WBEZ | Economy http://www.wbez.org/news/economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago moves on taxi reforms to leave more money in cabbies' pockets http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-moves-taxi-reforms-leave-more-money-cabbies-pockets-110877 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cabs.png" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago is moving on a set of reforms to help cabbies take home more money, a partial salve after a months-long fight over legalizing competing rideshare services left many taxi drivers feeling bruised. While many hail the step as a sign that city officials are finally working to redress cab drivers&rsquo; complaints, some say the changes don&rsquo;t go far enough.</p><p>&ldquo;What we wanted to do is improve overall their experience here in the city, and make it more lucrative for them as cab drivers,&rdquo; said Maria Guerra Lapacek, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said her department crafted the proposals after working with representatives from Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 31 and other driver advocacy groups. Some of them will be included in an ordinance to be introduced at City Council&rsquo;s meeting next week. Others will be implemented through rule changes by the BACP.</p><p>The most significant change would reduce how much taxi owners may charge to lease their fuel-efficient cabs after the vehicles&rsquo; first year on the road.</p><p>&ldquo;The garages are able to recoup their investment after a year of having these vehicles in circulation,&rdquo; explained Guerra Lapacek, &ldquo;so the idea was to reduce the lease rate cap for the second year, and that way give relief back to the cab driver.&rdquo;</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said this idea resulted from the surprising finding in a recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/study-chicago-cabbies-earn-average-12hour-110726">city-commissioned study</a>, which found that cab drivers spend about 40 percent of their gross income on their vehicle leases. Ultimately, the reform could affect leases for an estimated 3,700 of the city&rsquo;s nearly 7,000 cabs.</p><p>Leases would also be reduced for drivers whose vehicles generate a separate revenue stream from advertising displays. The reforms would require cab companies to credit leases in these cases.</p><p>&ldquo;There are over 2000 owner-operators in the City of Chicago. They don&rsquo;t pay a lease,&rdquo; said Peter Enger, a cab driver and Secretary of the United Taxidrivers Community Council. &ldquo;This will not help them in the slightest.&rdquo;</p><p>Enger said he&rsquo;s delighted that city officials appear to be considering the difficulties cab drivers have faced since a previous set of reforms took effect in 2012. Those reforms raised the lease rates for cabs, without a commensurate increase in taxi fare rates. Many cab drivers say that has resulted in longer working hours to earn the same income.</p><p>Cab drivers who own and drive their own taxis affirm Enger&rsquo;s fear that a new round of reform will still leave them in the dust.</p><p>&ldquo;The only way is to get a fare increase that we did not get for almost ten years, to offset the cost of living and all of that stuff,&rdquo; said Ahmed Ammar, who owns and drives his own taxi. &ldquo;Everything went up.&rdquo;</p><p>While some cab drivers, particularly those aligned with UTCC&rsquo;s union, push for a taxi fare increase, others worry it could adversely affect demand. Representatives from another union, Cab Drivers United, say raising fares is lower on their priority list.</p><p>&ldquo;Our focus first and foremost has been moving forward on these changes that will both put money in drivers&rsquo; pockets, and keep the cab companies competitive with the (rideshare) companies,&rdquo; said Tracy Abman, an organizer with AFSCME Local 31.</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said her department will not consider a fare increase at this juncture because she worries it could turn customers away from the taxi industry. Rideshare companies&rsquo; prices routinely undercut taxi fares.</p><p>The proposals also include city-backed smartphone applications to allow passengers to electronically hail taxis, as they do with popular services such as Uber and Hailo.</p><p>&ldquo;We think this is an excellent reform that&rsquo;s going to bring the cab industry into more innovation and really help them access those customers,&rdquo; said Guerra Lapacek. She said the city will put out a request for proposals, and will require all taxis to be on at least one of the city-backed apps.</p><p>Additionally, the reforms would reduce the fee that taxi drivers pay on credit card transactions, from 5 percent to 3 percent; lower the maximum penalties for taxi offenses from $1,000 to $400; and <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/publicvehicleinfo/publicchauffer/chauffeurtrainingtaskforcefinalrecommendations.pdf">streamline </a>the required driver training process.</p><p>The city will also create a task force to review the enforcement process of taxi rules at the Administrative Hearings Court, which many taxi drivers disparagingly refer to as a &ldquo;kangaroo court.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s significant that the City is listening to drivers that are organized, listen to them, hearing their concerns, addressing some of their concerns and agreeing to continue to work together with drivers to make their lives better and make sure the industry remains viable,&rdquo; said Abman.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-moves-taxi-reforms-leave-more-money-cabbies-pockets-110877 Investors gather in Chicago seeking cannabis businesses http://www.wbez.org/news/investors-gather-chicago-seeking-cannabis-businesses-110820 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/marijuana investors.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The country&rsquo;s largest cannabis investor group held a pitch forum in Chicago.</p><p>It looked like a typical business conference in a hotel ballroom, with people in suits shaking hands and exchanging cards. But the biggest difference was that it focuses on a federally illegal substance.</p><p>&ldquo;While we&rsquo;re slaying stereotypes, I also want to open up and make room for the people who may fit the stereotype. I know some great people that I&rsquo;ve done business with that have long hair, or hippies or all the other things that we associate with it. Because once again, the hippies keep being right,&rdquo; said Troy Dayton, CEO of the ArcView Group.</p><p>Dayton was addressing a room full of marijuana industry investors. The industry is expected to be valued at $2.6 billion by the end of this year. More than 100 companies applied online to make their business pitch and only a dozen were chosen for ArcView&rsquo;s forum.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of competition between investors. There&rsquo;s a lot of competition between companies. And everybody&rsquo;s trying to elbow and move,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The room vibe was part Apple product launch and part speed dating.</p><p>Joshua Hill is from Washington state. His handle bar mustache fluttered as he talked to a table of investors about his company Oil Slick. He moved from table to table talking about a non-stick product used to handle sticky cannabis concentrates. His pitch was successful.</p><p>&ldquo;We came here seeking a million dollars for our upcoming projects. Just this morning, I just left a meeting with some investors form ArcView,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve signed a memorandum of understanding, which is the first stage of getting funded. So they&rsquo;ve committed to raising that million for us.&rdquo;</p><p>There was also companies making pitches in a shark tank like presentation.</p><p>Keith McCarty from San Francisco worked in the tech industry before he moved over to cannabis. He launched an app called Eaze just six weeks ago, and he&rsquo;s hoping to raise more capital.</p><p>The app is like Uber for medical marijuana where drivers deliver from dispensaries to patients.</p><p>McCarty&rsquo;s product won&rsquo;t be seen in Illinois anytime soon because state laws restrict anyone other than a certified patient or caregiver to make a pickup. But that doesn&rsquo;t mean Illinois investors won&rsquo;t bite.</p><p>Dayton said all the companies pitching at the Chicago forum were from out of state, but many of the investors in attendance were from Illinois. ArcView has about 330 members with about 30 from Illinois. Annual membership fees range from $2,500 to $15,000.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just really significant for the whole industry that there&rsquo;s now a Midwestern state with a legal cannabis industry. And so it&rsquo;s great for us all to come here and visit and meet all the people who are the applicants,&rdquo; Dayton said.