August 12, 2022

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Meet the Author: Camille Roy A discussion with the author of Honey Mine on the practice of writing.



Camille Roy is a San Franciscobased writer, playwright, and poet who grew up in Hyde Park. Writing in the style of the New Narrative Form, Camille’s works combine autobiography, fiction, literary theory, and personal narrative. A recent addition to her most recent collection of works is Honey Mine, published by Nightboat Books. Consisting of sixteen experimental prose and poetry pieces, they center around an ever-shifting character named Camille who lives in many places, including Chicago. We spoke with Camille about her experiences growing up in Hyde Park and as an experimental writer. How did growing up in Chicago shape you as a person? I always felt like Chicago was such a formative place, such a strong place. A place that was so packed with information about what America is. It was very challenging in that respect, not sentimental and kind of no holds barred. So, I feel like growing up in Chicago just pushed me into a lifetime of wondering, “How can things be like this?” and “What are they really like?” and “What makes it like this?” and “What is the complicated story?”And the other thing was Hyde Park. There was this strong oppositional framework that was social, that was emotional, that was part of the community that people made. There were a lot of people when I was growing up in Hyde Park who had a history in the Communist Party. My father used to play poker every week with a bunch of his ex-communist buddies. My mother had an extremely dear friend, who was also a big health care organizer, who had also gone to Communist conferences with my father, like in the thirties. So I think that in terms of mainstream American culture, we were kind of off the grid. And at the same time, there was so much going on in Chicago that actually didn't filter up into even the local newspapers, whether it was racism or white flight or the toll of deindustrialization, or the powerful realities that shaped the whole area. And that just made me question every social reality I moved into after I left Chicago. And how did that question-asking influence your writing? I found that I was always looking at mainstream America as if it's some kind of strange artifact. It gave all of my writing a quality of, like, almost like a detective story. I often find myself writing into the question: “What’s the reality that's being concealed here?” And I think I've worked that out in many, many areas of my life, whether it's feminism or race or class analysis or sexuality or queer politics. It’s given me a framework of looking deeply into Andthings.from that, I had spent a lot of time thinking and writing about how I can never actually make peace with the truth, because there's so much inequality in society. So I think that’s one way that affected me—and that realization was unleashed when I came to San Francisco and discovered the narrative movement. In the new narrative movement, we developed a practice of exploring our own experiences—in every dimension, the erotic, the social—you could bring all those things. You could work from your experience.Andso, the new narrative movement really pushed me to develop a writing practice that included all of my personal experiences. Which is why, in my view, my book is very political. I wanted it to have struggle, the pleasure of community, and joy. The main character is constantly exploring the America she finds and reporting back honestly—all the difficult things that are out there. And for me, it was very empowering to move from confusion and to understanding and to insight through my writing. How have you maintained your writing practice? My writing was something that I tucked into the corners of my life. During my work life, my family life, while I was raising a kid. So, it was always a scramble to keep focus and try to get somewhere with whatever piece I was immersed in. And some of the times it was just too hard to focus given all of the balls I had to juggle. But, I was really writing to explore my own questions. I wasn't writing to produce an acceptable commercial product. And in the process, I just put any sense of judgment over to the side and kept going. I didn’t believe it or disbelieve it, I justAndcontinued.thenlater on, I was able to come back and see what was useful and what wasn’t. So now, for example, if I go back to some part of my life where I was really interested in exploring something, then I will have the poetry material, I will have the journal material, the prose material. I can use all that to shift registers in my writing and create some surprise for the reader. And it allows me to create experiences and write more accurately. I have to continue to write often, even when I think that it's just not working at all. What advice would you give to aspiring writers? If you really have questions to explore, if you're faithful to them, then the impulse won't peter out. I would say even when I was really struggling to understand my world and my context, I never stopped asking questions about it. Because it was never acceptable to me the way things were. And so, that’s kept me writing. The other thing is to have more than one writing process. I probably have at least three. I have a writing process which is kind of associative, freely associative and very poetic. My second writing process is much more prose, and that takes some kind of consistent work. And my last one is really processing the daily material of my life. So often I interweave those. And then, as much as possible, never judge yourself—especially in the moment. I'm never a good critic when I'm in the midst of writing. I just continue to write anyway. How do you think writing can change the world? You know, that's a really interesting question, because I used to think that language was political—and so my work was political as a result. I thought that when we expand the boundaries of the language, we can change consciousness and can create new politics. I've actually become somewhat skeptical of that just by itself though—I think it’s more than that. I just want the language to carry the experience in an intuitive way, a way that we can experience. I want it to become a natural extension of how people view their world. And giving it that experiential piece, I think my writing can help our politics to have a material element, a physical element, too. And it also has to have the element of community to really affect change. My intention is to open those doors so that my writing can be read by a wide variety of people. And really, I'm very grateful I’m able to do this work. ¬ Lauren Beard is a PhD Student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. She last wrote for the Weekly about an exhibit in Newberry Library.

lauren beard ........................................... 2 fed up with mega festivals in douglass park The


alma campos 8 chicago’s guaranteed income pilot program, explained Using $31.5 million of federal relief funds, the city will give $500 a month to 5,000 families. sky patterson, city bureau 9 the inaugural ‘mas flow fest’

Brittney Griner sentenced to more than nine years in prison “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here,” Brittney Griner pleaded with the Russian court. The thirty-one year old WNBA star was arrested in February at an airport by Russian officials who claimed Griner had illegally brought hashish oil into the country where marijuana is still outlawed. Griner was playing in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason and should have returned to the states to join her home team, the Phoenix Mercury, but instead was held in Russian jail from February until the recent sentencing. Throughout the investigation, the Russian government extended her detention period. Despite the U.S government’s claims that Griner was wrongfully detained, she continued to be imprisoned as the trial began. Griner was accused of “smuggling” less than one gram of cannabis oil. President Joe Biden and the White House offered Russia what was said to be a “substantial proposal,” still supporting Griner even after she pleaded guilty. Yet the Russian government decided to make an example of the Black basketball star amidst the ongoing tension between the U.S and Russia, and on August 4th, Griner was convicted and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. It is hard to avoid the racial implications of the sentencing, especially when compared to the story of Audrey Lorber. According to a 2019 CBS article, nineteenyear-old Lorber, an American citizen, was released by the Russian court after being arrested for “attempting to import” marijuana into the country. Although she was fined the equivalent of $235, she was excused from paying said fine after being credited for time served. Lorber was carrying nineteen grams of marijuana which she’d stated was medically prescribed. The ordeal took place between July and September of 2019, a timeframe shorter than Griner’s detention period alone. Griner’s lawyers also stated that the cannabis in her possession was prescribed as well. Comparatively, Griner’s fine is several times the amount of Lorbers, about $16,400. The White House, the WNBA, Griner’s Russian teammates, and fans from all over have continued to extend support to Griner’s wife and loved ones as they await an appeal. the author: camille roy A discussion with the author of Honey Mine on the practice of writing. neighborhood park fenced off most feel uses data to access personal data.

Cover illustration by Meg Studer Abolish the curfew During Lollapalooza weekend, GoodKids MadCity (GKMC) held a press conference just outside the festival as young people and supporters gathered to protest the ongoing curfew put into place by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The curfew went into effect in May, officially in response to a fatal shooting of a teenager in Millennium Park earlier that month. Lightfoot and her supporters claim the curfew will reduce violence, but others have pointed to evidence that curfews have the opposite effect and criticized its uneven enforcement. The curfew provides exemptions to young people spending money or attending ticketed events, which very clearly excludes and jeopardizes the safety of low-income Black and brown minors who venture into downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods to just hang out. Lollapalooza notoriously attracts large numbers of white suburban teens who are fortunate enough to afford passes to the expensive annual festival. Many of those attendees consume alcohol and drugs during the weekend-long event, yet do so with relative impunity compared to their Black and brown counterparts. During the presser, GKMC called on the Lightfoot Administration to lift the curfew as young people from the group shared their disdain for laws that give police more reasons to harass Black youth.

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of the summer, and community members

classics come to Calumet Park. luz magdaleno flores and jacqueline serrato 11 tenants going through ‘hell’ at 312 properties Mice and sewage backups among problems tenants face on their own. emeline posner 14 guaranteed income offers formerly incarcerated people a glimpse of stability Many formerly incarcerated people struggle to find employment because of the stigma of a criminal record. leslie hurtado, brian young jr., city bureau 17 sulyiman stokes finds the music in his photos The self-taught rising star on his Black-centric approach to photography and music. dierdre robinson ................................. 19 city struggles with low attendance and protest at budget forums Residents provided feedback on budget priorities but some were dissatisfied with turnout and format. grant schwab 20 altgeld gardens residents can’t wait for solar project They’re hopeful the solar installation will provide jobs for locals and help fund a grocery store. richard requena .................................. 22 IN THIS ISSUE SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY The South Side Weekly is an independent non-profit newspaper by and for the South Side of Chicago. We provide high-quality, critical arts and public interest coverage, and equip and develop journalists, artists, photographers, and mediamakers of all backgrounds. Volume 9, Issue 23 Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline Serrato Managing Editor Adam Przybyl Senior Editors Christopher Good Olivia Stovicek Sam MarthaStecklowBayne Arts Editor Isabel Nieves Education Editor Madeleine Parrish Housing Editor Malik Jackson OrganizingCommunityEditor Chima Ikoro Immigration Editor Alma Campos Contributing Editors Lucia Geng Matt FranciscoMooreRamírez Pinedo Jocelyn Vega Scott Pemberton Staff Writers Kiran YiwenMisraLu Director of Fact Checking: Sky Patterson Fact Checkers: Ella Beiser, Savannah Hugueley, Phan Le, Kate Linderman, Yiwen Lu, Bry Moore, Grace Vaughn, Grace Del Vecchio and Kate Gallagher Visuals Editor Bridget Killian Deputy Visuals Editors Shane Tolentino Mell Montezuma Staff Illustrators Mell ShaneMontezumaTolentino Layout Editors Colleen Hogan Shane Tolentino Tony Zralka Webmaster Pat Sier Managing Director Jason Schumer Director of Operations Brigid Maniates The Weekly is produced by a mostly all-volunteer editorial staff and seeks contributions from across the city. We publish online weekly and in print every other Thursday. Send submissions, story ideas, comments, or questions to or mail to: South Side Weekly 6100 S. Blackstone Ave. Chicago, IL 60637 For advertising inquiries, contact: (773) 234-5388 or IN CHICAGO

ignored. deysi cuevas 4 cook county investigates ice purchasing of data software to target undocumented immigrants Report shows ICE

Documentos muestran que ICE utiliza corredores de datos para acceder a datos personales.

alma campos el condado de cook investiga como ice compra datos para identificar a los inmigrantes indocumentados



The neighborhood park is partially fenced off for most of the summer for three different music festivals, and community members feel ignored.

