun-Times</a></em> investigated how families were cashing out of the program due to the housing economic slump, which is not what the taxing districts were designed for.</p><p>Put aside, for a moment, the reason these three taxing districts exist and focus just on the dollars.</p><p>Any community area would envy a pot of money that could potentially be reinvested back in the neighborhood &ndash;&nbsp;no matter what race benefits.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Map: Where are the home equity districts?<a name="wheredistricts"></a></span></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;">(click on the districts for financial info)</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col2%3E%3E0+from+1OVxIg4ZMZyPSe4FvVqVzWQasXgkF9WbsSNyMnsF4&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.87606330248448&amp;lng=-87.73913351843261&amp;t=1&amp;z=10&amp;l=col2%3E%3E0&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=KML" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Chart: How the racial makeup of home equity districts has changed<a name="districtchange"></a></span></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/district%20change%20chart.PNG" style="height: 297px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Chris Hagan)" /></div><p>Chicago&#39;s three home equity districts cover 18 community areas. Those neighborhoods saw major demographic shifts from 1990 to 2010. For example, in Archer Heights White residents made up 90 percent of the population in 1990 but only 21 in 2010, a drop of 69 percentage points. In the same time Latino residents increased from 9 to 76 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Map: How the racial makeup of Chicago has changed<a name="racemap"></a></span></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/maps.PNG" style="height: 381px; width: 620px;" title="Dot density map showing census numbers. (WBEZ/Chris Hagan)" /></div><blockquote><div>&nbsp;</div></blockquote><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>&nbsp;</em><em>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 14:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325 Chicago's Southwest Side, southwest suburbs home to major drug warehousing http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-southwest-side-southwest-suburbs-home-major-drug-warehousing-109341 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Heroin%20LLC%20photos%20044%20by%20Bill%20Healy.JPG" title="(WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></p><p>In the shadow of Midway Airport, Latino, black, white and Arab families live in the bungalow belt of the Southwest Side.</p><p><pthese a="" american="" and="" another="" are="" block="" block:="" bloom="" by="" calendar="" colorful="" displays="" flags="" from="" in="" like="" middle-class="" mirror="" neighborhoods="" of="" one="" p="" perennials="" swing="" the="" window="" working-=""></pthese></p><p>Yet, quietly but in plain view, part of Chicago&rsquo;s thriving drug trade operates here. Local and federal law enforcement officials have raided a small number of these residences as places that store significant loads of drugs.</p><p>WBEZ surveyed major drug and money busts over the last five years in the metropolitan area. We found 97 homes where law enforcement allegedly found narcotics. Thirty were on the Southwest Side of Chicago and another 20 were in the southwest suburbs. No other area had more reported drug busts.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Chart: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-southwest-side-southwest-suburbs-home-major-drug-warehousing-109341#chart">Where are Chicago&#39;s drug houses?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Here&rsquo;s a recent example:</p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">In September, Chicago police allegedly confiscated $10 million worth of heroin and cocaine from a house</span> in the 3800 block of West 63rd Place.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;I know something was wrong in the house because only men lived there,&rdquo; said a neighbor on the block who said he&rsquo;s afraid to give his name.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">It wasn&rsquo;t just that only men lived in the rented home. Over a few months, the neighbor</span> noticed several cars parked out front with temporary license plates. But the men didn&rsquo;t cause obvious &nbsp;trouble, the man said. They sometimes spoke pleasantries to him in Spanish; so he didn&rsquo;t call the police.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;Because they don&rsquo;t make noise, no fights, no loud music,&rdquo; the man said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">And thus he was surprised when police stormed the house one September weekday morning.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;That day I was opening my garage to clean it up a little bit. I hear a noise like they pull a big garbage can or something like that. I look around and I don&rsquo;t see nothing. I come inside and I ask my wife, did you hear something? She said no. I looked through my window and I see a lot of police, detectives or narcotics,&rdquo; the neighbor said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Whole neighborhoods of the Southwest Side are relatively crime free. Cicero, Harlem and Pulaski are major thoroughfares for trucks transporting merchandise. There&rsquo;s easy access to highways and a major railroad transfer station. Ease of transportation is one reason drug cartels are so invested in Chicago.