</p><p>He said these business pitch forums will get larger, more competitive and increasingly commonplace as states move toward legalization.</p><p><em>Susie An is WBEZ&rsquo;s business reporter. Follow her @soosieon</em></p></p> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/investors-gather-chicago-seeking-cannabis-businesses-110820 Chicago SRO owners say proposed city ordinance is 'hostile' http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-sro-owners-say-proposed-city-ordinance-hostile-110775 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/SRO ordinance.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-6a96fd4e-5c8e-a95a-a0fa-12b9a087e263">A new City Hall plan to preserve <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/slow-disappearing-act-chicago-sro-105836">fast-vanishing</a> affordable housing units in single-room occupancy (SRO) and residential hotels has some Chicago SRO owners upset.</p><p>The Single-Room Occupancy and Residential Hotel Preservation Ordinance, to be introduced at Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting, includes incentives to induce building owners to maintain a certain threshold of affordable units in their buildings. There are few specifics about those incentives, but much of the measure focuses on financial penalties that owners would face if the number of affordable units in their buildings falls below a mandated percentage.</p><p>&ldquo;Essentially what has happened is the city wants to change the rules in the middle of the game,&rdquo; said Eric Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Single Room Housing Assistance Corporation, which works with building owners, operators and tenants to preserve SRO housing in Chicago. &ldquo;The properties are going to be dropping substantially in value because of the proposed ordinance, as now written,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Under the proposal, owners who wish to demolish or convert their properties to market-rate rentals would be required to maintain at least 20 percent of the building&rsquo;s units as affordable, or else pay a $200,000 &ldquo;preservation fee&rdquo; for every unit that falls short of that threshold. Additionally, if an owner wishes to sell a building, it would allow non-profits first crack at purchasing it and would require the owner to engage in good-faith negotiations with those organizations. If no sale occurs within six months of notifying non-profits, then the owner may attempt to sell the property to private developers.</p><p>&ldquo;The private market often moves too quickly for these non-profits to pull together the financing,&rdquo; explained Michael Negron, Chief of Policy to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, &ldquo;and so we wanted to make sure that there was enough period of time for these organizations to actually&hellip; know a sale is coming, and then work with potential lenders, work with the city, work with the state. There are different parties that could potentially help put together a deal like that, but they just need the time to do it.&rdquo;</p><p>The proposal would allow building owners to bypass this process altogether, and to approach the private market first, if they pay a fee of $200,000 on each unit for 30 percent of the units in the building. But many current owners fear that these fines will drastically undercut the selling price of their buildings.</p><p>&ldquo;The property values will have plunged based on the market being so restricted, that the only option essentially for a current owner when he or she is ready to sell is to turn to a non-profit,&rdquo; worried Rubenstein, &ldquo;and the non-profit could offer nickels or dimes on the dollar.&rdquo;</p><p>All fees collected through the proposed ordinance would go to a preservation fund, which the city would use to assist SRO owners with defraying the cost of maintaining, developing or improving their properties. Negron said, additionally, that the city already may have existing resources to preserve at least 700 SRO units through the end of 2018. He said owners may call the city&rsquo;s Department of Planning and Development to discuss rental subsidies from the Low Income Housing Trust Fund, and financing from TIF districts and low-interest loans, to maintain affordability.</p><p>Rubenstein said he and other building owners had hoped the city would employ more incentives than penalties to encourage affordability. He said SRHAC submitted a list of 15 suggested incentives for the city to consider in its ordinance, including exemptions from sales taxes, water fees, and the proposed minimum wage ordinance. Negron said many of the suggestions were impractical.</p><p>A broad coalition of advocates for the homeless, and low-income tenants around Chicago, praised the proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a great ordinance,&rdquo; said Adelaide Meyers, a former tenant of the Norman Hotel and affordable housing advocate. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s exactly what Chicago needs to maintain SROs throughout the city, because if we lose all our SROs we&rsquo;re going to have a lot of homeless people.&rdquo;</p><p>Meyers was herself displaced from the Norman Hotel when Cedar Street Co. bought the North Side property and converted it to upscale rentals within its <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/flats-chicago-developer-weighs-housing-affordability-debate-110475">FLATS portfolio</a>. Meyers now shares an apartment in the Rogers Park neighborhood with a friend, and with some rental assistance from her father.</p><p>&ldquo;I never thought that I would end up living in an SRO to start off with, but I lived in a few different ones for several years,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So I could definitely end up back in an SRO.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 17:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-sro-owners-say-proposed-city-ordinance-hostile-110775 Illinois begins accepting applications for marijuana businesses http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-begins-accepting-applications-marijuana-businesses-110764 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/medical-marijuana-2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois officials are now accepting applications for people who want to open a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation center. The number of licenses are quite limited &ndash; only 22 available for cultivation centers and 60 for dispensaries.</p><p>Michelle West is hoping to be awarded a license to open a cultivation center. She&rsquo;s a nurse who originally set out to research how legalization would affect her job, but instead she found a business opportunity.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not only a business opportunity for a person, but for economic development for a community, for a neighborhood,&rdquo; West said.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Agriculture will sift through the many applications that are expected to be submitted. Officials are looking at six specific areas: the proposed facility, staffing and operations, security, cultivation, product safety and labeling and business and financial disclosure.</p><p>West said she&rsquo;s been researching the industry for the past year. Her 300 plus page plan includes economic growth all the way down to different types of cannabis plants. Most applicants have brought on consultants from other states that have already legalized medical marijuana. West is no different.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of the other people I met, they spent a ton of money on consultants. Consultants are important, yet I was hesitant. I found one because I have to know my plan, inside out,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>In addition to attending conferences, West hired a consultant from Colorado who&#39;s gotten underperforming cultivation centers back up to top production.</p><p>The competition to run dispensaries and cultivation centers in the Chicago market will be very tough. West lives in the city, but decided to look elsewhere to set up her cultivation center. She eventually found a rural town in Police District 6.</p><p>She presented her plans to the town&rsquo;s council members and that night they decided to support her. The town preferred she not disclose the name until a license is actually awarded.</p><p>&ldquo;It was amazing the support because people want jobs. Everyone in the town, all the jobs had left. So people have to drive 40 miles away, 50 miles away. Some are driving into Chicago and then they&rsquo;re driving back home,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>West visited other towns that had mixed views on the legalization of medical marijuana. For this particular community, the cultivation center looks like a path to economic recovery. That&rsquo;s part of the deal they have with West. Their decision to back her means their community members would get first dibs at the job openings.