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We Challenged Charter Expansion in Rogers Park – and WON!

CPS’s Office of Innovation and Incubation held a hearing on Monday, August 21 to consider CMSA’s request for an additional 100 student seats. After hearing from so many opponents to charter school expansion, including dozens from Network 49, they decided NOT to recommend approval of the request to the Board of Education. In other words, we won.


Victories against school privatization are hard fought and don’t come often.  It’s why we are pleased to share the news that charter school Chicago Math and Science Academy’s request to expand by 100 seats next year was NOT recommended by CPS or even included as an agenda item at the most recent August 28 Board of Education meeting.

Network 49 and its allies have been clear that we do not want any charter school expansion in Rogers Park – no new schools, new campus buildings, and no additional seats. We organized a ballot referendum in 2016 and 63% of voters sided with us. So did State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, State Senator Heather Steans, and US Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Only Alderman Joe Moore has consistently been in favor of new charters coming to our neighborhood and expansion of existing charters.  Despite our community’s clear and unequivocal position, but perhaps feeling that the Alderman would swing CPS in their favor, CMSA advanced a proposal to expand by 100 seats.

As we did before and as we will continue to do, our resident volunteer leaders mobilized to stop this expansion. Dozens of our members joined in sending letters to CPS and hundreds acted on Facebook to support our campaign, which received over 8,000 views. If you were one of the people who stepped up, Thank you for YOUR advocacy!

Charter schools divert students and resources from neighborhood schools. Study after study shows that charters educate no better than neighborhood schools, while being less transparent and less welcoming of special needs students and English language learners. These are NOT the schools we need in Rogers Park’s diverse community! Our local neighborhood schools are much improved and are growing, with Sullivan HS and Senn HS in Edgewater boosting enrollment by 100 students apiece. (By comparison, CMSA reported to the Chicago Board of Education they are 40 students short of filling their current capacity!).

Network 49 believes that all our public schools should offer high quality educational opportunities that meet the diverse needs of students in our community. We are opposed to privatization schemes like vouchers and charter schools and we will continue to fight for our schools. We are glad that you are with us in this fight.

For more information, contact Carol Reichel at carolreichel@sbcglobal.net

Network 49 Stands with Victims of Police Misconduct

Have you – or any other 49th Ward/Rogers Park community resident you know – been physically abused or subjected to racist acts by the police, particularly in the last couple of years?

In June, Network 49 was invited and agreed to join in a class action lawsuit as a plaintiff with several other Chicago community organizations and individuals who are concerned about the need for improved Chicago police accountability and the many issues related to that. The City of Chicago, the Police Department, and individual officers are defendants in the case. The aims of the lawsuit are to get a federal judge to:

  1. Enjoin the Chicago Police Department (CPD) from use of excessive use of force
  2. Enjoin CPD from use of force in a racially discriminatory manner
  3. Appoint a CPD Monitoring Team that reflects the diversity of Chicago
  4. Oversee a transformation in CPD policies and practices related to use of force, accountability and supervision, discriminatory policing, data and transparency, and support services for survivors of police violence and misconduct.

Along with Network 49, the other class action lawsuit plaintiffs include Black Lives Matter Chicago, Blocks Together, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago Urban League, Justice For Families, Black Lives Matter, Chicago NAACP, Women’s All Points Bulletin, and 411 Movement For Pierre Loury. Attorney Sheila Bedi and other lawyers affiliated with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law are representing us.

Network 49 is looking for any neighbors who fit this description and would be willing to share their stories to help support our organization’s participation in a class action lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department. Declarations from residents in the 49th Ward/Rogers Park community served by Network 49 will be very important in surviving upcoming moves by Chicago’s law department to get the lawsuit dismissed.

Please ask any residents described above to call Network Community Safety Task Force Chair Michael Harrington at 773-971-1215 or email Michael.