While Riot Fest organizers are in the thick of preparations, residents are bracing themselves for another wave of crowds, noise, traffic, and litter following festivals Summer Smash and Heatwave—in what has amounted to a whole summer without proper access to their neighborhood park. Riot Fest is one of the largest independently owned music festivals in the U.S. and brings an array of well-known performers of varying genres including punk, hip-hop, rock, alternative, and metal. Around 40,000 people attend on each of its three days. Originally held indoors at Congress Theater, it moved to Humboldt Park, where the outdoor music festival was ousted by residents in 2014 after heavy rain and foot traffic damaged sections of the park. In addition to the damage, residents said that areas of the park were shut down for months after the festival, rendering soccer and baseball fields unusable. Event organizers had to pay $150,000 in repairs and find another location. Douglass Park started hosting the festival in 2015, and similar complaints immediately followed. People from surrounding communities such as North Lawndale and Little Village say they were not consulted about its arrival. Local neighbors’ groups like Concerned Citizens of Riot Fest and Unete La Villita say they want Riot Fest out of their neighborhood, arguing that music festivals do not benefit the community and that public parks should not be at Douglass Park: Summer Smash, which debuted in 2018, and Heatwave, which debuted this July. Neither festival sought community approval beyond aldermanic support. Summer Smash was founded by media company Lyrical Lemonade and production label SBKRBX. The media company behind Heatwave is Auris alderpersons: 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas, who just won the Democratic nomination for a county seat, and 24th Ward Alderperson Monique Scott, who was recently appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to take over the seat after the resignation of her brother, Michael Scott. Unete La Villita’s research $12,500 to groups supporting Cardenas between June 2019 and July 2021. The group said Riot Fest and its founder Michael Petryshyn have also donated more than $40,000 to Cardenas and Cardenas-related PACs in recent years. Cardenas and Scott’s offices did not respond to the Weekly’s requests for BY DEYSI CUEVAS


Fed Up with Mega Festivals in Douglass Park COURTESY



Jackie Serrato contributed to this story.


According to Communications Director Michele Lemons, “To minimize the impact on the community’s day to day use of the park during a festival, the District maintains public access to the north end of the park (north of Ogden), the west artificial turf field, running track and playgrounds. The athletic fields between Sacramento Boulevard and Farrar Drive and the tennis courts lie within the festival footprint and are temporarily closed to the public during festival operations.”

The Chicago Park District told the Weekly that only half of the park is occupied during Riot Fest.

According to Lemons, there were changes implemented since the festival’s move from Humboldt Park. “Organizers of large events must submit a Site Restoration Agreement and are responsible for restoring the park to its pre-festival condition,” she said. But Shaw and multiple residents said that damage done to the park is never adequately repaired. “If you keep having festivals back to back to back, when are you getting in there to repair it? And by the time September comes around, it’s getting cold again. It doesn’t make sense to get ahead of the event if the grass is just going to get demolished anyway.”

Concerned Citizens of Riot Fest has been working to demand accountability from elected officials. On Sunday, August 7, the group gathered at the Douglass Park soccer fields with food, music, and activities. Everyone in attendance—soccer players, residents, and allies from North Lawndale and Little Village—gathered to spell out “No Mega Fests!” on the grass. Organizers from Unete La Villita were there to show solidarity with the soccer players, whose adult and youth leagues have been compromised by the festivals. According to organizer José Manuel Almanza, Unete La Villita has been canvassing the neighborhood every year since Riot Fest was moved to Douglass Park, and the people they’ve spoken with agree it’s not the best place for the festival. “We’re out here to show them that it’s not just a handful of activists, that it’s a community that wants these music festivals out of Douglass Park,” he said. A representative from Riot Fest held a community meeting at Douglass Park a week earlier, though it was hardly publicized and residents felt unheard. With no Spanish interpreters to translate for the Mexican residents in the crowd, many left the meeting confused, according to Almanza. “That tells me what Riot Fest thinks…about us as a community when we’re out here trying to voice our concerns, and that is that they’re just listening, but they’re not going to do anything about it.”

Almanza said the organization has been trying to get a meeting with both alderpersons without success. “Cardenas has not been very receptive to us. We’ve been trying to get a meeting with him. He will not meet with us, he will not schedule a meeting with us, much less listen to any of our feedback,” he said. Residents are fed up with the situation. They don’t want to deal with heavy traffic and parking issues or have to travel outside of their neighborhood so their children can play outside safely. Most residents just want to be included in the conversation so they can have a say in how their community parks are used. ¬

comment.Thefestival days themselves are not the only times the park is closed to the public; it is also closed for weeks prior to and after each festival, to allow time for setting up and taking down stages, booths, and other infrastructure. All together, residents will have been fenced off from the south part of Douglass Park for most of the summer. Gilbert Velez lives across the street from Douglass Park and said he can’t be comfortable in his own yard because of all the noise. Despite the fact that his building has thermal paned windows, the noise from the festivals is still overwhelming. “They have different sound stages going on, and I guess once it’s all combined, the sound bounces off my walls and off into the yard—it just sounds like one loud ‘boom boom boom’ constantly,” he said. Velez added that parking is a big issue, with festival goers taking up a lot of the residential parking, including permit parking, which residents pay for.

Griselda Hernandez’s family owns the Teloloapan Grocery on the corner of 20th and California, and Hernandez said that a lot of their customers are kept away by the traffic. Teloloapan sells items from Guerrero, so their customers sometimes come from different neighborhoods to seek their products: “From the South Side of Chicago, the North Side of Chicago, even from the suburbs,” Hernandez said. “There are people who come from out of state, and it gets hard for them to get to our store when there’s a lot of traffic and streetAccordingclosings.” to some residents, the festival does a good job of picking up trash after the festival is over. The festival has offered free tickets to volunteers in exchange for their time spent cleaning up the park through their Douglass Park Beautification Initiative. “That’s been pretty good,” Velez said. “After the concert, they have cleanup crews that do that.”Riot Fest gives out limited free tickets to residents who live a few blocks from Douglass Park, and some members of the community take full advantage of that. Tanya Gutierrez said these festivals have given her and her family of five the chance to attend concerts they wouldn’t normally be able to afford; general admission tickets to Riot Fest range from $109 to $114 per day and $300 for a three-day pass. Gutierrez also loves that the festival gives her the opportunity to expose her children to different types of music.While Gutierrez has witnessed some of her neighbors making some extra income by selling food or water to people coming in and out of the neighborhood, other residents argue that that’s not the case for everyone. There aren’t a lot of businesses on Ogden, the traffic changes during the festival make the businesses on California hardly accessible and general admission ticket holders are not allowed reentry throughout the day, so they’re not spending much outside of the festival. Local businesses said they are also not among the vendors inside. Linda Mota, co-owner of Vista Hermosa, a Mexican restaurant on the corner of 21st and California, was initially supportive of Riot Fest. “The first year that Riot Fest began, we were excited for the new opportunity. I printed a sign that said ‘Welcome Riot Festers’ and hung it outside my storefront window and got cited for Motait.”said that while they did get a lot of diners in the festival’s first year, in the following years it has only hurt their business. “We are located on California Avenue right off of Cermak. The city has been closing off California Avenue and won’t allow traffic to go through,” she said. She added that local politicians are not present. They don’t offer any assistance, and residents’ concerns are rarelyMotaaddressed.saidif she had any say in how the festivals were run, she’d find a way to incorporate surrounding businesses in some way so that they could also benefit from the crowds, such as handing out “coupons inviting festivalgoers to go to our businesses, or maybe change the foot traffic so it’s led toward our businesses and not away from us. There is so much that can be done to make everyone happy,” she said. Riot Fest hires residents to work before, during and after the festival in positions like general labor, ground maintenance, and trash removal, with positions paying between $17 and $18.50 an hour, according to its website. However, community resident Princess Shaw argued that that’s not enough contribution to the community. “For two days? How is anyone going to survive off of two days worth of work? That’s not economic development,” she said.

Deysi Cuevas is a lifelong Southwest Side resident who lives in Pilsen and whose work focuses on issues that impact her community. She previously wrote for the Weekly about COVID-19 vaccination efforts to reach Black and brown residents.

Cook County Investigates ICE Purchasing of Data Software to Target ImmigrantsUndocumented BY SHANE TOLENTINO

BY ALMA CAMPOS Cook County officials held a first-of-its-kind public hearing in Chicago to investigate ICE’s purchasing of data from LexisNexis to bypass local immigration sanctuary city laws.

Cook County officials said they are investigating how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working with data firms to target undocumented immigrants. During a first-of-its-kind public hearing last week, immigrant advocates said ICE is getting around sanctuary laws by purchasing personal information from data brokers like LexisNexis, Appriss and Thomson Reuters. Records obtained by immigrant advocacy groups, Just Futures Law and Mijente, revealed ICE ran more than a whopping 1.2 million searches with LexisNexis alone over a sevenmonth period in 2021. The state of Illinois is home to over 425,000 unauthorized residents, and Cook County’s ICE Detainer Ordinance, and similar sanctuary laws in other states, limit the cooperation between ICE and local authorities. Cook County’s ordinance, set in 2011, prohibits police or employees from asking people about their immigration status as well as assisting ICE in transferring immigrants to detention centers and deporting them after they’ve been released from a local jail. That is why immigrant advocates are urging lawmakers to review and modify the Cook County Ordinance to close any existing legal loopholes that would put immigrants at risk of detention and deportation. Advocates also urged the county to review and modify all of Cook County’s data broker contracts. According to Dinesh McCoy, staff attorney with Just Futures Law, between March and September 2021, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers at Chicago Field Office used LexisNexis to run over 13,000 people searches which generated over 1,800 reports on people for civil immigration enforcement purposes— the most searches in the U.S. after San Diego.ERO manages all aspects of the immigration enforcement process, including identification, arrest, detention, and removal. “These searches provide extremely invasive and personal information about community members that ICE targets,” McCoy said. “Reports can include information about private transactions like phone, internet, utility records, as well as government sources like voter registration records, driving records, and professional license records. Most people are unaware of, and never consent with this information being shared with LexisNexis and certainly never consented with it being shared with law Whileenforcement.”itisn’tabsolutely clear how ICE acquires this specific data, Julie Mao, co-founder and deputy director at Just Futures Law, explained that Cook County indirectly shares real-time incarceration and release information with ICE through a contract they have with the data broker Appriss. Appriss collects and packages this data in a product called Justice Intelligence and sells this to law enforcement agencies and private companies like LexisNexis, which then sells to ICE.