</p><p>&ldquo;The plan that I have, it includes not only hiring younger people, but there&rsquo;s been a lot of people over 50 that have been downsized or they couldn&rsquo;t find a job and they keep trying to find a job. If they&rsquo;re willing to be retrained or work within the facility, they&rsquo;re going to have a job, too,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>West has written an employee handbook that includes wages starting at around $12 an hour with benefits.</p><p>She found a potential property in the area. She&rsquo;s already crafted plans for year-round growing and plans to scale in the years following.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Security Plan</strong></span></p><p>State officials are making security a high priority for all applications. They see the future cannabis facilities as major targets for crime, since they will deal with large amounts of cash and drugs.</p><p>Joel Brumlik works in law enforcement and he&rsquo;s been running his suburban security company, Tactical Security since 2007. He started researching how he could profit after the state legalized medical marijuana.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we have a significant investment in this. A lot of time, a lot of studying, a lot of resources expended. We&rsquo;ve been involved in two or three conferences. We&rsquo;re going to be in one in Las Vegas. These aren&rsquo;t cheap,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Tactical Security has been training officers specifically for medical marijuana, everything from use of force to patient hospitality, even how to inspect a facility according to the state&rsquo;s rules and regulations.</p><p>Brumlik prides himself on the hefty 70 plus page security plan he&rsquo;s written up. He says he&rsquo;s fielded at least a dozen calls from potential medical marijuana businesses and already has a few signed contracts.</p><p>He says his competition seems to be based mostly on price.</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, our company may be charging you a higher price per hour, but what is your cost? And when I say &lsquo;what is your cost&rsquo;, what I&rsquo;m saying is, is that if you don&rsquo;t have the right people, the highly trained people, then your cost might be a lot higher than you believe if you&rsquo;re just going by the price,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But some security experts say it isn&rsquo;t necessary to have such specific tailoring for the marijuana industry. Eugene Ferraro is a security consultant based in Colorado. He calls it a marketing ploy.</p><p>&ldquo;The tailoring that&rsquo;s necessary to provide services to a marijuana retailer have very small differences from other types of retailers or operations whether it&rsquo;s manufacturing or distribution operations,&rdquo; Ferraro said.</p><p>He says bigger security companies have been staying away from cannabis to avoid any potential legal issues. But he&rsquo;s definitely seen specialized companies gaining a lot of business.</p><p>&ldquo;The small operators, the mom and pop alarm companies, the mom and pop guard companies have some opportunity here,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Ferraro says Illinois&rsquo; emphasis on security is overkill and that the cost will be passed down to the consumers, which might create another problem of pushing people to the black market.</p><p>Brumlik doesn&rsquo;t see it that way and says every dispensary he visited in Colorado had been broken into.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not interested in trying to compete on a level where we&rsquo;re just trying to put warm bodies in there,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Financing</strong></span></p><p>It&rsquo;s going to take anyone who&rsquo;s awarded a license a lot of money to open and operate the marijuana facility. For West, she needs to pay a $25,000 non-refundable application fee, and she also needs to show she has $500,000 in liquid assets. If she&rsquo;s awarded the license, she&rsquo;ll have to pay a $200,000 permit fee, not to mention the cost it takes to run any type of business.</p><p>Financing and banking has been tricky for business owners in states that are already well into their legalized marijuana programs. Illinois will be no different.</p><p>Even ancillary businesses are finding it difficult to find a bank just to make a simple deposit.</p><p>&ldquo;Difficult is such an understatement. It was the bane of my existence for 90 days,&rdquo; said venture capitalist David Friedman.</p><p>Recently, the Chicago businessman added another title to his resume; publisher. He started a news website called Marijuana Investor News.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t understand why Bloomberg can run stories about medical marijuana, but we can&rsquo;t. And I&rsquo;m sure, I understand now about the banking regulations and everyone&rsquo;s just very cautious about anything that has to do with it. We did ultimately find a bank because it&rsquo;s ridiculous that we shouldn&rsquo;t,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Friedman is being approached by entrepreneurs for investments into their proposed dispensaries and cultivation centers. He says since the final rules were approved he hasn&rsquo;t slept much.</p><p>Troy Dayton is CEO of the Arcview Group, a California-based national investment and research firm focused on cannabis. A lot of accredited investors in the marijuana industry are members of the group, including David Friedman. It has some of the first angel investors in the sector.</p><p>Dayton said Illinois&rsquo; program might be more difficult to finance with all the restrictions and a possibility of the pilot program sunsetting in a few years.</p><p>&ldquo;[Business owners] had better have a lot of money in the bank because it may be a long ramp up before they can make their businesses profitable,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>According to Arcview&rsquo;s annual report, the industry is expected to grow to $2.6 billion in 2014.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a 68 percent growth in one year. Making it the fastest growing industry in America. &nbsp;And growing to 10.2 billion dollar industry by 2018,&rdquo; Dayton said.</p><p>Another challenge businesses are likely to face is a high tax rate. Marijuana is categorized as a Schedule 1 illegal substance, next to heroin and LSD. The Internal Revenue Service has a code to tax illegal drug income, up to 50 percent.</p><p>Dooma Wendschuh, CEO of Ebbu, a Colorado cannabis company said it takes a lot of work to keep your business completely above board in this federally illegal industry.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re really limited in who you can raise that money from. You can&rsquo;t go to Sand Hill Road with a couple of baggies of your product and expect to raise your money. It just doesn&rsquo;t work like that,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Sand Hill Road is an area in California with a lot venture capital companies.</p><p>But Wendschuh thinks the opportunity in marijuana is bigger than the Internet and tech boom if you&rsquo;re willing to take the risk.</p><p>He looks at it like alcohol after prohibition. Laws were left for states to determine individually. Some counties remain dry even today. It took companies some years after prohibition to feel comfortable enough to even promote their product.</p><p>Wendschuh says for the first several years after prohibition, bootlegging was big and the black market thrived.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course it was cheaper than buying alcohol at a licensed facility. But hey look right now. If you wanted to go buy bootleg alcohol could you even find it? I don&rsquo;t know where you would find it,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He says eventually the alcohol industry became less taboo. People wanted to buy from a reputable source rather than a cheaper, criminal operation. Product pricing evened out and financing was easier.</p><p>Wendschuh believes the cannabis industry isn&rsquo;t far from seeing relaxation of federal regulations, and marijuana could follow the path of alcohol.