Residents Questions Benefits of 2 TOD Projects; Network 49 Secures Commitment from Developer to Negotiate Community Benefits Agreement

At a well-attended community meeting called to consider two large transit-oriented developments, 175 people, including a large contingent from ISKCON Krishna temple located next to 1710 W Lunt, raised numerous questions about how much benefit the community stands to get. The proposed developments require a substantial zoning change and relief from the city’s current parking requirements. After residents voiced numerous concerns and asked developer David Gasman to commit to specific changes, Network 49’s Brian White asked:

“Will you commit to sitting down with the community to negotiate a written and binding community benefits agreement?”

Gasman’s response: “yes.”

~175 residents came to hear about 2 newly proposed transit oriented developments at a meeting June 14 at the Ethiopian Community Association. Developer David Gasman (in shorts) speaks to Alderman Joe Moore prior to the meeting, as attendees read Network 49 materials.

 

 

 

An unscientific scan of the audience suggests the community is not at all ready to say “go”, for a number of reasons, so negotiating specific benefits is likely to help win support.

The main opposition expressed is over the lack of parking and the anticipated negative impact on the temple. Other strong objections were raised about the lack of affordable housing units, the size and number of units, and the likely precedent that the developments might set for transit-oriented development in the community. Many also asked why such dense TOD projects were being proposed now, while Clark Street was in the middle of a planning process.

Network 49 passed out informational handouts and Community Benefits Scorecards to help residents evaluate the projects. From the scorecards we collected, people are supportive of the projects as presented.

Residents study Network 49 handouts as they prepare to evaluate 2 proposed projects
  • “Parking not provided is a big issue, when people visit those units or businesses in the area.”
  • “David didn’t present convincing arguments with any of the questions/concerns raised. Looks like he has no solid plans.”
  • “At this point none of the vital points for the community are considered.”
  • “I am against this project.”

Some of things residents asked for in their comments:

  • Set aside more than the minimum number of units (10%) as affordable units
  • Preserve the historic character and key elements of the buildings, including the facades
  • Add more units that can accommodate families
  • Add or secure more off-street parking for building residents and guests
  • Commit to contract with women and minority owned businesses
  • Commitment to add green/open space and green elements, like a green roof or solar panels
  • Commit to give back to the community
  • Commit not to demolish either building, even if the proposals do not get approved
  • Commit to work with members of the Krishna temple to adjust the 1710 W Lunt development proposal to reduce the potential for conflict between the temple and residents likely to live at 1710
Nachi Lolla, President of ISKCON Chicago temple, addresses the concerns of his community to Alderman Moore and developer David Gasman.

Given the numerous concerns raised and questions presented, for which firm answers and commitments have NOT been made, Network 49 asked Alderman Joe Moore, who holds the ultimate decision:

  1. “Would he convene an additional community meeting for residents to hear about Gasman’s modifications to the developments before any decision was made?”
  2. “Would be allow residents to attend/observe any follow-up meeting of the 49th Ward Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC), where the revised proposals might be considered?”

Despite his oft-touted commitment to participatory decision-making, Alderman Moore emphatically REFUSED TO ALLOW THE PUBLIC TO ATTEND OR WITNESS THE LUAC MEETINGS. He demurred on a second community meeting as well, which many residents interpreted as a sign that he has already made up his mind. That remains to be seen.

Network 49 will convene a meeting of interested groups, including Preservation Chicago and ISKCON, to draft a Community Benefits Agreement to present to David Gasman.

We will also ask Alderman Moore to hold off on any decision until the community and Gasman have had time to develop the agreement.

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can view the development proposals on Alderman Moore’s website and click these links to see Network 49’s information handout and community benefits scorecard.

 

Network 49 Questions Re 1710 W Lunt and 1730 W Greenleaf

Email sent to Alderman Joe Moore June 13, 2017:

Dear Alderman Moore:

We are writing on behalf of the Housing and Community Development Committee of Network 49. Our committee is comprised of residents of the 49th ward who are interested in promoting balanced development and improving and expanding the process for resident participation in zoning and land use decisions. We are part of the larger Network 49 membership organization, with which I believe you are familiar. (www.network49.net).