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Nick Roti, chief of organized crime for the Chicago Police Department, said drug trafficking organizations deliberately operate on the Southwest Side -- many workers in the business have connections to Mexico, so they can blend in more easily in neighborhoods among Latinos. And in areas where they can fly under the radar.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;They don&rsquo;t want to have a large police presence where there are a lot of shootings or gang activity where there&rsquo;s going to be a heightened sense of police awareness,&rdquo; Roti said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">The rented homes are for storage. Drugs aren&rsquo;t manufactured or sold in these stash houses. Roti said that&rsquo;s not what neighbors should look out for.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to see mostly just men coming in and out of the house. They&rsquo;re going to see people going in and out of the garage because they&rsquo;re not going to unload the drugs on the street,&rdquo; Roti said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Jack Riley, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration&rsquo;s Chicago office, explains it further. He said often people who are in the heroin trade don&rsquo;t even grasp, &nbsp;say, the Sinaloa Mexican cartel - the organization Riley&rsquo;s doggedly trying to dismantle. Its leader El Chapo Guzman is considered the world&rsquo;s most powerful drug trafficker.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Many of the men caught in the Southwest Side Chicago drug busts have been recruited to to bring heroin and drugs from their home country.<a name="chart"></a></span></p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart_32.png" title="(WBEZ/Patrick Smith)" /></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>Source:&nbsp;</strong><em>For this chart, WBEZ identified the major drug seizures in the Chicago area since 2008, based on a survey of all press releases from the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago offices of the Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice. In these major busts, the drugs seized were worth at least $400,000, and often worth tens of millions of dollars.&nbsp; From this list, WBEZ looked through court records and official releases to identify the residences that were allegedly used to store large quantities of illegal drugs before they were moved to street-level dealers.</em></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;This happens all the time,&rdquo; Riley said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll arrest a Mexican national and he&rsquo;ll say well, my uncle who lives in El Paso asked me to do this. There&rsquo;s no clear understanding that they&rsquo;re working for Sinaloa. They don&rsquo;t walk around with cards that say you&rsquo;re a card-carrying member of Sinaloa. That&rsquo;s how we have to make these connections from intelligence information, from telephone numbers.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Of course, drug trafficking and sales aren&rsquo;t unique to Latino neighborhoods -- they happen throughout the city and suburbs. And in many places both traffickers and neighbors haven&rsquo;t&nbsp;</span>always connected the dots.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">That&rsquo;s certainly true among many families on the Southwest Side. Even some of the large busts haven&rsquo;t grabbed the attention from law-abiding residents. And police officers say it hasn&rsquo;t been an issue in community meetings.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">On the 6500 block of West 63rd Place in the Clearing neighborhood, a senior citizen woman dutifully tends to her grass one sunny October afternoon. A few days earlier, Chicago police arrested three men, recovered four guns and more than $1 million in narcotics on this very block.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;Clearly someone on this block was paying attention and noticed it. That&rsquo;s neighborly love right there,&rdquo; said 24-year-old Cassie Conkel who wasn&rsquo;t rattled by the raid on the block on which she grew up and still lives. She said people on the quiet, well-manicured block look out for each other - even though many didn&rsquo;t know the men who lived in the raided home.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">After news of the narcotics, Conkel says there was buzz among neighbors, but then it was business as usual.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t really think about the cartels being up here and stuff like that,&rdquo; said Conkel, adding that&rsquo;s because she&rsquo;s not in Mexico and doesn&rsquo;t think the violence will come here.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;This is a quiet neighborhood for the most part. You get fights and parties and all that stuff. It&rsquo;s not something we&rsquo;ve ever had to worry about. When someone brings it up, and says, well, the cartels are here, then I&rsquo;ll worry about it. I can only worry about what I can see,&rdquo; Conkel said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Three years ago, extreme drug violence did briefly rattle a quiet Chicago Lawn block. Four men were shot execution style. They were discovered bound with duct tape and lying face down, reports said. The FBI and DEA were brought in because narcotics were involved.</span></p><p>Chief Roti, of the Chicago Police Department, remembers that case and says the shooters were caught. More important, he says, &nbsp;that type of violence isn&rsquo;t the norm.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;The cartel-related violence that we&rsquo;ve seen in the last few years in Mexico, I don&rsquo;t think we&rsquo;ll ever see that here. Not only because they don&rsquo;t want it to happen here because it would hurt their business, but because law enforcement is vastly different. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s a major safety issue for people who live in that area. I have not seen any real violence that occurred outside of the circle of people involved in this related activity,&rdquo; Roti said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Still, the man who lives on the block where the $10 million drug bust went down is now rethinking his role as a neighbor.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Despite not knowing the criminal activity at the time, he wishes he had called the police when he felt something odd. Now he&rsquo;s telling his neighbors to do just that.</span></p><p><iframe height="480" src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/embed?mid=zKdLvOTJ_oMo.k6DV1GFYnvn8" width="640"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;Some people they are afraid to call the police. You can call the police and don&rsquo;t give your name,&rdquo; the man said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">And he says the narcotics raid right on his block has him considering bringing back the defunct block club.</span></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. She can be reached at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>&nbsp;or on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me" target="_blank">Google+</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p><i>WBEZ&#39;s Patrick Smith contributed reporting to this story.</i></p></p> Tue, 10 Dec 2013 15:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-southwest-side-southwest-suburbs-home-major-drug-warehousing-109341 Just months after closing 50 schools, Chicago issues RFP for more charter schools http://www.wbez.org/news/education/just-months-after-closing-50-schools-chicago-issues-rfp-more-charter-schools-108398 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/peck web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Just two and a half months after a historic vote to close 50 schools, Chicago is laying the groundwork to bring more charter schools to the city.</p><p>Without fanfare, the district posted an official <a href="http://www.cps.edu/NewSchools/Documents/RFP_ForNewSchools.pdf" target="_blank">&ldquo;request for proposals&rdquo;</a> to its website Monday that invites charter schools to apply to open shop in what the school district has identified as priority neighborhoods&mdash;large swaths of the Southwest and Northwest sides.</p><p>Those heavily Latino areas <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-simple-answers-chicagos-severely-overcrowded-schools-107651">have struggled with overcrowded schools</a>.</p><p>The district wants what it&rsquo;s calling &ldquo;next generation&rdquo; charter schools, which could combine online and traditional teaching. It also wants proposals for arts integration charter schools and dual language charters.&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago is coming off a painful process to close 50 schools it said were underutilized; the district last December determined that <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2012/12/05/20673/under-utilized-schools-continue-shed-students-map">half its schools</a> are underenrolled. District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said Tuesday in an email that &ldquo;while there were significant population declines in some parts of the city, there were also increases in other parts of the city.... There are many schools that are overcrowded or are facing overcrowding and we need to address that issue as we do any other.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union and others have argued for years that school closures are about making way for charters and weakening the union.</p><p>&ldquo;We are not surprised at all by this,&rdquo; said union president Karen Lewis . &ldquo;We were called conspiracy theorists, and then here is the absolute proof of what the intentions are&hellip;. The district has clearly made a decision that they want to push privatization of our public schools.&rdquo;</p><p>The district has been slowly shifting students to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Around 13 percent of district students&mdash;and more than 20 percent of the district&rsquo;s high school students&mdash; are educated in charter schools. Teachers at charters cannot be represented by the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>CPS does not specify how many new charters it would like to open. Districts are required by state law to consider proposals for new charters every year, and CPS has run an annual RFP for at least the last decade.</p><p>Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, says this year&rsquo;s RFP represents a &ldquo;shift in strategy.&rdquo; In the past, the district named neighborhoods that lacked high performing schools as priority areas for charters.</p><p>&ldquo;Eight or nine years ago the focus was getting options schools in places that weren&rsquo;t served well&mdash;traditional West and South side neighborhoods&mdash;and certainly some of the charter school growth in those areas was a result of that focus,&quot; says Broy. &ldquo;Now we see a focus that shifts a little bit to different parts of the city where overcrowding has been a real issue going back 10, 12, 15 years.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>This is also the first time the district has named specific school models as priorities.</p><p>&ldquo;CPS is expressing a preference for models that they don&rsquo;t currently have,&rdquo; says Broy, who adds that his group had input into the RFP. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s really an RFP that seeks to add to what we offer in the city, while also providing an avenue for existing proven models to think about how they might want to expand.