</p><p><em>Susie An is WBEZ&rsquo;s business reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 07:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-begins-accepting-applications-marijuana-businesses-110764 Englewood girls learn how to restore furniture, and their community http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-girls-learn-how-restore-furniture-and-their-community-110759 <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/furniture%20thumb.jpg" title="Jamika Smith is the founder of Teena’s Legacy, a furniture reupholstery apprenticeship program named for her grandmother. (Courtesy of Jamika Smith)" /></div><p>Four young women are in an airy living room in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. They are learning how to reupholster second-hand furniture. As the sound of a stapler echoes throughout the home, one is pulling them out from a worn chair.</p><p>Across the room Laquisha Clinton refurbishes a foot stool. She picked out some fabric the color of regal purple.</p><p>&ldquo;It shows my gratitude and attitude toward fashion,&rdquo; Clinton said.</p><p>Jamika Smith is trying to teach a trade that she hopes will lead to self discovery for a group of Englewood girls. There&rsquo;s a lot of talk about the high youth unemployment rate in Chicago. For black youth, the figure is close to 90 percent. But girls are sometimes left out of the conversation.</p><p>Smith first learned how to restore furniture from her grandmother Miss Teena. As a teen, she didn&rsquo;t always appreciate her grandmother&rsquo;s skills. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I did not,&rdquo; Smith said laughing. &ldquo;But she used to have my brother and I garbage dump. Go down alleys and pick up dressers and chairs and things to that nature so it was kind of embarrassing.&rdquo;</p><p>But the garbage dump isn&rsquo;t so bad now. That&rsquo;s where she finds pieces for the girls in her apprentice group. She calls it <a href="https://www.facebook.com/teenalegacy">Teena&rsquo;s Legacy</a> in honor of her late grandmother.</p><p>Smith said learning a trade is important but she has bigger aspirations for these girls.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s more of how these young women find out who they are as individuals, finding out what is their style. Finding out what do they like and what kind of woman to they aspire to be.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/furniture%20inset.jpg" style="height: 444px; width: 250px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Laquisha Clinton refurbishes a foot stool as part of Teena’s Legacy. (Natalie Moore/WBEZ)" />For Smith, repairing furniture is a metaphor.</p><p>&ldquo;The whole concept is you have this chair that needs restoring and reviving and there may be something in your life that needs restoring and reviving, too.&rdquo;</p><p>All the girls are from Englewood, a neighborhood rocked by high unemployment and poverty with few activities for youth.</p><p>&ldquo;I probably would be outside with my friends all summer on the streets even though I know the streets can be dangerous,&rdquo; said 17-year old Jannie Ross. She&rsquo;s wearing a Cleveland Browns football jersey as she puts the final touches on a cotton candy colored chair. She painted it pink and added fake fur.</p><p>&ldquo;Fluffy is just like my personality. Bubbly. The pink feels sympathy for me. Because I have a lot of sympathy for some people I know going through a lot of stuff like I am,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Now Jannie&rsquo;s adding rhinestones. The blinged-out chair looks like it belongs in a Las Vegas hotel.</p><p>Teena&rsquo;s Legacy is a pilot summer program. Smith wants to raise more money to work with more girls throughout the year.</p><p>Smith said her young charges may not go into the furniture business full time. She hasn&rsquo;t. But knowing a trade gives them a chance to earn a little money on the side.</p><p>&ldquo;At the end of the day it&rsquo;s important that we invest in our women because they are powerful and they do have influence,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>Take Shawtiana Clinton, for example. She took an &ldquo;ugly brown chair,&rdquo; as she describes it, and put a new pattern on it.</p><p>&ldquo;I picked cheetah because it&rsquo;s powerful.&rdquo;</p><p>Shawtiana said that print now makes her feel powerful.</p><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;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> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-girls-learn-how-restore-furniture-and-their-community-110759 Two neighboring states, one big financial gap http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 <p><p>George Brown of Valparaiso, Indiana, works for a steel mill these days, but at one time, his main gig was construction &mdash; across the state border in Chicago. The commute and that &ldquo;living in both worlds&rdquo; familiarity didn&rsquo;t prevent him from noting differences between the two states. Among them: The differing fortunes of state government.</p><p>He had picked up details here and there about how Illinois owed money (the state comptroller recently said Illinois has more than $5 billion in unpaid bills), how the Prairie State was hounded by bills coming down the pike (it has approximately $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities), and how it has the worst credit rating among U.S. states.</p><p>On the other hand, just a few years ago, Indiana&rsquo;s coffers were so flush that it returned money to state taxpayers.</p><p>The night-and-day financial picture between the neighboring states got him wondering enough that he sent us this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why does the state of Illinois have a huge deficit, while next door Indiana has a surplus?</em></p><p>George&rsquo;s question couldn&rsquo;t come at a better time. Voters on the Illinois side of the border are deciding between candidates for governor, either of which is certain to confront some hard fiscal realities. The contest between the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Pat Quinn, and Republican Bruce Rauner is odd, though, in that there&rsquo;s a phantom player in the mix, too: Mitch Daniels, Indiana&rsquo;s former governor of Indiana.</p><p>Rightly or wrongly, Daniels is credited with cutting Indiana&rsquo;s budget and making the state&rsquo;s finances the envy of Illinois as well as the rest of the nation. Quinn pushes back on some of Daniels&rsquo; key tenets, while Rauner says he wants to emulate what Daniels did.</p><p>Regardless of where you fall on whether any state at all should follow &ldquo;the Daniels playbook,&rdquo; it is worth looking at what happened during his watch.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Daniels&rsquo; account of how the Hoosier State did it</span></p><p>After an eight-year term, Daniels left the governor&rsquo;s office in 2013. He&rsquo;s now president of Purdue University in West Lafayette. He rarely talks politics now, but after hearing George&rsquo;s question, he was happy to revisit his tenure as governor, especially as it relates to Illinois&rsquo; financial mess.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard not to notice, I mean it&rsquo;s national news the trouble you folks have had,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;They asked me what it was like and I said it&rsquo;s sort of like living right next door to&nbsp;<em>The Simpsons</em>, you know. Dysfunctional family on the block and we&rsquo;re looking in the window.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Daniels purdue shot..jpg" title="Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature at the Statehouse Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)" /></div><p>As Daniels tells it, things were bad for Indiana as he entered office nearly a decade ago.</p><p>&ldquo;The state was absolutely, by a literal definition, bankrupt,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So, it had bills much bigger than whatever cash it had on hand. We said this has to end and I want to do it as fast as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>On his first day as governor in 2005, Daniels did something that is unimaginable in Illinois: He stripped bargaining rights for all state union employees.</p><p>&ldquo;These union agreements wouldn&rsquo;t let you change anything,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t consolidate departments; you couldn&rsquo;t divide departments or reorganize them. You certainly couldn&rsquo;t outsource anything if you thought you could get it better and cheaper by hiring Hoosiers in the private sector. So, I finally decided that we simply had to cut clean.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indiana icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Indiana." /></p><p>But Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics in Fort Wayne, says it&rsquo;s uncertain how effective Daniel&rsquo;s move was in shoring up the state&rsquo;s bottom line.</p><p>&ldquo;Some would argue that when the unions had less ability to bargain, it made it easier for the governor to get some things done,&rdquo; Downs said. &ldquo;But given (Daniels&rsquo;) personality, I don&rsquo;t know if that would have been the sort of thing that held him back a whole lot. I think it had more to do with his approach to economics: The freer the trade, the better.