Our committee met Saturday June 10 to review the announced redevelopment of 1710 W Lunt and 1730 W Greenleaf. We learned of these developments on June 8 through an email announcement from your office. We drafted a set of questions, which we will bring to the community meeting on Wednesday June 14 to share (See “Re 1710 and 1730.docx”) N49 Questions re 1710 W Lunt and 1730 W Greenleaf - 6-13-17 (73 downloads) . We thought it would be constructive to share questions about the projects to have share with David Gasman ahead of time. Would you please pass along these questions to Dave? We do not have his contact information, but would be happy to connect to Dave directly or to meet with him and your staff to discuss our questions at a future date.

We also had questions for you about the process of these community review meetings, which our members though it would be constructive to address to you separately. These are also attached (See “Re 1710 and 1730 – Qs for Alderman.docx”) (included in the previous download).

In sharing these questions to you and Dave Gasman, we acknowledge that the information we have access to may not be the complete picture. Our views of the project may evolve or new questions may arise, once we have a chance to hear the complete presentation. Given the short notice of the June 14 meeting, it was the best we could do. We hope this is a process of dialogue and discussion, not a one-shot opportunity to weigh in.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact myself or Thom Clark, co-Chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee. We look forward to the meeting tomorrow and to learning about these projects.

 

Sincerely,

Brian White and Thom Clark

Co-Chairs, Housing and Community Development Committee of Network 49

N49 Says Put Community Benefits First When New Development is Proposed

Residents comprising Network 49’s Housing & Community Development want balanced development in our community. By balanced development, we mean that in general, development should balance benefits received by the community with private benefits for the developer. It is an effort to create win-wins.

NETWORK 49 COMMUNITY BENEFITS SCORECARD

An example is when a developer builds a development to provide affordable housing (community benefit) and gets a developer fee or future rents (private benefit) in exchange. It might also be where a private business comes into the community and agrees to hire local residents as part of its store roll-out plan. The store may not need to make such a commitment, but in doing so it gets a private benefit (new employees), but also creates a community benefit by hiring local employees. That’s a win-win

We also think it is appropriate to consider:

  • how a development project integrates into the community
  • whether it is consistent with community plans
  • how it impacts traffic and congestion
  • whether it enhances or undermines the local business climate, and
  • overall – does it improve quality of life in our community.

We are not at all anti-development. We simply believe that development should be a rising tide that lifts all boats. We also recognize the importance of preserving the racial and economic diversity of our community through housing and community development. This was something more than 85% of our members ranked as important or very important in our recent community survey.

N49 developed a scorecard to assist residents evaluate developments in terms of the exchange of public and private benefits. We intend this to be used concerning development projects where a public benefit is being requested.

A public benefit requested by the developer might be a zoning change, financial subsidy, street closing or alteration, or other benefit that the developer would not otherwise receive. A public benefit requested by the community might be a commitment to hire locally, pay living wages, set aside space in the development for community uses or a similar benefit demanded by the community through an open and deliberative process.

We will be evaluating this tool and our overall progress in the weeks and months ahead. We hope that it will help educate ourselves about what kinds of things we can ask for when developers want to build in our community.

Please let us know what you think!

N49 Survey Says: Political Mobilization is Needed

At our May general membership meeting, we were pleased to share the results of our recent member survey. By way of background, we sent an 8-question survey to our members and asked them to evaluate some of our recent priorities and share ideas for what is concerning them right now. We also asked for their feedback on whether our organization should start collecting dues and if so, what amount.

We found that our members affirmed in large part what we are currently focused on:

  • “Maintaining Rogers Park’s economic and racial diversity in housing and community development” came in first, with a weighted average of 4.56/5.0;
  • “Helping progressive candidates win elections” was next, at 4.52/5.0;
  • “Making Rogers Park a safe and just community for all” was a close third at 4.50/5.0;
  • “Protecting our Public, Neighborhood Schools” was right next, at 4.46/5.0.

So where do we take up these concerns?