“Oftentimes local officials are shocked to hear that the data that they might have been sharing with a contractor for a particular limited purpose, is actually making its way to the LexisNexis platform and being shared with third parties, let alone ICE for the purposes of deportation,” said Mao. “I call these shady middle men that buy and sell different types of data from public data sets. [The data] can reveal someone’s current address or their court date so that ICE might pick them up at their court date or their last known address.”LexisNexis has various products, some of which are used by students, lawyers, librarians, and journalists. But these particular products are tailor-made for law enforcement purposes. They're all bundled as part of the Accurint Virtual Crime Center, which is a product LexisNexis sells to law enforcement

AUGUST 11, 2022 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 7 agencies like Cinthya Rodriguez, a national organizer with Mijente, the organization that spearheaded the #NoTechforICE campaign and who obtained the FOIA records, LexisNexis currently has a contract worth up to $22.1 million with ICE that includes the real-time jail booking data in addition to names, addresses, court records, drivers license information, phone data, and much“It’smore.clear that ICE has found an insidious new way to work around the hard fought welcoming protections that hundreds of counties across the U.S. have adopted, and we know that this is happening through the dizzying, privatized surveillance apparatus constructed by data brokers, mainly LexisNexis.”Thecollection of and access to personal data appears to be more widespread than the public may realize. Michelle Garcia, a member of the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and Access Living, said she used LexisNexis to search her own records and found forty-three pages of information pertaining to herself, her family, and her acquaintances, and how she is associated with them. More data included her present and past home addresses, mortgages, and phone numbers. Additionally, LexisNexis stored information about twenty-seven people from the Pilsen apartment complex where she lives, including people she doesn’t know, and she saw the social security numbers of the people who have one. “It was extremely disturbing, scary and overwhelming to see everything in writing that they have collected about my life…,” she said.

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Then Mijente began to look into how ICE was getting data for its deportations. Rodriguez said this led to research reports on companies like Palantir, Amazon, Microsoft, Anduril, Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis, and more, “all of whom work for ICE or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in different ways to provide a massive tech backbone for the agency.”


While the Biden administration has issued guidelines banning these types of operations on “protected areas,” such as schools, hospitals, and places of worship, his administration has increased its use of another data collection app, SmartLINK, implemented by the Trump administration to track immigrants as part of its Alternatives to Deportation program meant to keep undocumented immigrants out of detention centers. Just Futures Law, Mijente, and Community Justice Exchange filed a lawsuit against ICE for its failure to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request regarding their use of the app. LexisNexis spokesperson Jennifer Grigas Richman did not provide details to the Weekly about the types of products it sells to ICE and what policies allow it. In a statement, she said that LexisNexis Risk Solutions prides itself on the responsible use of data and pointed to the company’s website, where it states: “Under the new Biden Administration, in March 2021, LexisNexis Risk Solutions was awarded a contract to provide an investigative tool to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We entered into this contract understanding that the mission of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the new Administration had changed to focus immigration enforcement resources on people with serious criminal backgrounds.”

¬ Alma Campos is the Immigration editor for the Weekly


The #NoTechforICE campaign launched in 2018 after the nonprofit Mijente had been hearing a lot from community members about deportation operations, both under former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, that were “highly tailored” such as “people being picked up outside their kids’ schools or their workplaces or their homes, even in cases where it wasn't clear how or why ICE would have that information on folks,” said Rodriguez.

Commissioner Alma Anaya, who represents the 7th district, is the first legislator to call for an investigation into ICE’s use of data brokers nationwide. In April, Anaya called on the Board of Commissioners to investigate the ways in which the personal information of Cook County residents is shared and sold, and to hold the public hearing last week. “This becomes not only an issue of immigration—although that is where we see the biggest implication, because of different surveillance that’s happening to communities of color, and of course, potentially leading into deportation and separation of families—but we’re seeing this a a huge violation of all of the rights of all of our residents here in Cook County,” she said during the hearing. Rodriguez from Mijente told the Board of Commissioners during the hearing that “ICE is evolving in how they are targeting immigrant communities increasingly relying on data and technology to turbocharge their detention and deportations, and so we also need to evolve how we remain active and alert about protecting the data and personal information and safety of immigrant communities and all Cook County residents.”

“ICE is evolving in how they are targeting immigrant communities increasingly relying on data and technology to turbocharge their detention and deportations…”—Cinthya Rodriguez

Los funcionarios del Condado de Cook dijeron que están investigando cómo el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas de Estados Unidos (ICE, por sus siglas en inglés) está trabajando con las compañías de bases de datos con el fin de identificar a los inmigrantes indocumentados. Durante la primera audiencia pública sobre este tema, los defensores de los inmigrantes dijeron que el ICE está evadiendo las leyes de santuario mediante la compra de información personal de empresas de datos como LexisNexis, Appriss y Thomson Reuters. Los documentos obtenidos por los grupos activistas, Just Futures Law y Mijente, han mostrado que ICE realizó más de 1.2 millones de búsquedas en LexisNexis durante un periodo de siete meses en 2021.El estado de Illinois es hogar de más de 425,000 indocumentados y la ordenanza de detención de ICE del Condado de Cook, y leyes santuario similares en otros estados, limitan la cooperación entre ICE y las autoridades locales. La ordenanza del condado, establecida en 2011, les prohíbe a la policía o a los empleados preguntar a las personas sobre su estatus migratorio, así como ayudar a ICE a transferir a los inmigrantes a centros de detención y a deportarlos después de que hayan sido liberados de una cárcel local. Por eso, los defensores de los inmigrantes están urgiendo a los legisladores a que revisen y modifiquen la ordenanza para cubrir un vacío legal existente que ponga a los inmigrantes en riesgo de detención y deportación. Los defensores también piden al condado que revise y modifique todos los contratos con compañías de datos.Según Dinesh McCoy, abogado de Just Futures Law, entre marzo y septiembre de 2021, los oficiales de Operaciones de Ejecución y Expulsión (ERO, por sus siglas en inglés) de la Oficina de ICE en Chicago utilizaron LexisNexis para realizar más de 13,000 búsquedas de personas que generaron más de 1,800 reportes sobre personas para propósitos de inmigración —la mayor cantidad de búsquedas en los Estados Unidos después de San Diego. ERO gestiona todos los aspectos del proceso de aplicación de la ley de inmigración, incluyendo la identificación, el arresto, la detención y la deportación. “Estas búsquedas proporcionan información extremadamente intrusiva y personal sobre los miembros de la comunidad que ICE tiene como objetivo”, dijo McCoy. “Los reportes pueden incluir información sobre transacciones privadas, como registros telefónicos, de internet y de servicios públicos, así como de fuentes gubernamentales, como registros para votar, registros de conducir y registros de licencias profesionales. La mayoría de las personas no son conscientes de que esta información se comparte con LexisNexis, y nunca han dado su consentimiento para que se comparta con las fuerzas del orden.”Aunque no está del todo claro cómo ICE adquiere estos datos específicos, Julie Mao, cofundadora y subdirectora de Just Futures Law, explicó que el Condado de Cook comparte indirectamente información sobre el encarcelamiento y liberaciones en tiempo real con ICE a través de un contrato que tienen con la empresa de datos Appriss. Appriss recopila y empaqueta estos datos en un producto llamado Justice Intelligence y lo vende a las agencias policiales y a empresas privadas como LexisNexis, que luego lo vende a ICE. “A veces, los funcionarios locales se sorprenden al saber que los datos que podrían haber estado compartiendo con un contratista para un propósito particular, en realidad llegan a la plataforma de LexisNexis y se comparten con terceros, y más aún con ICE para fines de deportación”, dijo Mao. “Los llamo intermediarios sospechosos que compran y venden diferentes tipos de datos de otros datos públicos. [Los datos] pueden revelar la dirección actual de alguien o su fecha de juicio para que ICE pueda recogerlo en la corte o en su última direcciónLexisNexisconocida.”tiene varios productos, algunos de los cuales son utilizados por estudiantes, abogados, bibliotecarios y periodistas. Pero estos productos en particular están hechos específicamente para fines policiales. Estos productos forman parte del paquete Accurint Virtual Crime Center, el cual LexisNexis vende a agencias como ICE. Según Cinthya Rodríguez, organizadora nacional de Mijente, la organización que encabeza la campaña #NoTechforICE y que obtuvo los registros de FOIA, LexisNexis tiene actualmente un contrato con ICE con un valor de hasta 22.1 millones de dólares con que incluye los datos de registro de la cárcel en tiempo real, además de nombres, direcciones, registros judiciales, información de la licencia de conducir, datos telefónicos y mucho más.

La recopilación de datos personales y su acceso parece ir más allá de lo que el público cree. Michelle García, miembra de la Coalición de Derechos de los Inmigrantes y Refugiados de Illinois (ICIRR, por sus siglas en inglés) y de Access Living, dijo que utilizó LexisNexis para investigar sus propios registros y encontró cuarenta y tres páginas de información sobre ella, su familia y sus conocidos, y cómo está asociada con POR ALMA CAMPOS

Condado investiga cómo ICE compra datos de inmigrantes indocumentados Los funcionarios del Condado de Cook llevaron a cabo una audiencia pública por primera vez en Chicago para investigar cómo ICE compra datos de la compañía LexisNexis para evadir las leyes de santuario.



“Está claro que el ICE ha encontrado una nueva y secreta forma de eludir las protecciones por las que tanto se luchó y sabemos que esto está ocurriendo a través del voraz aparato de vigilancia privatizada construido por las empresas de datos, principalmente LexisNexis.”