&rdquo;</p><p>Broy said a key challenge for any charter operator that applies will be finding an appropriate facility on the built-up Northwest or Southwest side.&nbsp;</p><p>In a statement sent late afternoon Tuesday, the district said its goal with the RFP &nbsp;&quot;is to seek out potential proposals to create more high quality school options for parents and this is merely one&nbsp;step in that process.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 13 Aug 2013 17:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/just-months-after-closing-50-schools-chicago-issues-rfp-more-charter-schools-108398 Mount Greenwood, past and present http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/mount-greenwood-past-and-present-107407 <p><p>Mount Greenwood is the far Southwest corner of Chicago.&nbsp;Compared to the rest of the city, it looks fairly new. Yet the community has a long history.</p><p>During the last half of the 19th Century, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world.&nbsp;That meant a future boom for at least one type of real estate: cemeteries.&nbsp;In 1879, George Waite plotted a burial ground in a farming area near&nbsp;111th Street and Sacramento Avenue.</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/MG--Central%20Park%20Ave..JPG" title="Welcome to Mount Greenwood!" /></div><p>Waite named his cemetery Mount Greenwood.&nbsp;Within a short time, other cemeteries followed.</p><p>Funerals were an all-day affair then.&nbsp;To serve the mourners, a strip of restaurants and saloons developed along 111th Street.&nbsp;They also attracted patrons of the nearby Worth Race Track.</p><p>Despite all the dead residents, the neighborhood was getting a rowdy reputation.&nbsp;The Village of Morgan Park wanted to annex the area and shut down the saloons.&nbsp;But in 1907, local property owners beat them to the punch and chartered their own village.</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/MG--Map.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Mount Greenwood was independent for 20 years.The big event of that time was the Battle of the Ditch. Mount Greenwood Cemetery had a drainage ditch.&nbsp;The village passed an ordinance against the ditch, saying it polluted their drinking water.&nbsp;When the cemetery ignored the law, the villagers took up picks and shovels, and filled in the ditch themselves.</p><p>(All-day funerals? Drainage ditch Wars? Aren&rsquo;t you glad you live in the 21<sup>st</sup> Century?)</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/MG--111th%20Street.JPG" title="111th Street near Kedzie" /></div><p>In 1927 Mount Greenwood had about 3,000 residents. There were no street lights, no sewers, few paved streets and&nbsp;drinking water came from wells.&nbsp;The citizens voted to become part of Chicago.&nbsp;Just in time for the Great Depression . . .&nbsp;</p><p>Years passed.&nbsp;More people moved in, but the improvements lagged behind.&nbsp;During the late 1930s, the federal government began playing catch-up with those overdue projects.&nbsp;Just in time for World War II . . .</p><p>The war ended in 1945.&nbsp;Then Mount Greenwood really grew.&nbsp;The population hit 12,000 in 1950, and 10 years later passed 21,000.&nbsp;The 1970 count peaked at 23,000.</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/MG--Improvised%20park%20along%20railroad%20tracks-Sacramento%20Ave%20near%20107th%20St.jpg" title="Improvised park along freight tracks" /></div><p>Most of the postwar settlers were Irish Catholic.&nbsp;Today, when many religious high schools have been closed, Mount Greenwood still supports three of them.&nbsp;St. Xavier University is also located in the community. The main cluster of these institutions, along Central Park Avenue, forms a regular Catholic Campus.</p><p>John R. Powers, who grew up in the area, wrote a whimsical account of his youth in <em>The Last Catholic in America</em>. The book became a best-seller, and others followed. As a salute to the cemeteries, Powers calls the neighborhood &ldquo;The Seven Holy Tombs.&rdquo;</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/MG--Mother%20McAuley%20High%20School%20on%20the%20Catholic%20Campus.jpg" title="The Catholic Campus--Mother McAuley High School" /></div><p>By 1984 nearly all the old truck farms had been subdivided.&nbsp;The last Mount Greenwood farm, on land southeast of 111th and Pulaski, was also the last remaining farm within the Chicago city limits.&nbsp; The Board of Education purchased the property.&nbsp;Today it is the site of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Science.</p><p>Mount Greenwood has become a mature, fully-built community. But it feels uncrowded, almost suburban. Most of the homes are single family, the business establishments are small, there are parks, and open space within the Catholic Campus and along the railroad.&nbsp;Having the farm and all those cemeteries helps, too.</p><p>After four decades of small declines, Mount Greenwood&rsquo;s population rose slightly in the 2010 Census, to 19,093. The residents are identified as 86 percent White, 5 percent Black, and 7 percent Hispanic.</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/MG--Stay%20off%20the%20farm%21.jpg" title="Stay off the farm!" /></div></p> Mon, 10 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/mount-greenwood-past-and-present-107407 City to build first new domestic violence shelter in more than a decade http://www.wbez.org/news/city-build-first-new-domestic-violence-shelter-more-decade-107422 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/domestic violence_130528_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For the first time in a decade, the city of Chicago will open a new domestic violence shelter.