An Open Letter To CHA

November 22, 2002

Mr. Terry Peterson, Chief Executive Officer Board of Commissioners Chicago Housing Authority 626 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60661

Dear Mr. Peterson and Commissioners:

I am writing to request that the Chicago Housing Authority make public the reports submitted by the independent monitor of the relocation process, Thomas Sullivan.

Under the CHA’s Plan for Transformation, more than 15,000 families will be relocated; some several times. The process is far advanced, and the pace is accelerating. This year roughly 700 families were relocated; next year some 1,600 families are scheduled to be relocated. These moves have profound implications for individuals and for families, for public housing communities undergoing relocation and for neighborhoods to which CHA tenants are moving.

The Relocation Rights Contract governing the relationship between the CHA and tenants provides for monitoring of the relocation process. It does not specify how that function is to be performed. The CHA and the Central Advisory Council (CAC), the city-wide assembly of elected resident leaders, negotiated an agreement to contract with an independent monitor for the purpose of conducting an inquiry into the relocation process and making recommendations as to how it might be improved. Mr. Sullivan of the law firm Jenner & Block was selected to perform this function. A highly respected lawyer and former U. S. Attorney, Mr. Sullivan is a figure of unimpeachable integrity, competence, and independence. Working with several colleagues, he has conducted a wide-ranging investigation–observing every aspect of the relocation process and conducting interviews with residents, CHA staff, service providers, property managers, developers, and other participants in the process. Mr. Sullivan has submitted four reports and is preparing a final report.

The CHA would make a major contribution to the quality of public discourse about the Plan for Transformation by making available Mr. Sullivan’s reports.

I work at the Stateway Gardens development. Over the past year, five high-rises have been emptied at Stateway; three have been torn down; two are currently being demolished. When Stateway residents have raised concerns about the relocation process, the CHA has been responsive. On several occasions, Mr. Peterson, you have come to the development yourself to observe conditions on the ground. And members of your staff have worked closely with resident leaders to improve the relocation process.

It is in the spirit of this ongoing dialogue that I urge you to make public the reports of the independent monitor. By releasing Mr. Sullivan’s recommendations, the CHA would provide the basis for informed discussion that would deepen public understanding, enforce accountability on the various parties involved, and nourish possibilities for innovation.

Releasing the reports would also be prudent practical politics. By one avenue or another, they will eventually find their way into the public forum. It would be far more constructive, if they were made public by the CHA.

Finally, release of the reports would make it possible to assess the monitoring process itself. Has it served its intended purpose? In view of the fact that Mr. Sullivan’s contract runs only to the end of this year and the CHA is obligated to continue to provide for monitoring, how might this function best be performed in the future?

The View From The Ground began publication in the spring of 2001, as the relocation process was gathering momentum. The closing words of the first piece posted on The View seem even more relevant today:

Hope is a strenuous discipline. It demands that we acknowledge the history of abandonment that created present conditions and that we openly confront present realities. In the end, the greatest danger posed by our impoverished discourse about public housing is that we will fail to see and so will waste opportunities for humane, pragmatic strategies that are well within our reach.

Release of the Sullivan reports would be an act of civic statesmanship at a critical moment in the “transformation” of public housing.

Sincerely yours,

Jamie Kalven

The Fall Of The Kingdom

There is widespread concern about the quality of information available to residents living in public housing communities undergoing relocation, demolition, and redevelopment. This concern is shared by the Chicago Housing Authority, resident leaders, and housing advocates.

What do residents know about the CHA’s “Plan for Transformation”? On the basis of our experience at Stateway Gardens, it is possible for residents to be at once uninformed and deeply knowledgeable.

Consider the question that has been asked again and again by CHA residents at community meetings convened for the purpose of presenting the Plan for Transformation—a plan under which thus far more than half of the family public housing units in the city have been demolished and scarcely any new housing has been built. The question takes a somewhat different form depending on where the meeting is held. On the West Side, residents ask, “When the Bulls built the United Center, they continued to play in the old Stadium until the new stadium was ready. Why is this different?” On the South Side, they ask, “When the White Sox built the new Comiskey Park, they continued to play in the old Comiskey Park until the new park was ready. Why is this different?”

Consider what residents living in communities being “transformed” see from their windows and what they hear as they go about their days. This slide show evokes the latter stages of the demolition last spring of 3517-19 South Federal—a building known as “The Kingdom”—as seen and heard by residents living in 3547-49 South Federal, a building now empty and being prepared for demolition later this fall.

Plans are in progress for the redevelopment of abandoned communities such as Stateway into “mixed income neighborhoods” that will provide quality housing for at least some of the families that have been forced to relocate. The federal government has committed resources to the redevelopment process. Resident leaders are engaged in ongoing negotiations with the CHA to make sure the city honors its commitments. Amid unresolved issues, competing agendas, and contingencies, these processes are advancing. Yet they remain largely invisible to residents. What vision of the future can one hold in focus, when one looks out the window at the dismantling of one’s community? What messages can be heard over the sounds of demolition?

In coming days, The View will explore these and related questions in an electronic journal on the death and life of a public housing high-rise.

The Open Door: Mario Bailey Speaks at Benefit Dinner

Mario Bailey

On Sunday, October 20, 2002, Mario Bailey was among the speakers at a benefit dinner for St. Leonard’s Ministries held in Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Good afternoon, my name is Mario Bailey. For those of you who may not know my story, I am a wheel chair bound paraplegic as a result of gangbanging. I have a severed spine from a gunshot.

When I was first paralyzed, I felt as though my life was over; I felt as though I didn’t want to live any more, because I did not want to face the unknown. It’s all over because I can’t walk.

For the past year or so, I have been going through a mental struggle to turn my thinking around, to find something positive resulting from the shooting. With the help of some dear friends, I am beginning to realize that although the shooting was the end of one life style, it was also the beginning of another. The very bullet that put me in this chair could have easily killed me; instead I was spared – WHY?

While looking for some answers, I decided to go back and finish high school. Having achieved that goal, I can see that I need to set more goals for myself, because accomplishments are gratifying; therefore, I have decided to pursue a higher education, and perhaps work on a degree.

With the proper education, and my background, I’m convinced that I can carry a message of HOPE to the generations coming behind me. Although the imagery is not crystal clear yet, I can see that as I reach forward for the door to my future, it is opening wider and wider, in order to accommodate me, and this ole chair.

Thank You, I’m Mario.

—Mario Bailey

See “Off The Lease: Mario Bailey” – Part I and Part II; and “Mario Bailey: Graduation Day.”