La campaña #NoTechforICE empezó en 2018 después de que Mijente escuchara mucho de los miembros de la comunidad sobre las operaciones de deportación, tanto bajo los expresidentes Barack Obama, como Donald Trump, que estaban “muy personalizadas”, así como de “personas recogidas afuera de la escuela de sus hijos, afuera de sus trabajos o casas incluso en casos en que no estaba claro cómo o por qué ICE tendría esa información sobre las personas”, dijo Rodríguez.

ellos. Otros datos incluían sus direcciones actuales y pasadas, hipotecas y números de teléfono. Además, LexisNexis almacenaba información sobre veintisiete personas del complejo de apartamentos de Pilsen en donde vive, incluyendo personas que no conoce, y vio los números de seguro social de las personas que tienen uno. “Fue extremadamente perturbador, aterrador y agobiante ver todo lo que han recopilado por escrito sobre mi vida…”, dijo. La comisionada Alma Anaya, que representa el distrito 7, es la primera legisladora que pide una investigación sobre el uso de ICE de las empresas de datos en todo el país. En abril, Anaya pidió a la Junta de Comisionados que investigara las formas en que se comparte y vende la información personal de los residentes del Condado de Cook. “Esto se convierte no solo en un tema de inmigración —aunque es donde vemos el mayor efecto, debido a la diferente vigilancia que está sucediendo a las comunidades de color, y claro, potencialmente llevando a la deportación y separación de familias— pero estamos viendo esto como una enorme violación de los derechos de todos nuestros residentes aquí en el Condado de Cook”, dijo durante la Rodríguez,audiencia.deMijente,le dijo a la Junta de Comisionados durante la audiencia que "ICE está evolucionando en la forma en que se dirigen a las comunidades de inmigrantes recurriendo cada vez más a los datos y la tecnología para acelerar sus detenciones y deportaciones, por lo que también tenemos que evolucionar en la forma en que nos mantenemos activos y en alerta sobre la protección de datos, la información personal y la seguridad de las comunidades de inmigrantes y todos los residentes del Condado de Cook.”

Using $31.5 million of federal relief funds, the city will give $500 a month to 5,000 families. Over 176,000 people applied, making the program more competitive than admission to Harvard University.

Entonces Mijente comenzó a investigar cómo ICE estaba obteniendo datos para sus deportaciones. Rodríguez dijo que esto condujo a reportes de investigación sobre empresas como Palantir, Amazon, Microsoft, Anduril, Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis y más, “todas cuyas trabajan para ICE o la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de los Estados Unidos (CBP, por sus siglas en inglés) para proveer una enorme fuente informática para la agencia”.Aunque la administración de Biden ha emitido pautas que prohíben este tipo de operaciones en “áreas protegidas”, como escuelas, hospitales y lugares religiosos, su administración ha aumentado el uso de otra aplicación de recopilación de datos, SmartLINK, implementada por la administración Trump para rastrear inmigrantes como parte de su programa de Alternativas a la Deportación destinado a mantener a los inmigrantes indocumentados fuera de los centros de detención. Just Futures Law, Mijente y Community Justice Exchange presentaron una demanda contra ICE por no cumplir con una solicitud de la Ley de Libertad de Información (FOIA, por sus siglas en inglés) con respecto al uso de la aplicación. La portavoz de LexisNexis, Jennifer Grigas Richman, no proporcionó detalles al Weekly sobre los tipos de productos que le vende a ICE y qué políticas lo permiten. En un comunicado, dijo que LexisNexis Risk se enorgullece del uso responsable de los datos y señaló al sitio web de la empresa, donde dice: “Bajo la nueva Administración Biden, en marzo de 2021, LexisNexis Risk Solutions recibió un contrato para proporcionar una herramienta de investigación al Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas de EE.UU. del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional. Celebramos este contrato entendiendo que la misión del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) había cambiado bajo la nueva administración para enfocar los recursos de inmigración en personas con antecedentes penales graves”. ¬ Alma Campos es la editora de inmigración del Weekly.


This story was originally published by City Bureau. Printed with permission. Five hundred dollars, no strings attached. That’s what the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot––one of the largest guaranteed income programs in the U.S.––plans to deliver to 5,000 low-income Chicagoans every month for a whole year. More than half of participants are already receiving the cash Despiteinfusion. unemployment decreasing from last year and the Chicago minimum wage increasing to $15.40 per hour for some workers, advocates of the program say it is necessary because many Chicagoans are still struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, inflation has hit a four-decade high and the spike in the cost of goods has experts worrying poverty will rise, further increasing incomeOneinequality.solution? Cash assistance. The concept gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after the federal government issued stimulus checks and Child Tax Credit payments to help Americans cope with the steep rise in unemployment and financial hardship. Experts say those payments, especially those for families, helped ease child poverty while they were in place. Still, some economists worry guaranteed income programs will make inflation worse, further increasing the costs for food, gas and other essential items. Other economists dismiss that concern, arguing that current inflation is primarily driven by factors such as the war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions and staggering corporate profits.



According to a City Bureau analysis of applicant data, the majority of applications came from communities in the South and West sides, with the highest concentration of applicants ––about 5%––in the Auburn Gresham area. Most applicants cited reduced hours of work, unemployment and leaving jobs for caregiving duties as reasons for applying for the program. More than 16,000 applicants said they were experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. City Bureau’s analysis found that among those applicants, Black Chicagoans were disproportionately impacted. Of those who said they were homeless, more than 80% identified as Black. Separately, 83% of the people who cited housing insecurity, meaning they moved frequently or have no stable home, identified as Black. How is Chicago’s program administered? DFSS and the Mayor’s Office selected two nonprofits to administer the program. GiveDirectly—an international nonprofit primarily operating in East Africa—is the program’s administrator. AidKit, a technology platform, is helping GiveDirectly deliver cash to residents. DFSS began distributing payments to residents the last week of June. Recipients could choose to receive the money either through a bank deposit or a prepaid debit card, and this income will not be taxed.

Who was chosen to participate in the program? Knazze, the DFSS commissioner, said most selected participants were women and identified as parents or caregivers, closely mirroring the pool of applicants. More than half of the 5,000 participants are Black (67%) with nearly a quarter of participants identifying as Latinx (23%). White Chicagoans make up 16% of participants and Asian Chicagoans are the smallest racial category at 3% of participants.Inearly July, DFSS distributed its first payments to 3,500 Chicagoans via direct deposits and prepaid debit cards. Others have received the money since then on a rolling basis. As of last week, DFSS was still working on enrolling a few hundred participants.

10 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY ¬ AUGUST 11, 2022 Chicago isn’t the only local government experimenting with cash assistance. The growing list also includes Minneapolis, St. Paul and Philadelphia. Cook County, which is running one of the largest publicly funded guaranteed income pilots in the country, has already committed to a permanent program after the pilot ends. The size of Chicago’s and Cook County’s programs could give researchers more of the evidence they need to determine if guaranteed income could work at the state and federal levels. While it’s still too early to draw conclusions from Chicago’s program, here’s what we know now. Who applied? The Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) received applications from all seventy-seven community areas during a three-week application process. In total, the city received more than thirty-five applications for each of the available spots in the program. The median income of applicants was $14,000, according to DFSS. Women were the overwhelming majority of applicants, as were Black Chicagoans who made up sixty-eight percent of applicants. The majority of applicants said they were caregivers. To Audra Wilson, president and CEO of the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, this was unsurprising given that Black women are often the last to recover from economic recessions and “are more likely to face higher unemployment rates, disproportionate amounts of child care and domestic work and other economic inequities that were made worse by the pandemic.”

What do advocates for guaranteed income say? So far, Chicago gets high marks from advocates for creating a program with few hoops to jump through. Administrative burdens, they argue, often shut some people from the aid. The application was available online in six languages and took around 30 minutes to complete. Applicants were not asked about their immigration status or criminal record. It asked about household size, demographics, education and other public benefits received. It also required proof of identity, income and residency through a mix of documents. With the cost of living increasing and wages lagging behind inflation, some local experts believe that $500 per month will make a difference in the lives of Chicagoans experiencing deep poverty. While guaranteed income allows recipients to decide how and what to spend extra money on, experts say it is not the only solution – a broad social safety net and economic policies that help families make ends meet is also critical. “This pilot, as important as it is, is not the only tool to be able to solve poverty––it is one of a series of actions that need to be taken to really alleviate poverty,” said Wilson, the Shriver Center’s president and CEO.While advocates interviewed agree that $500 per month is limited, especially as prices rise, it still has the potential to help Chicagoans experiencing poverty. “We hope that the pilot will allow people to catch their breath,” Commissioner Knazze said. “We want to be able to allow them to have economic stability and mobility, to see financial gains, either through saving or achieving a personal goal, maybe an educational goal or savings.”

This story was produced by City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based in Chicago. Learn more and get involved at www.citybureau. org.

Could the pilot become permanent? It’s unclear if the city has long-term plans to implement a permanent guaranteed income program and how that would be funded. When asked, the Mayor’s Office said they are committed to partnering with the City Council to support residents using direct cash assistance in a future budget cycle. And DFSS Commissioner Knazze said results from the pilot will inform how the city runs its programs in the future. About 3,000 of the 5,000 pilot recipients will participate in an optional study led by the University of Chicago’s Inclusive Economy Lab according to Carmelo Barbaro, the lab’s executive director, which will evaluate the impact of the program on participants’ financial health and general well-being. Researchers plan to use the results to provide recommendations for future programs.Patel, the director of Economic Security for Illinois, said he hopes the pilot sheds light on the need for guaranteed income programs as an addition—not a replacement—of the social safety net. But, he said, the city and county could use the format of the cashassistance program to make their existing network of programs better, simpler, with less paperwork and with fewer barriers for people.Thecity expects to have some preliminary results in late 2023 or early 2024.Longtime guaranteed income advocate Ameya Pawar believes that the Chicago pilot program will demonstrate the necessity and feasibility of a national program—something local advocates of guaranteed income agree on. His hope, he said, is that the Chicago demonstration along with the other demonstrations across the country will lead to a federal policy change. ¬ Sky Patterson is a 2022 Summer Civic Reporting Fellow, along with Francisco Saúl Ramírez Pinedo, who contributed to this report. Sarah Conway, City Bureau’s senior reporter covering jobs and the economy of survival in Chicago, also contributed. You can reach her with tips at

How were participants chosen? To be eligible, applicants had to report experiencing economic hardship from the pandemic and have a household income under $70,000 for a family of four. Applicants selected to participate in the pilot were chosen through a computergenerated randomization system. DFSS Commissioner Brandie Knazze said the system was designed so that low-income people living in areas most impacted by COVID-19 had a higher probability of beingHarishselected.Patel, director of Economic Security for Illinois and a manager of the Chicago Resilient Families Initiative Task Force that studied the scope of a guaranteed income pilot, said there are several benefits to choosing recipients randomly. A lottery system minimizes bias and corruption—two issues that could hurt trust in the program and damage long-term support. Randomization also allows researchers to draw conclusions about how the program affects lowincome people from diverse backgrounds.