</p><p>The shelter will operate in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, increasing the number of available beds from 112 to 152.</p><p>It will be the biggest in the city and is expected to serve as many as 100 families a year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Wednesday.</p><p>VersAnnette Blackmon is a survivor of domestic violence and mother of two. Finding a shelter at the time she sought help was disheartening.</p><p>&ldquo;In order for you to get in, you have to get on a waiting list and when you&rsquo;re in a situation, and you have nowhere to go, a waiting list really doesn&rsquo;t help you all that much,&rdquo; Blackmon said.</p><p>Shelters can offer a safe space and connect families to counseling and legal services. According to the city Chicago police respond to nearly 200,000 domestic calls annually.</p><p>The shelter will be suite-based, meaning it will house two families for every bathroom to promote privacy. The City Department of Family and Support Services is partnering with Women in Need Growing Stronger (WINGS,) Metropolitan Family Services and the Greater Southwest Development Corporation to build the shelter slated to open in June 2014. The construction cost is $4.2 million and the city will contribute $1.8 million from settlement in a lawsuit filed against a local strip club.</p><p>Emanuel also announced $123,000 will go toward court advocates to assist domestic violence victims as they go through legal proceedings.</p><p>Natalie Moore is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">@natalieymoore</a>.</p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 15:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-build-first-new-domestic-violence-shelter-more-decade-107422 What are we going to do about 51st Street? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/what-are-we-going-do-about-51st-street-107302 <p><p>When the Orange Line was built in 1993, the planners left an opening in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; structure to accommodate a future extension of 51<sup>st</sup> Street. Twenty years later, that opening is still there, still awaiting the extension of 51<sup>st</sup> Street.</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/A--51st%20%40%20Pulaski.JPG" title="Orange Line 'L' crossing 51st Street, at Pulaski" /></div><p>If you&rsquo;re familiar with the South Side, you know that 51<sup>st</sup> Street is a major half-section street. It carries significant traffic from the lake (where it&rsquo;s called Hyde Park Boulevard) straight through to Kedzie. West of Kedzie, 51<sup>st</sup> gradually trickles into a minor side-street until it stops at Harding, just short of the Orange Line viaduct and Pulaski Road.</p><p>A 1902 city map shows 51<sup>st</sup> continuing to an intersection with Crawford (Pulaski). But shortly afterward the Belt Railway constructed a spur track through the area, cutting off 51<sup>st</sup> a block short of Crawford. Since this was&nbsp;a remote&nbsp;part of the city, closing the street didn&#39;t matter very much.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Map%201902%20%28U%20of%20C%20Library%29%20-%20Copy.jpg" title="51st-Crawford [circled] in 1902 (University of Chicago Libraries)" /></div></div><p>By the 1930s the West Elsdon neighborhood was growing up. A streetcar ran on 51<sup>st</sup> as far west as Lawndale. Plans were&nbsp;being made&nbsp;to elevate the&nbsp;Belt Railway. Then 51<sup>st</sup> and its car line could be extended, perhaps all the way to Cicero Avenue.</p><p>More years pass. The 51<sup>st</sup> Street streetcar gives way to the trolley bus, and eventually the diesel bus. More houses are built, but a Belt Railway viaduct isn&rsquo;t. The barrier is still there, and 51<sup>st</sup> remains a local street.</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/Map%201933%20%28Cram%27s%29%20-%20Copy.jpg" title="51st-Crawford, 1933 (author's collection)" /></div><p>Curie High School opens. There&rsquo;s again talk about elevating the Belt Railway tracks and extending 51<sup>st</sup>, so the bus line can serve the new school. Nothing happens.</p><p>The Orange Line is built. The planners leave that gap in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; structure. Now the railroad tracks will surely be elevated, and the bus run through to the Pulaski-51<sup>st</sup> station. Nothing happens&mdash;and the bus line is cut back to serve the Kedzie-49<sup>th</sup> station.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/B--51st @ Harding.JPG" title="51st Street at Harding, view west" /></div></div></div><p>Will 51<sup>st</sup> Street ever be extended to Pulaski? Perhaps it should be kept the way it is. Archer Avenue passes through just to the north. Adding another arterial street to the area could cause traffic headaches.</p><p>Still, the opening&nbsp;in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; is there in case the city ever changes its mind.</p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/what-are-we-going-do-about-51st-street-107302 A tale of two Kellys http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/tale-two-kellys-106691 <p><p>Politicians love to get their names on things. So when a politician passes on, it&#39;s natural that the living politicians try to find something public they can rename to honor a departed colleague. In Chicago, this process can become quite creative.</p><p>Take Kelly High School and Kelly Park. They&rsquo;re across California Avenue from one another, just south of Archer Avenue. But each is named for a different Kelly.