  • Housing & Community Development is tackling the first one.
  • Safe Community Task Force is working on the third, along with our partners at Protect RP.
  • The Education Committee has been tackling the fourth and is an issue with which Network 49 is strongly identified, thanks to the success of the Charter Freeze referendum on Nov. 9, 2017. Their ongoing leadership at work in Sanctuary schools, the fight for elected school board and more provide a model to the rest of our committee work.
  • The Politics Committee takes on the largest issue of members’ discontent: voter dissatisfaction with current politicians, from the Ward to the National level.

Frankly, our respondents are irate about a whole host of issues that involve political change. Network 49 will be engaging in voter education through a planned Community Canvass, beginning in June (look for details on Network 49 facebook and Web pages), ongoing Forums addressing the key issues, Voter Registration, and continued organizing with our neighbors.

Some respondents want Network 49 to field candidates, but our focus is on organizing our members to resist, expose and fight hypocrisy, lack of transparency, and elected officials simply not doing their jobs for the people wherever and whenever we can. But we are not just about resisting. We are working to affirm our values and help our members engage constructively in pushing for what we want, not just what we oppose.

We welcome people interested in running for elected office to share their interests to us and to speak before our members. If the survey is any indication, they will be well-received!

Alderman Joe Moore responds to Network 49 – affirms support for charter expansion

On March 14 a letter, Network 49 delivered a letter to Alderman Joe Moore, requesting a response by March 19. It stated in part:

“We are writing with great concern regarding two proposals for local charter expansion that have been recently submitted to CPS… Our community needs to know where you stand on these proposals. The timetable for action on these proposals is short and means that a response from you is urgent.”

The full text of the letter is available here.

Alderman Moore’s response, delivered on March 30, finally broke his silence: he’s supporting charter school expansion. (Read Alderman Moore’s full letter here).

Last November, 2/3 of RP voters made it clear that they are against any charter expansion in our neighborhood. In identical letters to Network 49, LSC members, and residents who had pressed him for an answer about the CMSA expansion request, Joe Moore stated

“Though advisory referenda inform my decision making, I do not consider them controlling.”

Alderman Moore has clearly reached the end of his fling with participatory democracy. If you’re a Rogers Park resident, please join the effort of Ya Basta, Enough Already, No to more Charter Seats in Rogers Park. and Network 49 and sign our “virtual postcard” against charter expansion! You can sign here: https://goo.gl/forms/WFeqdMnpW97PlOj83. Invite your RP friends to sign, too!

Network 49 Statement on Proposed Charter School Expansion in Rogers Park

Rogers Park neighborhood schools, already struggling with budget cut after budget cut, now face the threat of losing additional thousands of dollars due to proposed charter expansion.

Our neighborhood schools have already been severely impacted by two large charter schools – Chicago Math and Science Academy (CMSA) and UNO-Rogers Park. They have  siphoned off more than 1,000 local students into privatized education – which lacks much of the transparency, accountability, and parent involvement that is integral to public education.

National research indicates that privately-run charters do not perform better than public schools, and are more segregated.

The 49th Ward community has already spoken clearly against moves to privatize our public education through the “No to Noble” coalition of parents and community activists, which was joined by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, State Senator Heather Steans, and State Representative Kelly Cassidy.

The Network 49 “Charter Freeze” referendum, opposing any new charter expansion in the 49th Ward, won the support of 62.6% (11,342 votes) on last November’s ballot. 

Alderman Joe Moore, however, continues to ignore the majority of his constituents on this issue.  He has been holding private meetings with charter operators for months, with no communication to the community as a whole, not even to his own neighborhood school organization, CORPS.