This summer saw the return of reggaeton music in multiple Chicago outdoor venues. While Grant Park’s first Sueños Festival brought fresh and trendy performers during Memorial Day weekend, the inaugural Mas Flow Fest in mid-July brought reggaeton legends like Don Omar, Ivy Queen, and Tego Calderon to a somewhat unusual location for the crowds this genre typically attracts—the sprawling Calumet Park. Despite plenty of excitement surrounding the three-day festival, some logistical issues dampened what could have been an explosive event, namely the continuous rain forecast and not enough preparation to ensure all ticket holders had access to dry areas. Still, crowds of Latinx people picked their favorite performers to go see and the weather didn’t stop fans from getting a VIP-like view of the stages. With some tweaks and community input, Mas Flow Fest has the potential to become a highly popular event on the Southeast Side for years to come. ¬

Reggaeton classics come to Chicago’s Calumet Park.

The Inaugural ‘Mas Flow Fest’

Luz Magdaleno Flores, also known as DJ Light of Your Vida, is a Chicana art curator, poet, textile artist, and fotógrafa based in Pilsen by way of Oxnard, California. She aims to evoke feelings of nostalgia and melancholy in everything she creates. IG @ lightofyourvida BY LUZ MAGDALENO FLORES AND JACQUELINE SERRATO MUSIC Don Omar Ivy Queen



“It’s very sad if you have property and there are mice flying out the walls. 312 Properties—this right here is just the worst. I’m out of here. Moving out.”


“Dennis is refusing to come and the situation is getting worse,” she wrote at 4:53 p.m. “Y’all are terrible.” Her boyfriend cleaned up what he could before they eventually got a call back from 312 on Monday, Dabney said. Dabney had experienced delays in emergency work orders before, but not like this. “I had lost my everlasting mind,” she said.Records from the Department of Buildings (DOB) suggest that 312 management were informed and aware of the unit’s potential to flood when Dabney movedAccordingin. to the DOB inspection reports, the building had experienced flooding issues in its garden unit for at least two years prior to Dabney’s arrival. 312 bought the building in June 2015, according to city permits. On May 13, 2019, a city inspector found that there had been a sewage backup in the rear basement units due to an obstructed floor drain. They ordered the company to replace the drain and to employ a licensed and bonded plumber. As of press time, the complaints remain unresolved according to the DOB data portal.The obstructed floor drain wasn’t the only issue city inspectors identified. The

“My shower just backed up and apparently Dennis is off until Monday,” Dabney texted to the Lowensteins at 3:42 p.m., along with a video of the backup. “I thought he was the emergency plumber?



This story is co-published with the Hyde Park Herald. It took a weekend for a sewage backup to be cleaned up. Several weeks for the property manager to respond to texts about a broken back door. For other problems—mice “flying out the walls”; broken doors, lights, and security cameras; mold; garbage in the alleys— tenants allege months came and went with no fix from owner and manager 312 Real312Estate.Real Estate, a real estate company owned by Ariel and Raphael Lowenstein, has expanded rapidly through south lakefront neighborhoods since 2014. Records compiled and analyzed by the Herald show that 312 has spent at least $51 million on approximately twenty residential properties between Bronzeville, Kenwood, Woodlawn and South Shore, with more than half of that amount spent in the last two years alone. But their building management has not kept up with their property acquisitions. Across eight different buildings, ten tenants told the Herald about their experience moving into a 312-owned building or living in a building that 312 took over, alleging structural, plumbing, security or rodent issues, which some said were affecting their health; unresponsiveness from management about urgent issues; and difficulty relocating from 312 buildings due to the tight rental market. The Herald previously reported that during the eviction moratorium, 312 began a full interior gut rehab at a former cooperative building on Drexel Boulevard while there were still residents and children on the property.

Mice and sewage backups among problems tenants face on their own amid delays and absenteeism from the expanding real estate company.

Tenants Going Through ‘Hell’ at 312 Properties

Why is this not communicated to the tenants on who to contact since neither one of you answer your phones either.”

312 Real Estate did not respond to the Herald’s repeated requests for comment, for this story or the previous one. When reached at the company’s South Loop office on July 22, Ariel Lowenstein acknowledged receiving the Herald’s requests for comment and said he would not respond to questions on the record.The moment I stepped in, there were seventeen things that were wrong with it,” said Kamiah Dabney, referring to her garden unit at 4320 S. Michigan Ave., where she lived from January to October 2021. This was the third 312 property she had lived in. A broken fridge and broken oven were the most immediate issues, she alleged. She also noted that the building doors were often jammed or broken, allowing nonresidents to come into the building at any hour of day. One month after Dabney and her boyfriend moved in, the apartment started flooding. She counted four floods in three weeks. They went to stay in a hotel for most of February and deducted the cost from the next month’s rent. Later that year, on October 16, sewage backed up into the unit, coating the floors of her apartment. Dabney provided footage of videos from both the sewage backup and the February floods to the Herald From Saturday until Monday, Dabney said she couldn’t get a hold of owners Ariel and Raphael Lowenstein, who she said can only be reached via cellphone. (312 does not have an online platform for tenant service.)

– Aretha Mitchell, tenant

AUGUST 11, 2022 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 15 HOUSING building failed six of the eight inspections conducted since 312’s purchase of it in 2015. (The building had failed the previous five inspections under prior ownership as well.) A building inspector came by the building again on January 21, 2021, just two days after a 311 complaint was called in. The inspector noted cracks and splitting treads in the rear porches, furniture obstructing the porch landings, exposed wires, rat holes and burrows throughout the lawn, broken foyer doors, broken locks and one totally unsecured apartment.312did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the code violations.Dabney said she hadn’t wanted to move into the garden unit. But the building she had been living in, at 4400 S. Drexel Blvd., had just been bought by 312 in October 2020. (This was the second time this had happened: In 2018, Dabney moved out of the condo she rented at 4525-37 S. Drexel Blvd. after 312 bought out the building and allegedly raised the rents by $600.) Ariel Lowenstein was knocking doors every week telling tenants that they had to leave so they could renovate the building, she alleged. Because this occurred during the COVID-19 eviction moratorium, which closed eviction courts and prevented landlords from removing tenants from their apartments, “I told them I wasn’t leaving the building,” Dabney said. Lowenstein allegedly offered to reimburse several months of rent if she transferred her lease to a unit in a different 312 building—the six-flat at 4320 S. Michigan Ave. She was wary of 312’s management from the past two apartments she had lived in, but she needed a place to stay,and it seemed promising that the apartment was under renovation. So she signed the lease. But her anxiety returned when the leasing agent wouldn’t let her look at the apartment before she moved in, Dabney alleged. “Now I know why they didn’t let me see it,” she told the Herald Several blocks over, on 47th Street and King Drive, a tenant had similar allegations about being relocated to a substandard building. The tenant, who wished to remain anonymous because she was still living on the property, said that 312 had bought out the condo building she had previously rented from. After allegedly refusing to fix the floor, where the tenant said the concrete was pushing up the tiles, 312 offered to move her to a different building. “It’s rehabbed, I’m thinking it’s going to be a nice building,” she said of the stately twin greystones, 4706 and 4714 S. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr., which 312 bought together for $230,000 in 2016. But the property was in poor shape, she alleged. “He won’t give us dumpsters, the trash is overflowing. The mail’s not coming because the mail lady can’t get in.” She said she and her neighbors worry about water damage and mold, especially for the several tenants who live with small children.AFebruary 2021 inspection from the DOB notes water leaking through the wall and into the interior of the ground apartment. She provided the Herald with a video of what appeared to be a stream of water coming through the ceiling in an adjacent apartment. The issues came to a head earlier this year when the hot water went out and there was no fix for a week, she said. She stayed at a hotel so she could shower. “We do not have an emergency line if something happens. If someone is locked out, if someone’s water is out, there’s no response until the next business day,” she said.“I have no hot water, Ari [Ariel Lowenstein] sends me to voicemail,” she added.“It’s not just this building, this is a pattern for him,” she said. “People need to know what they’re getting into before they rent from him.” It’s not clear who exactly the Lowensteins are or how they scaled up their real estate company so quickly. A website post about Raphael Lowenstein says that he moved back to Chicago to start 312 after graduating from Washington University of St. Louis’s Olin School of Business in 2014. Ariel, meanwhile, worked as a leasing agent at ICM Properties, Inc., and then spent a summer as a financial planning and analysis intern at Pangea Properties in summer 2016, according to his LinkedIn page. Pangea is another rental company that scaled up rapidly, buying up buildings in Black South and West Side neighborhoods during the foreclosure crisis. Pangea has gained notoriety for its poorly maintained buildings and for being the city’s number one evictor— taking more tenants to eviction court than the next four landlords combined, a 2019 analysis by Maya Dukmasova for the Chicago Reader found. Through an analysis of property records, the Herald was able to identify the Lowensteins’ first property acquisitions in 2014: two brick three-flats in South Shore, one at 7025 S. Chappel Ave. and the other just off the lakefront, at 3064 E. Cheltenham Pl. They bought the Chappel building for $72,000, and the second from foreclosure auction (the price is not listed on the Recorder of Deeds). At both, they secured permits for renovation and alteration the next year, and resold both properties by 2019. These were purchased under Lion Cub Enterprises LLC, which is independent of but shares a Skokie address with 312 Real Estate LLC, which the Lowensteins would use to buy other properties in subsequent years. As is common practice in real estate, the acquired property would then be transferred from 312 Real Estate LLC to an LLC specific to the building (such as 4711-15 S Michigan Properties LLC), which protects the company’s other assets in the case of a building-specific lawsuit. Their next buildings remained on the smaller side, three-to-six-flat buildings in Bronzeville and Kenwood, purchased either from foreclosure auction or longtime individual owners. Dabney’s 4320 S. Michigan Ave. building was one of those: they bought the building along with the adjacent parcel for $256,000 from auction. (312 is currently building a four-story, eight-apartment building, on the adjacent parcel, according to city permits.)Then, in 2017, the numbers started to get bigger. They bought the first of their condo buildings, the troubled Drexel Commons Condo at 4627-37 S. Drexel Blvd., in 2017, for a combined $6,402,500, according to a Herald analysis of deeds. This was the first building that Dabney lived in that was taken over by 312. 312 then started acquiring larger rental buildings, some of them in some level of physical distress—like 4520 S. Drexel Blvd., one of dozens of South Side apartment buildings that had been bought up by EquityBuild, the real estate investment company later revealed to be running a ponzi scheme, and 4400 S. Drexel Blvd., the second building that Dabney lived in. 312 bought this courtyard building from DC-based NOVO Properties for $3,650,000. “The new owners plan a gut renovation of the property [4400 S Drexel] and will reposition it to attract young urban professionals who have been flocking to the area," NOVO Properties partner Jamie Glascott wrote in a press release on the sale. In the last three years, however, 312 has zeroed in on collectively owned buildings, buying out condo owners in several Woodlawn, South Shore and Bronzeville apartments. Last March, they purchased the historic Tudor Gables