</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/04-29--HS%20and%20Park.JPG" title="Kelly High School, as seen from Kelly Park" /></div><p>Thomas Kelly was born in 1843. He got into Democrat politics and was elected alderman in the 28th Ward. He later became a trustee of the Chicago Sanitary District. Kelly was serving on the Board of Education when he died in 1914.</p><p>In 1928 a new junior high school opened at 4136 South California Avenue. Thomas Kelly had been on the school board and lived in the neighborhood, so the building was named for him. In 1933 it became a four-year high school, which it remains today.</p><p>The school also owned a parcel of vacant land across the street, on the east side of California Avenue. In 1947 the Park District signed a lease for the property with the idea of building a park. A number of adjacent home owners were forced to sell by court order, and their houses leveled. In 1951, Kelly Park was dedicated.</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/Kelly%20with%20future%20voter.jpg" style="width: 270px; height: 252px; float: right;" title="Mayor Ed Kelly cultivates a future voter (author's collection)" /></div><p>Meanwhile, Edward J. Kelly had just died. This Kelly had been Mayor of Chicago from 1933 to 1947, the longest tenure in the city&rsquo;s history. Today the signs at the park read &ldquo;Edward J. Kelly Park, established 1951.&rdquo; However, it&rsquo;s not clear when Ed Kelly&rsquo;s name was actually put on the park.</p><p>I had an older friend who grew up nearby. He said the vacant land on the east side of California was informally called &ldquo;Kelly Park&rdquo; as early as the 1940s. It was considered to be part of Kelly High School.</p><p>Maybe the Ed Kelly dedication did take place in 1951. Maybe it took place in 1991, when the Board of Education transferred its portion of the property to the Park District. Maybe it happened some time in between. The end result is a sort of cut-rate commemoration, two politicians for the price of one.&nbsp;</p><p>In any event, Ed Kelly now has his own bit of immortality. And as much as any Chicago politician, he deserves to be remembered. After all, he&rsquo;s still the longest-serving mayor whose name is not Daley. &nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 29 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/tale-two-kellys-106691 Dingbat's funeral http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/dingbats-funeral-105974 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/03-11--Dingbat.jpg" style="width: 270px; height: 282px; float: left;" title="The departed Dingbat (author's collection)" />On this March 11 in 1930, the big story in Washington was the funeral of William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States. In Chicago, the big story was also a funeral. The city was saying good-bye to the Dingbat.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Dingbat was John Oberta, his nickname derived from a comic strip. He was 29 at the time of his death. Like Taft he was a Republican politician, the 13th Ward Committeeman. Unlike Taft, he was a gangster.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Oberta was a protégé of Big Tim Murphy, bootlegger and labor racketeer in the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood. One morning Big Tim opened his front door and had his head blown off by a shotgun blast. A few months later, Dingbat married Big Tim&rsquo;s widow.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now Dingbat was gone, too. He had been found shot dead in his car, along with his chauffeur, on a deserted road near Willow Springs.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">By 1930 the gangster funeral had become a familiar Chicago custom. Dingbat&rsquo;s friends would not scrimp. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m giving him the same I gave Tim,&rdquo; Mrs. Murphy Oberta told reporters.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Dingbat was waked in his home on South Richmond Avenue. He lay in a $15,000 mahogany coffin with silver handles, under a blanket of orchids. Joe Saltis, Bugs Moran, Spike O&rsquo;Donnell, and all of Dingbat&rsquo;s pals were present. So were assorted politicians.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Two priests of the Polish National Catholic Church conducted a brief service. Then the pall bearers prepared to carry the coffin to the waiting hearse. Out on the street, a crowd of 20,000 people had gathered. (In Washington, half as many were reported at Taft&rsquo;s funeral.)</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3-11--Dingbat's Funeral02.jpg" title="The scene on Richmond Avenue ('Chicago Tribune'--March 12, 1930)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Carry my Johnny out the back way,&quot; Dingbat&rsquo;s mother wailed. &quot;Don&rsquo;t let them see him! They didn&rsquo;t care about him!&quot; The pall bearers ignored her and brought Dingbat out the front door.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The coffin was loaded, then the hearse moved away. Following it were four carloads of flowers and a procession two miles long. When the funeral cortege arrived at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, hundreds more curiosity seekers were there to greet it.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Dingbat was laid to rest a few feet from Big Tim Murphy. There was just enough space between them for another grave. Presumably that spot was reserved for their mutual wife.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The&nbsp;killing of Dingbat Oberta was never officially solved. And with the Great Depression fast descending on the country, the gaudy gangland funeral went out of fashion.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 11 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/dingbats-funeral-105974