&rdquo;</p><p>Daniels didn&rsquo;t stop with state union employees.</p><p>A few years later, he signed a bill to make Indiana the Midwest&rsquo;s first right-to-work state. The policy changed workers&rsquo; relationship to private employers; new employees were no longer required to pay union dues at workplaces governed by union contracts. It effectively weakened unions&rsquo; standing in the state. Indiana&rsquo;s GOP argues the move attracted business to the state and that, in turn, boosted state revenue.</p><p>Daniels also pushed through a cap on local property taxes across the state. The cap limits the amount of taxes local communities can collect from a homeowner at one percent of a home&rsquo;s assessed value. Proponents say that&rsquo;s lead to robust home sales and &mdash; again, the argument goes &mdash; puts money back into the state&rsquo;s coffers.</p><p>If you hear Daniels and other supporters tell it, these policies created enough fiscal momentum that a few years ago the state sent $100 checks to each Indiana taxpayer. The state currently has a $2 billion stockpile, which it&rsquo;s likely to hold onto this time around.</p><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/stillinoyed billboard image2.jpg" title="An example of a Stillinoyed campaign billboard designed to highlight Indiana's business opportunities. (Source: Economic Development Corporation, Indiana)" /></div></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The fallout</span></p><p>If you&rsquo;ve driven through the Chicago area, perhaps you&rsquo;ve seen billboards along expressways that read <a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">&ldquo;Illinnoyed by high taxes?&rdquo;</a> That advertising campaign (<a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">conducted by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation</a>) lures city residents and businesses to cross from Illinois to Indiana.</p><p>Michael Lucci says those ads &mdash; or at least the argument driving them &mdash; works on plenty of Illinois residents. Lucci is the Director of Jobs and Growth at the conservative Illinois Policy Institute. He estimates that Illinois has lost more than 100,000 residents to Indiana over the last decade.</p><p>&ldquo;It does hurt Illinois that we have such a business-friendly neighbor right next door because the people in Chicago can look east 30 miles and say &lsquo;Look, there are jobs there, there are opportunities there and I can move there and still be close to my family,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lucci said.</p><p>But not everyone sees Daniels&rsquo; bumper crop budget as an achievement. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn isn&rsquo;t willing to stomach Daniels&rsquo; sacrifice of collective bargaining rights.</p><p>Earlier this year, the incumbent governor told a union-heavy crowd that he believes in collective bargaining.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s the best way to go and I look forward to working with you on it,&rdquo; Quinn said during an April debate in Chicago. The governor has argued that strong unions improve state residents&rsquo; income and quality of life.</p><p>Some in Indiana see a darker side to the budget surplus too. Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is among them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/illinois icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Illinois." /></p><p>&ldquo;We do have $2 billion in the bank and we are in a much better position in Indiana than they are fiscally in Illinois, but at the same time, I think Illinois streets might be in better shape than our streets right now,&rdquo; McDermott said. &ldquo;I think Illinois is providing better services during crisis than we are because they have more tools available. It cuts both ways.&rdquo;</p><p>McDermott, a Democrat, said that last winter the state did a poor job dealing with the snow and ice that shut down several Indiana highways. (Notably, according to the most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, both Indiana and Illinois received a &ldquo;D+&rdquo; in infrastructure spending.)</p><p>McDermott&rsquo;s point is this: What&rsquo;s the use of a surplus if some basic services aren&rsquo;t being met?</p><p>&ldquo;We could expand the affordable healthcare act [ACA] in Indiana right now and insure hundreds of thousands of additional Hoosiers but they just refuse to do so even though there is 2 billion dollars in the bank, those hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers don&rsquo;t deserve health care like people in Illinois do,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Does Illinois have a chance of turning things around?</span></p><p>Of all people, Daniels is among those who say &ldquo;yes.&rdquo; Of course, it&rsquo;s no surprise that he recommends Illinois gubernatorial candidates Quinn or Rauner wrangle with public sector unions, pay more bills on time and slash spending. But the architect of Indiana&rsquo;s brand of fiscal conservatism also says Illinois can draw from its own good ideas. And he ought to know: He stole a few of them.</p><p>After <a href="http://tollroadsnews.com/news/chicago-skyway-handed-over-to-cintra-macquarie-after-wiring-1830m" target="_blank">Chicago leased its public Skyway to a private operation</a>, Daniels did the same thing for the Indiana Toll Road.</p><p>And then there was the program to let delinquent taxpayers pay with no penalty.</p><p>&ldquo;I got the legislature to conduct a tax amnesty,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;Indiana never had one. Many other states have, including Illinois. I can remember citing Illinois. It&rsquo;s kind of ironic now thinking back. I was saying then, &lsquo;Hey look, they had a successful program.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&#39;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 Chicago's urban farms have yet to harvest sustainable jobs, better health http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 <p><p>On a recent hot summer day on the city&rsquo;s South Side a group of farmers and reporters gathered to tour a new two-acre farm enjoying its first harvest in the shadow of the old Robert Taylor Homes.</p><p>Safia Rashid is growing a diverse crop of kale, chard, tomatoes, onion, zucchini and several peppers in hopes of selling the produce to the local Women Infant and Children feeding program.</p><p>She&#39;s one of the new agriculture entrepreneurs benefiting from a $750 thousand, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It&rsquo;s aimed at putting graduates of The Botanic Garden&#39;s Windy City Harvest training program on track to start their own small farming businesses. &nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s urban farming movement has always held out the promise of sustainable employment. But more than a decade after it first took root, why aren&rsquo;t there more well-paying jobs? &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Thats not realistic,&rdquo; says Angela Mason the director of Botanic&rsquo;s Windy City Harvest, which trains ex-offenders in agricultural skills as a path toward employment. &ldquo;Our intention in launching the incubator program, and what most family farms do now, is [provide] supplemental income. It&rsquo;s not their only income. A lot of people romanticize farming but that&rsquo;s very challenging in this day and age. We don&rsquo;t support local food in a way that makes it economically viable for a person to go out and only farm for a living.&rdquo;</p><p>The fact is, most of these programs can&rsquo;t survive without outside funding.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much more you need to do than put fresh produce in a grocery store,&rdquo; Mason says. &ldquo;To get people interested in even buying the produce, you need to get people excited about it and learning how to prepare food with it. There are &nbsp;a lot of people who&rsquo;ve never seen kale grow or seen Swiss chard grow and don&rsquo;t know what to do with it.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Indeed, lack of demand and knowledge about what to do with the produce still hampers sales in these communities. In the produce business margins are slim and product that doesn&rsquo;t move can go bad very quickly. Even one of the nation&rsquo;s biggest retailers has run into snags.</p><p>At a White House meeting in 2011, Walgreens promised to build 50 &ldquo;food oasis&rdquo; stores in Chicago by summer 2013. &nbsp;By July 2014, the retailer had only installed fresh produce in 26 local food desert stores, according to Crain&#39;s Chicago. In the last month, however, the store finally met its original goal, according to a Walgreens spokesman.