“I was really upset because when I moved in there they told me they wanted a $500 movein fee. It was filthy. It took me a whole day to clean each room, it took me two weeks to really deep clean — a bucket of scalding hot water on the floor with bleach and Pinesol.” – anonymous tenant


– Kamiah Dabney, tenant

HOUSING cooperative housing building on Drexel Boulevard in Kenwood for $11.5 million, the most they’ve spent on any one building.Dabney might well have been one of those young urban professionals that Glascott said 312 was seeking to attract to their renovated courtyard building at 4400 S. Drexel Blvd.; the recent college graduate was working in a PR firm, having moved to Kenwood from her childhood home in the suburbs in order to live closer to friends. For her, the experience with 312 has ruined management companies altogether; she told the Herald she will no longer consider renting from one. She now rents a unit in the area from an individual.Butwith the growing crisis of affordability on the south lakefront, compounded by the tight rental market, many longtime residents feel stuck in substandardAnotherhousing.tenant who requested anonymity because she still lived in a 312 building said she had only moved into her Bronzeville apartment last year as a last resort. She had wanted to move further east in Bronzeville to be closer to her mother and to be in a safer area. But she wasn’t sure about the apartment. ”I turned it down several times because I was real iffy about it,” she told the Herald. But then it started getting cold, and she hadn’t found another unit in her price range, and so she moved in. And affordable, in her case, did not mean“Imaintained.wasreally upset because when I moved in there they told me they wanted a $500 move-in fee. It was filthy. It took me a whole day to clean each room, it took me two weeks to really deep clean — a bucket of scalding hot water on the floor the broken or disconnected pipe that she alleged prevents her from taking a bath without flooding her downstairs neighbor’s bathroom. A fix she requested in November 2021 still has not been made. In the meantime, she said she has patched the holes in the walls that the Aretha Mitchell was preparing to move out when she reached out to the Herald in late June of this year. A nurse, Mitchell moved herself and her son to her current 312 unit at 4758 S. Michigan Ave. seven months ago, seeking cheaper rent. They moved her to an apartment on a different floor at the last minute, she said, which “was a mess, it was ridiculous.” After experiencing the building conditions and management she’s looking to leave, she told the Herald. “This is hell what I’m going“There’sthrough.”garbage slung all in the back of the alley, trash be everywhere,” Mitchell said. But her chief complaint is the mice; like nearly every tenant who spoke with , Mitchell alleges an ongoing problem with rodent infestation. A visit from the exterminator did nothing, she said.“It’s very sad if you have property and there are mice flying out the walls,” she said. “312 Properties—this right here is just the worst. I’m out of here. Moving out.”For Kamiah Dabney, the tenant who lived in three 312 units, the takeaway about the growing rental company is clear. “They expanded on the South Side… You come in raising the rent $600? You come in evicting people during an eviction moratorium in the middle of a pandemic? You’re taking advantage of people,” she said. ¬

ILLUSTRATION BY MEG STUDER “They expanded on the South Side… You come in raising the rent $600? You come in evicting people during an eviction moratorium in the middle of a pandemic? You’re taking advantage of people.”

“When I got out, I had to go to a shelter,” said Corey Randall, fiftyone, who has spent years incarcerated. “Nobody helped me do anything and I'm by myself so everything I got now, I had to work for it.” He has struggled to find full time employment with benefits. So, he’s focused on the jobs that he could get––temporary service jobs and minimum wage employment without benefits. He now works at a corner store in West Garfield Park, where he prices and restocks“ life I’ve been struggling to pay bills, jumping from check to check.” Randall is not alone. Formely incarcerated people often face discrimination when they apply for jobs, which could lead to people reoffending and going back to prison, also known as recidivism. The discrimination is more accute for Black people with a criminal record. To help change that pattern, organizations across the country are offering cash—with no strings attached. In Chicago, Equity and Transformation, a nonprofit that serves Black Chicagoans including those formerly incarcerated, launched the Chicago Future Fund last year with a simple idea –– to alleviate the hardships of life after prison or jail by giving individuals cash for them to spend on how they see best, said Rachel Pyon, the Chicago Future Fund program manager. Under the program, thirty formerly incarcerated people are receiving $500 per month for eighteen months without any restrictions or work requirements. The participants––mostly men and all between the ages eighteen and thirtyfive––say they have spent the money on everything from rent to bills to Christmas presents for their kids to child support, according to Pyon and Nik Theodore, a professor of the Department of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the director of the Center for Urban Economic Development, which is evaluating the program.Theodore said the majority of participants in the program face multiple barriers of employment, economic insecurity, and hardships. While a few participants have part-time, temporary or full-time jobs, “a lot of folks are still pretty much in-and-out of the labor market and relying on informal work and hustling to try to make ends meet,” he said.

Guaranteed Income Offers Formerly Incarcerated People a Glimpse of Stability

Many formerly incarcerated people struggle to find employment because of the stigma of a criminal record. To help, one organization is offering cash.

This story was originally published by City Bureau. Printed with permission. For people who have been incarcerated, monthly cash assistance could be the support they need to rebuild their life.


Popular support for guaranteedincome has gained traction since the

“I think a big piece of this is strengthening the autonomy of individuals to start to make decisions, not based on just sheer economic necessity, but from a slightly more comfortable position where better decisions can be made,” Theodore said.



Theodore expects that the cash assistance will help stabilize them. That stability, he said, would allow them to seek housing that better fits their needs and jobs that better fit their skills—as opposed to whatever they can get in a crisis.

The program is widely praised as Chicago’s first privately-funded guaranteed income pilot program. To select participants, Equity and Transformation, which also goes by the acronym EAT, used a randomized selection process but it prioritized people considered most in need—those earning less than $12,000 a year and those having a difficult time finding employment.

18 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY ¬ AUGUST 11, 2022 federal government gave Americans stimulus checks to stay afloat during the pandemic. The City and Cook County started their own cash-assistance programs earlier this year, which are now the largest in the U.S. While the Chicago program does not exclude people based on their criminal history, nor tracks their charge or conviction, it is not specifically for formerly incarcerated people, which is where Equity and Transformation’s Chicago Future Fund comes in.

Leslie Hurtado and Brian Young Jr. are 2022 Summer Civic Reporting Fellows. Sarah Conway, City Bureau’s senior reporter covering jobs and the economy of survival in Chicago, contributed to this report. You can reach her with tips at This story was produced by City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based in Chicago. Learn more and get involved at

“I don't have much, but I try to help a lot of people and try to save because it's hard out here,” he said. Since 1979, an estimated 3.3 million adults in Illinois have been arrested or convicted of a crime and may be living with the stigma and limitations of a criminal record, according to Never Fully Free, a Heartland Alliance report published in 2020. The report found more than 1,000 “permanent punishment laws” in Illinois that restrict the right of people with records. The majority of those laws prevent or hinder access to employment by, for example, requiring background checks. Research shows applicants with criminal records are about half as likely as those without records to hear back from employers. “We’ve seen so many people in our program actually applying for many jobs but not seeing any results,” said Pyon, the program manager for the Chicago Future Fund.Stable employment can reduce recidivism. But because people with records have difficulty finding employment, they often end up in temporary, low-paying jobs. Pyon said unrestricted cash can help people who have been incarcerated attain some financial stability to turn around their lives and avoid Forty-threereoffending.percent of people released from prison in Illinois recidivate within three years of their release, according to a 2018 report by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, a non-partisan sentencing advisory group created by the state’s General Assembly in 2009. Recidivism is costly: Illinois tax payers pay around $151,000 when someone reoffends and goes back to prison. In 2018, the council estimated recidivism would cost Illinois some $13 billion over five years.

The nonprofit is partnering with FTX, a Chicago-based cryptocurrency exchange, which promised to provide recipients to eliminate permanent punishments in Illinois, said guaranteed income programs also alleviate the psychological burden of having to go from being incarcerated to being selfsufficient and support a family.

“When most people come home from prison, they don't have anything. They're pretty much starting over,” he said, adding that individuals often need basic essential items such as hygiene products, bus fare, and clothing. Chamberlain said that knowing that there is a financial cushion gives people returning home from prison a sense of stability, more room to explore their passions and pursue work that they value.

According to a 2021 press release, the first round of the Chicago Future Fund was supported by several organizations, including BLM Global Network Foundation, The Movement for Black Lives, and Black Freedom Collective. That same year, the organization reported to the federal government it received $1.6 million in gifts, grants and contributions in its fiscal year 2020, which ended in July of 2021. “There are more than 100 pilots in the nation, and some of them are funded by private dollars,” said Harish Patel, studied the scope of the City’s guaranteed income pilot. “[The Chicago Future Fund] is prioritizing a certain group of people who need cash the most, and I'm hoping that there are a lot more privately funded organizations that prioritize certain groups of people who may get left behind by a massive city pilot.” If successful, the Chicago Future Fund could provide advocates the argument they need to ensure people with criminal records have a financial safety net after being released. Equity and Transformation plans to expand the program in the fall to service 100 additional people. The first round focused on participants from West Garfield Park. This round, the nonprofit will also focus on people who live in Austin and Englewood. The nonprofit is partnering with FTX, a Chicagobased cryptocurrency exchange, which promised to provide recipients with a zero-fee cryptocurrency bank account and financial literacy education—an innovation that Mayor Lightfoot lauded. “Through this new FTX pilot, we will be able to ensure that residents from underrepresented backgrounds can access cash assistance, an innovative financial service, and financial education in one place,” Lightfoot said in a May press release announcing the expansion. “I thank FTX for partnering with EAT on this Randall, who works at the corner store in West Garfield Park, said such a program would have been life-changing when he was released from incarceration in 1996, after serving time on a drug related offense. But he still could use the help. Randall, who plans to apply for the program when applications open in the fall, said he would use the money on “needs for my house.”