Two proposals for new and expanded charter schools in Rogers Park are now being considered by CPS:

  • CMSA has requested that 100 more high school students be added to the school over four years, increasing its student body from 600 to 700. Sullivan High School would be directly and negatively affected. The loss of 100 students represents about $500,000 in annual funding.
  • A Michigan-based Assyrian charter organization, KEYS Nineveh Academy, has proposed creating a k-5 charter school, which would provide Assyrian cultural education and aims to “incorporate the heritage of Iraqi Christians,” according to the organization’s president. Network 49 recognizes that all our many immigrant communities need special attention and resources. We are committed to creating the safest and most welcoming community possible during these difficult times. But we also know that our neighborhood schools have worked tirelessly to serve immigrant children, and we will continue to fight for strengthening these schools, rather than further dividing up our communities and slicing away already inadequate funding.

We ask all residents and organizations of Rogers Park to contact Alderman Moore at 773-338-5796 with a clear message to stop diversion of our scarce public dollars to privatized charters and away from our public neighborhood schools in Rogers Park.

A Big Difference: Alderman Moore’s Committee on Rogers Park Schools (CORPS) and the Education Committee of Network 49

Several days ago, Alderman Joe Moore announced the formation of a new community committee he was sponsoring, called CORPS. The stated purpose of CORPS is to publicize and support the six non-charter neighborhood schools in the 49th Ward. A number of our members have asked us about the timing of this new initiative.

Since the late summer of 2015, Network 49 has been deeply involved in supporting our neighborhood schools. We believe the privatization of public education – through the expansion of charters and potentially with publicly funded vouchers, is undermining our neighborhood schools. Our work culminated in a referendum for the November 8 ballot, calling for a “freeze” on any new charter expansion in our ward. The referendum gained over 11,000 votes and was supported by 63% of voters. Alderman Moore was the only neighborhood elected official who opposed our referendum. Alderman Moore has also consistently opposed an elected school board for Chicago, and instead supports the appointment of all board members by the Mayor.

Alderman Moore has been a champion of charter schools in Rogers Park for years. He has steadfastly supported the Chicago Math and Science Academy, our first charter, even though residents were opposed to it. He supported the opening of UNO high school, ignoring ongoing investigations into UNOs school construction and contracting practices. And emails released in late 2016 show he was actively scheming with Mayor Emanuel to bring a Noble Network Charter School to Rogers Park, while denying publicly any such plan existed. This is his record on charters.

Alderman Moore also launched a plan in 2016 that would have led to the consolidation of two of our neighborhood schools to give Decatur Gifted a campus in our community. As best we can tell, he did not consult with the LSCs or the community before announcing the plan, which was cancelled because it violated CPS policies.

And now we have CORPS. While the proof of CORPS will be in the pudding, we are concerned the central thrust of CORPS is to create a support group for the schools, rather than one that advocates on their behalf. We don’t oppose supporting local schools. But we believe what will make a bigger difference is to encourage our members and neighbors to attend and support the local school councils and school events and to get involved in any way they can. It is this community self-education and knowledge that will create the staunch local allies our schools need.

But even more importantly, our concern is that CORPS does not address the central issues facing our schools: continued privatization (charters/vouchers), lack of a democratically-elected school board, unfair and inadequate school funding, and the siphoning of school funds into unnecessary TIFs. These are the areas where Alderman Moore needs to use his voice and his office.

In the meantime, Network 49 is moving on with our work. Through grassroots organizing and under the leadership of neighborhood residents, we will fight – in our community and through collaborations with other neighborhood and city-wide public-school advocacy organizations – to put neighborhood schools first.

We invite you to join us!

Network 49 Organizes Teach-in on DOJ Report on Chicago Police

Network 49 will host a teach-in on Monday February 27  for community residents to learn about what the US Department of Justice concluded in its investigation into Chicago Police Department abuses. The DOJ report was released earlier this year and validates long-held concerns by residents, especially minority youth, about the Chicago Police Department.

February 27 N49 Teach-in on DOJ and CPD (109 downloads)

 

Network 49 has invited Sheila Bedi, attorney and clinical professor of law at Northwestern University’s MacArthur Justice Center, to help put the report and findings in context. Ms. Bedi was previously Deputy Legal Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization addressing hate crimes in the United States.

The teach-in is the first in a series of events Network 49 is hosting on safety in our community.