</p><p>Smaller projects have also run into problems. The much praised Farmers Best Market in Bronzeville opened in 2008 but was closed within a year. The Englewood Farmers Market on 63rd called it quits after a few tough seasons. And, last summer, the Fresh Moves buses that brought fresh produce markets to the people <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608">turned off their engines indefinitely</a>.</p><p>So why has it been so hard to successfully sell produce in Chicago&rsquo;s food deserts? Mari Gallagher is a researcher who specializes in food access.</p><p>&ldquo;You can have a great idea and you can put your whole heart into it, but you still have to figure out how to make it viable,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So there are lots of different reasons why some of these programs fail. But unfortunately, because people feel so closely tied to these outcomes, it&rsquo;s hard to get at the truth [to analyze what lessons can be learned].&rdquo;</p><p>Although they rarely speak about it on the record, several urban ag experts across the city confided that the demand for full-priced, high quality produce isn&rsquo;t strong enough to support the businesses that sell it. As Whole Foods prepares to open its Englewood store in 2016, it&rsquo;s counting on building that demand. But today, observers say, it&rsquo;s just not there.</p><p>So does that mean inner city farmers markets, mobile produce programs and viable urban farming jobs are doomed for now?</p><p>&ldquo;When we talk about [greening] the food desert we&rsquo;re really trying to keep costs down and quality high and that&rsquo;s tricky,&rdquo; Gallagher says. &ldquo;But I wouldn&rsquo;t write off any of these options. I would say that the market conditions need to be right and the operators need to be very, very good on a number of fronts to pull it off successfully.&rdquo;</p><p>One of the only urban farmers who seems to have figured it out, is the the tall, lanky and perpetually muddy Ken Dunn. The founder of the Resource Center and City Farm has practiced urban ag in Chicago for more than 40 years. The philosophy PhD also operates what he says are four profitable farms in Englewood.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to start with what has always been the food cycle,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We have a process where food scraps go back to the production of the next crop. We&rsquo;ve tapped into selling two-thirds of our crop to high-end restaurants, picking up the food scraps from all of their product and turning them into compost to bring back to the field.&rdquo;</p><p>Got that? First Dunn sells his vegetables to fancy restaurants. Then the restaurants give him back food scraps which are used to make compost. This ultra-rich growing medium, he says, produces 10 easy crops a year, and food so tasty that restaurants are happy to pay his high prices. And these premium prices, Dunn says, make it possible to pay a living wage, and sell cheaper veggies from kiosks on the farm.</p><p>Dunn believes this model could expand up to three times and still not saturate the high end restaurant market. But he hopes that by the time we reach that saturation, there will be other funding models in place.</p><p>His dream is for municipalities to recognizes the larger public benefits of urban ag on crime, health and education and to fund them as part of local budgets. These less tangible benefits are part of the reason Safia Rashid is out working on her quarter-acre plot nearly every day. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When the children are eating properly, guess what happens?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;The violence goes down. So if we continue to feed them whole foods without the pesticides and GMOs, we will continue to see real change in our community. So it&rsquo;s just really that simple.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DJ%20Cavem.jpeg" style="float: left; width: 161px; height: 206px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="DJ Cavem travels the country preaching the gospel of organic urban farming to inner city youth. (Photo Courtesy of DJ Cavem)" />While Dunn sells mostly to restaurants and Rashid hopes to sell to WIC, DJ Cavem has a different plan. &nbsp;He wants to grow food<em> in</em> the community<em> for</em> the community. He&rsquo;s a rapper, educator, midwife and urban farm advocate based in Denver. He stopped in Chicago earlier this year to spread his gospel of home grown organic produce for all.</p><p>&ldquo;The same way gangsta rap promotes drug dealing, I am an environmental hip hop artist, eco hip hop artist who promotes gardening,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have been teaching for 11 years now. I teach young people how to grow food, how to prepare the food, how to create a green job. I&rsquo;m setting up gardens in inner city communities and showing people how to keep the nutrition in their food.&rdquo;</p><p>He says that urban youth have largely lost touch with their grandparents&#39; food and growing skills. Still, he knows that history can cut both ways.</p><p>&ldquo;Because of slavery and Jim Crow, a lot of inner city African Americans do not want to talk to young people about growing food,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They really think that &nbsp;going to the grocery store is the best for them. And they felt that they were forced to have to do this work. So there is that neglect of young people having access to the inter-generational dialogue that needs to happen around food preparation.&rdquo;</p><p>DJ Cavem&rsquo;s goals may be lofty, but he claims his message can reach these young people. Last year he got a whole summer camp of urban youths to remix the popular ode to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YLy4j8EZIk">&ldquo;Hot Cheetos and Takis.&quot;</a> They dubbed their version <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO3zE2XqEUo">&ldquo;Brown Rice and Broccoli.&rdquo;</a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/MO3zE2XqEUo?rel=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;You can watch the video on YouTube and Tweet it and let your friends know that that&rsquo;s what young people really want: Healthy food, foods that are fresher than the shoes on their feet.&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Between Dunn&rsquo;s decades of urban ag experience and DJ Cavem&rsquo;s youth-friendly message, there may come a time when produce from urban farms will not only nourish local residents but also grow their bank accounts.</p><p>Beginner farmer Rashid certainly hopes so. Despite her optimism for her newfound occupation, she knows she&rsquo;s got a tough row to hoe.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a lot to cover,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Especially in my case since I don&rsquo;t have a business partner. It&rsquo;s a lot to do alone. But I know that things are gonna change.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p><em>WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore contributed to this story. </em></p><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 Why does South Shore still not have a grocery store? http://www.wbez.org/news/why-does-south-shore-still-not-have-grocery-store-110699 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/South Shore grocery thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The hallmarks of urban retail saturate East 71st Street: beauty supply, dollar, cell phone and gym shoe stores.</p><p>But most noticeable is the 65,000 sq. ft. vacant space in a strip mall at 71st and Jeffrey Boulevard. On the outside, it looks like someone rubbed the beige building with an eraser &ndash; the faded Dominick&rsquo;s lettering the only hint this used to be a bustling grocery store.</p><p>Last December, the grocery chain Dominick&rsquo;s closed all of its doors, including 13 in Chicago. All of the vacant stores found a new grocer to fill the space &ndash; except the one at 71st and Jeffrey Boulevard in the predominantly black South Shore neighborhood. Now residents there wonder why they&rsquo;re being left out.</p><p>More than eight months after it closed, South Shore residents say all they want is a proper supermarket to take its place. Not another discount or liquor store that sells food on the side.</p><p>&ldquo;Food is the common denominator. How we break bread, how we sustain ourselves so it&rsquo;s a great metaphor. Everyone has to eat,&rdquo; said resident Anton Seals.</p><p>Seals said residents should be able to do that in their own neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Part of the angst that people feel is that we are tired of leaving our community; thus leaking the dollars, not helping where we are.&rdquo;</p><p>Val Free, president of The Planning Coalition, a local community group, agrees.