“I think it gives you the opportunity to breathe and think about what you want to do [after incarceration] without the worry of ‘I need to take care of myself now,’” Chamberlain said. ¬

The idea of giving unrestricted cash to formerly incarcerated people might give some people pause. Critics argue against such programs because they believe participants will use funds to engage in illicit activity and will use it as an incentive to remain unemployed. However, Richard Wallace, founder and executive director of Equity and Transformation, said his organization follows a prison abolitionist model that focuses on the individual. The organization neither tracks the criminal charges of its participants nor sets stipulations on how the money is spent, he said. That’s because Wallace believes giving cash to Black Chicagoans impacted by mass incarceration and the War on Drugs is an essential step toward rebuilding people’s sense of community and individual dignity. Wallace sees guaranteed income as a solution to recidivism and economic inequality that many formerly incarcerated people face. Unconditional cash, he said, may not solve systemic racism or rectify centuries of anti-Black oppression, discimination and criminalization, but it can act as a lifeline that enables formerly incarcerated people to focus on their wellbeing, families and careers without worrying about unexpected expenses.

Corey Randall, fifty-one, who’s been incarcerated multiple times, said cash assistance would have helped him regain his footing. He still could use the help and, though he is employed, plans to apply for a cash-assistance program in the fall.



The idea behind the project was a novel one. The Floating Museum and three curators extended invitations to ten photographers and paired them with ten local “hosts” made up of political leaders, activists, and art supporters in the city. It called for each host to choose one of three photographs from the Art Institutes’ collection and a copy of that work was sent to the host to display in a place they Stokes was one of the photographers chosen to participate in the project and his designated host was Serge JC PierreLouis, founder and past president of the DuSable Heritage Association. They made contact via Zoom during the height of the pandemic but eventually, they met in Pierre-Louis’s home setting for the portrait.When asked how it felt to photograph Pierre-Louis, Stokes smiled. “Incredible guy,” he said, and later added, “You know,


The self-taught rising star on his Black-centric approach to photography and music.

Sulyiman Stokes Finds the Music in His Photos

As an emerging interdisciplinary artist, Sulyiman Stokes, whose name was explained to him by his father as “one who brings light from within others out,” is quickly gaining recognition in the South Side and across the city. And he’s telling Black folks’ stories along the way, through photography and music. By his own account, Stokes’s photographic journey began quite unexpectedly. It wasn’t until he was twenty years old that he picked up his first camera.

“I think I had a Canon Rebel or some random camera that was like a hundred bucks or something,” Stokes said. “I wasn’t serious about photography or anything like that, you know, I just happened to buy a camera, being around college campus… But 2018 is when I became serious about photography being a medium…I made the transition to this as a part of my artistry.” Stokes’s photographs are Blackcentric. Through them, he captures the ways in which Black people express their diverse talents and rich culture in everyday life. Take, for instance, his rich and lively image of the stilt walkers dressed in African garb while strolling effortlessly through the crowd in Hamilton Park in Englewood during an outdoor event. Or the expressive image of young people learning to make banjos during a summer workshop in Lincoln Park sponsored by Music Moves Chicago. Stokes captures the essence of his subjects through the use of soul-stirring and expressive images. “I don’t really set up shots,” Stokes said. “I don’t really do that kinda thing…Because I really want this additional talent which he developed early on in his youth. “In grammar school, my first instrument was clarinet,” Stokes recounted. “Then that became trumpet, and…when I went to high school my band director had me switch to baritone.” Along the way, Stokes learned to play the tuba, piano, and FrenchAndhorn.let’s not forget the drums. As with the Whilehands.Stokes admits that on some days the ritual is overlooked, due to his hectic schedule, he still seems to find time to parlay these musical gifts into projects across the South Side that continue to reflect the Black journey and struggle. “He is an individual walking with multiple powers,” said award-winning Chicago poet and Floating Museum codirector avery r. young. “I see Sulyiman’s work, and I see leaps. And I know that the That leap has directed Stokes’s path over to the Art Institute of Chicago where his works are currently on display as a part of the Chicago art collective Floating Museum exhibit titled, “A Lion for Every House.” The exhibit began June 16 and The Floating Museum uses art to explore relationships among community, architecture, and public institutions and is co-directed by avery r young, Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, Faheem Majeed, and



He added, “What I hope it does is make certain facets of Black history accessible for us…anyone who is willing to listen.”

I really just wanted to kinda just shut up and listen. I mean, obviously when folks of that stature...when they speak, you want to listen because there’s so much wisdom beingStokes’sshared.”

City Struggles with Low Attendance and Protest at Budget Forums




Over the last two weekends of July, the City held three public engagement forums for the 2023 budget. The forums were meant to give participants an opportunity to help inform the City’s budget planning through small roundtable conversations with leaders in local government. Yet numerous problems, from low turnout to a protest that halted the third forum, raise questions about how meaningful public feedback on the budget can be. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration has sought public engagement on the budget each year since she was elected. In the first two years, the City held a series of in-person and virtual town halls. Participation soared. Attendees had the opportunity to provide public comment and submit questions for City personnel to answer. Last year, the administration shifted its strategy and partnered with the University of Illinois Chicago’s Great Cities Institute to further hone budget engagement. There were three forums open to all members of the public, plus three more for invited community leaders. Though the public forums featured more intimate discussions with officials than in the past, participation plummeted.Eachof the forums this year began with an introduction to the budget, including a video about past initiatives and current priorities. The video explained that the 2022 budget is approximately $16.7 billion and funds the City’s thirty-five departments.“Theseare more than just numbers,” Budget Director Susie Park said at the first forum, which took place on July 21 at Kennedy-King College in Englewood.

portrait of Pierre-Louise as featured in the exhibit shows him seated rather majestically in an armchair, seemingly deep in thought while gazing into the “[His]distance.condo, which is right off the lake downtown…this was where DuSable arrived or something like that,” said Stokes. “It’s like a divine kind of setup…I felt like this was such an important thing and there was like this extreme amount of reverence that I wanted to capture, like the seriousness of the moment. I wanted the kind of honor that I felt being in there and observing that… I did want that to be on display as well. I wanted other folks to experience that.” Once the session with Pierre-Louis was complete, Stokes sent the organizers several shots to choose from and let them take it from there. In addition to the exhibit, Stokes led an in-person portrait workshop titled, “Portrait Stories with Photographer Sulyiman Stokes” at the Art Institute on August 6. The workshop, which was cosponsored by the Chicago Public Library, included an interactive gallery featuring Stokes’s favorite artwork from the museum’sParticipantscollection.had the opportunity to spend time in the A Lion for Every House exhibit, learning about Stokes’s creative process along with the story of the exhibition. The tour culminated with Stokes leading a storytelling and portrait photography session in the galleries. For those wondering about what future projects Stokes may have in the works, he revealed that it will be of a musical“It’snature.anew project entirely and it’s named, ‘Underground Railroad to 79th’ because I grew up in AuburnGresham…a big part of it is highlighting the neighborhood in which I grew up and its importance to me, and I want to impact that community. And it also pays homage to those who came before us and kind of connects those dots for us.”

¬ You can follow Sulyiman Stokes on Instagram @sulyiman_. Dierdre Robinson is a writer and accounting manager in Chicago. She has a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University. She last wrote about multimedia visual artist Jewel Ham for the Weekly.

Residents learned about City services and provided feedback about budget priorities, but some were dissatisfied with the roundtable format and the city’s overall engagement efforts.

“He is an individual walking with multiple powers. I see Sulyiman’s work, and I see leaps. And I know that the magic is in the leap.” – avery r young, poet and Floatingco-director.Museum


More generally, though, the Office pointed to its 2022 Responsive Initiatives report as an overview of how residents’ broader priorities were integrated into the city budget.Itseems Lightfoot’s administration has used public input as a guide but not as a strictFordirective.example, the City received more than 38,000 responses to its budget survey in 2020, and seventy-seven percent suggested the City divert funds away from the police department to fill shortfalls in other areas. Those responses came amidst an outcry from advocates to defund the police in the wake of George Floyd's murder.Lightfoot has not slashed the police budget—it has grown—but she has prioritized funding other areas of the budget at a higher rate. Since 2020, the City has increased the Department of Family and Support Services budget by thirty-four percent. The city has increased the Police Department budget by seven percent.The City struggled with low turnout at this year’s forums, limiting the completeness and diversity of the public’s feedback. About 150 people attended the first forum, but most of them appeared to be City personnel. Of the approximately forty tables at the event, most were vacant. At the second forum, which took place on July 23 at Malcolm X College on the Near West Side, participation was similarlyMartinalow. Hone, the City’s chief engagement officer, acknowledged that she had been hoping for better turnout. She even asked participants to contact her office with feedback on how to improve engagement. “I would love help cracking this nut,” she said. “This was on Eventbrite. It was on all of our social media channels. We reached out to all of the aldermen. It was in our newsletter. But we don’t have a budget to buy TV ads like Pepsi does. We don’t use your tax dollars that way.”

The Weekly followed up with Hone, OMB, and the Mayor’s office to ask what the budget for creating and promoting the forums was, and what efforts the City undertook to generate turnout, but received no answers as of press time. Some participants at the first forum were also unhappy with how the engagement process itself was designed. Lakeview resident Anna Wertheim complained that long forums are a bad format for hearing from vulnerable people. She suggested that the City more proactively seek out residents to give feedback. “If you don’t have money, time and resources to be here,” Wertheim said, “then your voice is probably one that needs to beAshaheard.”Ransbury-Sporn, a Woodlawn resident and community organizer for the Treatment Not Trauma campaign, said the City’s survey was poorly designed for capturing thorough feedback. The survey asked participants to choose only one service in each topic area that was most important. Respondents could not rank services, and printed versions of the survey had limited space for elaboration. She also said City leaders were “just bragging” or defending their work against criticism. At one moment she clashed with Tiffany Patton-Burnside, the Senior Director of Crisis Services at the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Ransbury-Sporn questioned the City’s goal of funding more mental health crisis intervention training for police. She noted the success of the City’s coresponder pilot program wherein the Fire Department, paramedics, and behavioral health workers respond to a portion of mental health-related 911 calls. Given the program’s success, she questioned why the City would not instead invest in expanding the number of non-police first responders. Patton-Burnside acknowledged the criticism but pushed back. She said police training is necessary to prepare for situations that could be too dangerous for community health workers. Polite but tense, the two argued over the likelihood of

“They represent real lifelines, programming resources and money that will reach our residents.”Participants had an hour to speak with high-ranking City personnel, including commissioners and deputy commissioners. The hour was split into segments to cover four topics: Community safety, affordable housing, public health, and community developments. The City personnel rotated to different participants’ tables for each segment.3rd Ward Alderperson Pat Dowell, chairperson of the City Council’s budget committee, encouraged all members of the public to speak their minds. “No idea is wacky,” she said. In addition to the roundtable discussions, participants were asked to complete a survey on the four topics. That survey was available online in English and Spanish through August 7 for residents who were not able to attend a forum. According to Jacob Nudelman, a Deputy Director of the Office of Budget and Management, the forums are a twoway street. He said he hopes the forums help participants learn about City programs and services. But he emphasized the importance of resident input. Information from the forums and the survey will be incorporated into the City’s annual Budget Engagement Report, which he said is “extremely helpful” in creating the budget. Nudelman pointed to an appropriation of $1.3 million in this year’s Fire Department budget for a mobile integrated healthcare program as an example of resident input having a direct impact on a line item in the city’s multibillion-dollar budget. That program provides healthcare services to underserved areas and helps direct people to the best places for further care.

Source: City of Chicago Budget Ordinances from 2019 to 2022. Notes: The 2019 budget was already in effect when Mayor Lightfoot took office. Agency budgets typically vary from the budget ordinance over the course of a year. BY GRANT SCHWAB



They’re hopeful the solar installation will provide jobs for CHA residents and help fund a local grocery store.



dangerous mental health events. Budget engagement took a turn at the third forum, which was held on July 30 in Uptown at Harry S. Truman College. Advocates with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless spearheaded a demonstration midway through.Some seventy-five people stood up in unison. They chanted and demanded to meet with Lightfoot, who was attending the forum. Lightfoot did not address the protesters.Thedemonstration was peaceful, and the protesters obliged when police ushered them out of the room after a half hour. “58K need a place to stay” was the protestors’ most frequent chant, a reference to the Coalition’s estimate that 58,273 Chicagoans were experiencing homelessness as of 2019. The City’s estimate for that year was only 5,290. Though the estimates are dramatically different, data from the Coalition and the City both show that homelessness in Chicago has declined by about thirty-three percent since 2015. Still, the Coalition demanded more action from the city. Myron Byrd, a grassroots leader for the Coalition, refuted the City’s homelessness estimate and criticized Lightfoot. “She’s turned our back on us,” he told the crowd. The Coalition has advocated for a tax increase on sales of properties exceeding $1 million in value to create a designated revenue stream for homelessness programs and services. The change would yield about $158 million in revenue per year, according to an analysis from Crain’s Chicago Business. Last month, seventeen alderpersons sponsored a resolution to create a public referendum on the tax increase.Lightfoot has previously supported increasing the property tax to boost overall revenues, but she opposed using the change to create a dedicated funding source to combat homelessness, as reported by the Sun-Times Lightfoot waited until the demonstration dispersed to address the crowd. “Those people are entitled to exercise their first amendment rights,” she said of the protesters. “But we wanted to make sure that people had an opportunity to hear, to learn and to engage.” There were approximately 225 people in attendance at the event’s start and perhaps half that number after the demonstration. Hone, the chief engagement officer, assured participants that their input would still be captured despite the Participantsdisruption.atthis forum seemed to have a more positive experience than residents at the first two forums, even with the interruption. Many felt heard.

Residents from Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project operated by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), have been working on getting more people involved with renewable energy. And People for Community Recovery (PCR), a group of Altgeld Gardens residents with a long history of environmental organizing, has been advocating for the installation of solar panels to assist the energy needs of the project’sSinceresidents.2015,PCR Executive Director Cheryl Johnson has held on to a vision for solar in Altgeld Gardens—to help CHA promote a solar array system in Altgeld Gardens that will reduce the CHA’s utility cost for their particular development, and for the savings to be redirected to support community programs.Theball started rolling in 2016, with the CHA and Cook County doing a feasibility study to see where solar panels could be installed to power Altgeld Gardens and surrounding areas. Aside from renewable energy releasing fewer pollutants than gas or coal, having a smaller carbon footprint and being cheaper for utility payers, Illinois pledged in the 2021 Climate and Equitable Jobs Act that by 2050 the state will move to 100 percent green energy, with a path in place to have forty percent renewable energy by 2030. The legacy of PCR spans decades in Altgeld Gardens. Beginning in 1979, the now-non-profit group of residents has been actively demanding better living conditions in the face of pollutants from industrial parks, sewage treatment plants, and dumps nearby. These pollutants have disportionately hurt the health and lives of people who live in Altgeld Gardens, contributing to higher rates of heart and lung Kendrickdiseases. Hall, a former resident of Altgeld Gardens and the Lead Solar Organizer for PCR, is responsible for leading the effort to bring solar panels to Altgeld Gardens. He is also invested in getting residents training in solar so that they are able to pick up a job in the industry.Hall trained with a number of groups for solar panel installment, but said the



Uptown residents Liz Soehngen and Laura Friedrick both said they appreciated having a chance to speak directly with City personnel. “They were really passionate about what they are doing,” Soehngen said. “They wanted to hear about problems, and they wanted to hear about ideas for solutions.”AsLightfoot enters the final budget cycle of her current term, her track record on cultivating community engagement around the budget is mixed. Her administration had initial success attracting resident input, but participation has waned. And while her budget office touts broad investments based on community feedback, some community organizations are angry that she has ignored their calls for specific solutions. Lightfoot sounded perfectly comfortable with her administration’s approach to engagement when she spoke to the remaining crowd at the end of the forum. “Doing the people’s work is not easy. Sometimes they appreciate us, sometimes they do not,” she said. Lightfoot will present her recommended 2023 budget to City Council in September or October. The council is expected to approve a budget by the end of 2022. ¬ Grant Schwab is a government bureaucrat turned journalist. He has a Master’s degree in public policy and previously worked as a state budget analyst in North Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @GrantSchwab. This is his first contribution to the Weekly


teachers in those programs weren’t doing enough to teach the job. “They didn’t seem to be really committed to ensure that we succeed,” said Hall. “The process was flawed,” he said, noting that the training felt more like a crash course—the math was difficult to understand, and the training was more of an apprenticeship where he wasn’t learning, and was instead carrying tools for other people. After completing the training, Hall felt dissatisfied with the experience and wanted to be involved with a better training program that could train everyday folks to be a part of solar. After speaking with people at PCR, he joined the group to lead in solar.

One of PCR’s goals in the neighborhood is to open up a grocery store. The closest grocery store to Altgeld Gardens is miles away in suburban Riverdale, with no direct public transportation options to get there either. Johnson wrote in a 2020 op-ed for the Weekly that “the potential benefits of a solar farm aren’t confined to saving money and being environmentally friendly, but also seeing nutritional food options return to Altgeld, training residents to have marketable skills in the solar industry, and cultivating a new generation of leaders.”

In July 2021, CHA signed two $3 million contracts with the solar developers Community Power LLC and Windfree Wind & Solar Energy Design Company. Next, there is a review process for the projects the developers have come up with.CHA requires the solar developers to hire temporary Section 3 workers, meaning that those employees need to either be from Altgeld Gardens, residents of other housing developments managed by the CHA, people with housing vouchers, or participants in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Youthbuild programs being carried out in the ChicagoHowever,area. the number of residents that would be hired is uncertain. Within contracts signed between the CHA and their solar developers, only thirty percent of the developers’ new hires need to fit the criteria.Still, Hall feels PCR is being kept out of the loop because there isn’t a clear timeline for the project or knowledge of next steps. “They’re [CHA] definitely lagging behind. And we just need to, I guess, reiterate the importance of getting as the community wants it.” Aguilar said CHA has “had conversations” with PCR, the Altgeld Local Advisory Council and Chicago Public Schools about the initiative. However, CHA did not respond in time for publication to comment further on how closely they work with PCR and how updated they keep the community group with the solar garden. ¬ Richie Requena is a graduate journalism student at DePaul University. He runs Pueblo at 14 East and is a co-founder of the university’s student chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). This is his first contribution to the Weekly.

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“People should take advantage of it because millions, maybe even billions of dollars, are being invested into renewable energy...and you know, [if] people from our community don’t get involved, they’ll be left [behind] man,” said Hall. “My job is to continue to educate and advocate and I would like for more people to get involved.”ForPCR, the possibility of working in solar is real. Within the last year, CHA has signed contracts with solar companies about potentially placing panels on a nearby field to help power the housing complex.Byemail, CHA spokesman Matthew Aguilar said, “Potential solar projects at Altgeld include on-site generation, as well as purchasing renewable energy from a community solar site not on CHA land. We believe this layered approach provides near and long term opportunities for CHA to save money on operating costs and positively impact residents.”

The solar panel project would be funded by Illinois Solar for All, a program which provides clean energy to low-income communities. In 2019, CHA partnered up with a private solar company and ComEd to install solar panels on the roof of seventeen towers of the Dearborn Homes housing projects. Their efforts were part of a larger effort made by ComEd to use solar energy as an energy grid to power buildings in Bronzeville. Apart from making renewable energy accessible to the residents, the cost of utilities was lowered for them. PCR hopes to see similar financial wins for their residents if they can get solar panels up. Aguilar said the cost of utilities for Altgeld Gardens will not be reduced for the residents, ”because residents don’t have utility bills. However, by utilizing supply contracts to attain cheaper pricing for energy, any cost savings go toward funding services for residents.”

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