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Dominick&rsquo;s closing brought the community together. And that&rsquo;s a win-win. And we&rsquo;re going to get the grocery we want. The kind of grocery store we want,&rdquo; Free said.</p><p>South Shore organizers are taking steps to make sure that happens. They&rsquo;ve hosted several community meetings, circulated a survey and met with city officials.&nbsp; In some ways their fight for a grocery store is part of a larger struggle playing out across the city. The intersection of race and retail often leaves African-American consumers short on access to goods and services. Even basic ones like where to shop for dinner.</p><p>This is especially true on the South Side where many neighborhoods, regardless of income, are food deserts. Juxtapose this with some areas on the North Side awash in grocery stores. Recently, residents of Wicker Park <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140710/wicker-park/wicker-park-trader-joes-plan-dead-after-grocer-pulls-out" target="_blank">rejected a new Trader Joe&rsquo;s due to traffic concerns</a>.</p><p>Over the past decade, more grocery stores have opened in Chicago overall. But many on the South and West Sides feel left out when their only nearby food options are discount chains.</p><p>&ldquo;On the South Side of Chicago in general, we experience retail redlining. There&rsquo;s a certain kind of marketing. When we talk about institutional racism, it&rsquo;s the dismissal of communities that have income and that expendable income,&rdquo; Seals said.</p><p>South Shore is a dense, truly mixed-income neighborhood. Mansions and multi-unit apartment complexes share alleys. The community has a median income of $28,000 but there are thousands of households earning more than $75,000.</p><p>Seals said the kind of grocery store matters too.</p><p>&ldquo;We definitely didn&rsquo;t want what&rsquo;s considered low-end grocer like a Save A Lot or Food for Less in South Shore because we also wanted the new store to be a kind of catalyst for the economic resurgence we need.&rdquo;</p><p>Mari Gallagher is a researcher and expert on food access issues and said South Shore has really been a misunderstood market for a long time.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of buying power in South Shore. And I know from the research and I know&nbsp; anecdotally people who live in South Shore who go all the way down to Roosevelt Road or Hyde Park to do their shopping. There&rsquo;s a lot of leakage, money leaving these neighborhoods,&rdquo; Gallagher said.</p><p>She said black Chicago has long struggled to nab quality retail. Billions of dollars leave the community each year and are spent in other neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;And it&rsquo;s not necessarily because they can&rsquo;t support it as a consumer base and certainly people do eat as part of the human condition,&rdquo; Gallagher said.</p><p><a href="http://www.targetmarketnews.com/" target="_blank">Target Market News</a> is a consumer research group that tracks black spending and found that black households traditionally outspend whites and Latinos on fruits and vegetables and items that have to be cooked to be eaten. In the Chicago area they spend approximately $240 million on fresh produce annually.</p><p>&ldquo;So why do certain neighborhoods have quality grocery stores and other neighborhoods have none or just very very few, perhaps one?&rdquo; Gallagher said, adding that changes in the grocery industry perpetuate this gap.</p><p>&ldquo;That was the case when Jewel and Save A Lot were corporate siblings and the parent company decided well, we really can&rsquo;t have a Jewel in every neighborhood. So instead we&rsquo;ve put Save A Lots in those neighborhoods. There were those kind of changes and people misunderstand the African-American market.&rdquo;</p><p>Some retailers are beginning to get the message.</p><p>Mariano&rsquo;s is set to open in Bronzeville, a neighborhood long starved for better grocery options. The fast-growing chain also announced plans to open at 87th and South Shore Drive. The site is across from a lucrative development in the works on the former steel mills site. Meanwhile, Whole Foods is experimenting nationally by building in low-income areas. This summer they broke ground for a store in Englewood.</p><p>Meanwhile, back in South Shore they&rsquo;re still waiting.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think you can take race out of the equation. Not just for the grocery business but just for commercial real estate in general,&rdquo; said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th.)</p><p>Hairston said she&rsquo;s in conversation with other stores and is open to a grocer bypassing 71st Street for another South Shore location.</p><p>But she&rsquo;s also not giving up on the former Dominick&rsquo;s space. Although it&rsquo;s empty, the lease runs until 2015. The owner of the property is Shirven Mateen. He lives in Los Angeles and declined to be interviewed.</p><p>Hairston is in communication with him. She said she even flew to L.A. to meet with him &ndash; but it didn&rsquo;t happen.</p><p>&ldquo;From what I&rsquo;m understanding what they are looking for in the price per square foot exceeds, is about 40 percent higher than what the market will bear so that in fact is an impediment,&rdquo; Hairston.</p><p>So the alderman is trying to reach the absentee landlord through moral appeals.</p><p>&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t control the economy. What has happened has happened, but you are located in a community that needs to have a grocery store. You&rsquo;re the vessel for that and we basically need you to do the right thing. We understand the business component of it but I need you to understand the human component of it,&rdquo; Hairston said.</p><p>Just last week, Hairston finally got what she&rsquo;d been asking for. She gave Bob Mariano, CEO of the grocery chain, a tour of her ward to view potential sites. No word yet if anything will be built, but one thing&rsquo;s for sure, the CEO didn&rsquo;t like the 71st Street location.</p><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>, <a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em>.</p><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/why-does-south-shore-still-not-have-grocery-store-110699 Chicago's shifting grocery landscape mirrors changing city economics http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-shifting-grocery-landscape-mirrors-changing-city-economics-110695 <p><p>Once upon a time Jewel and Dominick&rsquo;s ruled the grocery game in Chicago with more stores than any other chain.</p><p>Now, Jewel, under its third new owner in 14 years, is facing stiff competition. And Dominick&rsquo;s? It doesn&rsquo;t exist anymore.</p><p>Today the most ubiquitous chain is a discount grocer that actually grew during the recent recession, attracting everyone from traditional discount shoppers to hipsters to middle-class families.</p><p>Aldi.</p><p>With 36 stores in Chicago alone, we wanted to understand what this says about Chicago&rsquo;s changing grocery store landscape and the shoppers who fill their carts.</p><p>To see what goes into Aldi&rsquo;s &ldquo;secret sauce,&rdquo; we took a trip to the chain&rsquo;s U.S. headquarters in west suburban Batavia.</p><p>Officials led us into a huge white industrial kitchen with tables full of various products. Aldi&rsquo;s main ingredient for success is its use of mostly in-house labels to keep prices down. No Betty Crocker or Cheerios here. But that only works if customers think those brands hold up to the national brands.</p><p>Like their national buyers do, we conducted blind taste testing with national brands and the Aldi brands. We sipped orange juice and Riesling, munched on blueberry muffins and party cheese, sampled yogurt and guacamole. In most instances, we could barely detect a difference between the national brand and Aldi&rsquo;s. Except of course, in price. The Aldi brand orange juice we tried cost 32 percent less.</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/alditestkitchen.jpg" title="Aldi's test kitchen in the west suburb of Batavia. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>The grocery business is super competitive. Profit margins are in the low single digits. So Aldi&rsquo;s other recipe for keeping costs down can be found in the stores themselves. Aldi stores occupy a smaller footprint than other big supermarket chains. You might almost miss it if you&rsquo;re driving by.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no music, no frills. Customers pay a deposit to use the shopping carts. Grocery bags aren&rsquo;t free. Everything is calibrated to be as efficient as possible.</p><p>&ldquo;For example when we look at the product in the store, you can notice it&rsquo;s all stocked in cases. If I didn&rsquo;t point that out, you may not notice it,&rdquo; said Aldi vice president Scott Patton.</p><p>&ldquo;They match the label of the product. They&rsquo;re the same color scheme. It has the brand on it. So we&rsquo;ve made the case and the box an extension of the product, which we can now stock eight to ten units of potato chips in two or three seconds versus unit by unit.&rdquo;</p><p>The rise of a low-end grocer like Aldi isn&rsquo;t the only trend worth noting. More upscale chains like Whole Foods have also seen serious growth. In 2001, there were three in Chicago. Today there are six. And that doesn&rsquo;t include the former Dominick&rsquo;s spaces the organic chain is snapping up.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/tOq67/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe></p><p>We looked at the data for major Chicago grocery stores since 2001. In addition to Aldi and Whole Foods we tracked the numbers for Jewel, Trader Joe&rsquo;s, Mariano&rsquo;s, Pete&rsquo;s, Tony&rsquo;s, Save a Lot, and Food for Less.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#map"><strong><span style="font-size:16px;">Map: Tracking Chicago&#39;s shifting grocery stores</span></strong></a></p></blockquote><p>Ken Perkins, an analyst for Morningstar, said in some ways changes in the industry reflect changes in the city.</p><p>&ldquo;As the economy has really been difficult you&rsquo;ve seen people on the low end shift to discounters and a lot of people who are willing to pay for premium for in store experience and quality food. I think that polarization is what you&rsquo;ve seen not only in Chicago but across the country,&rdquo; Perkins said.</p><p>University of Illinois at Chicago researchers <a href="http://voorheescenter.wix.com/home#!neighborhood-change-project-/cjew">found much the same thing when they looked at income gaps in Chicago</a>. Higher-income households have increased -- so have lower-income households. But those in the middle have shrunk. Not unlike Jewel and Dominick&#39;s, the middle-of-the-road grocers that served them.</p><p>Food and retail researcher Mari Gallagher has a few theories about what happened to those grocers.</p><p>&ldquo;It used to be that the middle-market was about 30,000 sq ft. It was pretty ubiquitous in different neighborhoods. It might look a little different in Lake Forest than in it did in Roseland, a Chicago neighborhood for example. But it pretty much offered the same kind of cookie cutter thing and then stores got much bigger and as stores got bigger they tried to go a little bit upscale and they struggled with are we an upscale bigger store or are we a middle-market store. So they lost a bit of their identity,&rdquo; Gallagher said.</p><p>She also noted other players have grabbed a big chunk of the grocery business, such as gas stations, mini marts, dollar stores and big-box retailers like Walmart and Costco.</p><p>But customer taste has changed, too. Organic is more popular and, for some, pushing a cart around a grocery store became more of an experience than a chore.</p><p>&ldquo;We see more and more customers now even those customers with means shopping at multiple stores,&rdquo; Gallagher said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not so uncommon for thrifty shopper to go to Aldi or Save A Lot for staples or key items and then go to speciality stores or high-end stores for organic produce. They might go to Whole Foods and Aldi&rsquo;s and two or three other stores.&rdquo;</p><p>Increasingly, that includes Mariano&rsquo;s. The fast-growing chain appears to be reinventing the middle-market grocery store. The stores aren&rsquo;t super premium, but there&rsquo;s also a focus on hospitality. The workers wear black ties, there&rsquo;s a wine bar, and on the weekends somebody playing a grand piano.</p><p>It&rsquo;s CEO, Bob Mariano, once worked for Dominick&rsquo;s. In fact, old man Dominick was his mentor. Company officials declined an interview on its strategy, but a few months ago the CEO spoke at a press conference to announce that a Mariano&rsquo;s was coming to Bronzeville. That neighborhood is a food desert and residents were excited by the idea of having a real grocery store.</p><p>After a round of applause, Mariano said: &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a lot of pressure because I&rsquo;m just a grocer. People sometimes ask me what do I do for pleasure, what&rsquo;s my hobbies? I tell them I don&rsquo;t golf, I don&rsquo;t sail. I just open grocery stores.&rdquo;</p><p>Three years ago there were no Mariano&rsquo;s in the city. Today there are 10 with more opening up all the time.</p><p>In Chicago today there are more grocery stores overall than there were a decade ago. But not everyone is sharing in this abundance. There are still large parts of the South and West Sides that are left out.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-does-south-shore-still-not-have-grocery-store-110699">Part two of our series The Check-Out Line</a>, will explore whether race plays a role in determining where grocery stores are built.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Map: Tracking Chicago&#39;s shifting grocery stores<a name="map"></a></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="660" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/checkout-line/" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><strong><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></em></strong><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow Monica at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em>&nbsp;<em>or write to her at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0">Natalie Moore</a></em>&nbsp;<em>is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side bureau reporter.</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a> Follow Natalie on</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="https://plus.google.com/104033432051539426343">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-shifting-grocery-landscape-mirrors-changing-city-economics-110695 Global Activism: 'The Mustard Seed' Fair Trade shop is transforming lives http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-mustard-seed-fair-trade-shop-transforming-lives-110683 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA Mustard Seed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-7b5392bd-f92b-6cd4-778d-f28929d6d597">Judy Kohl grew up in a missionary family in Belgian Congo. When the Belgians were overthrown, her family was forced to flee to Kenya, where she spent much of her childhood. Those times developed Judy&rsquo;s sense of social justice and giving back. She eventually created The Mustard Seed, a fair trade shop in Lake Forest, IL. They say they&rsquo;re &ldquo;committed to donating its profits to organizations that help empower women and children,&rdquo; especially those stricken with HIV/AIDS. Judy will tell us about the importance of fair trade and how witnessing history as a child changed her life.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/164166396&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Judy tells us about her life&#39;s journey, which had an extraordinary beginning:</em></p><p>&quot;Just 8 months old when I arrived in the Belgian Congo, I had no idea the journey my life would take over the next five decades. As the daughter of missionaries to Africa, cross-cultural thinking became part of my DNA as I experienced from a young age what it was to live in a global context. Growing up in this environment, my parents and other missionaries modeled selfless love as they cared for those around them. As we fled the Congo in 1964 during the uprising that led to independence, it was with mixed emotions. We had no choice but to leave because of the advancing Rebels, but our hearts remained with those who had become like family. Relationships were a high value within our family culture.</p><p>Fast forward to the present - I&rsquo;m still passionate about giving back to those less fortunate. Though I live on the North Shore, decisions I make on how I spend my time and my money can literally change the lives of a community halfway across the world. Serving with other volunteers at The Mustard Seed - A Fair Trade Shop, we are committed to partnering with cooperatives and artisans in developing countries to provide a market for their creations while paying them a fair price. We also donate our profits to organizations that help empower women and children both domestically and internationally. Each of these ways enable others to make a sustainable living and emerge from poverty. It is still all about relationships. By having a world view, we can continue to change the lives of people we will never even meet - and that is the whole point.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-mustard-seed-fair-trade-shop-transforming-lives-110683