Tag Archives: Back of the Yards

TIFs increase inequality, reinforce blight

Increased attention on “policies that increase economic inequality” has meant greater public concern over the city’s TIF program, which residents see “helping the prosperous downtown at the expense of their neighborhoods,” according to a new report from Grassroots Collaborative.

A program intended to help low-income “blighted” areas has seen 55 percent of its spending from 2004 to 2008 going to the Loop and Near South, writes Eric Tellez.  That’s despite the fact that average incomes in the Loop ($62,000 to $77,000 a year) are much higher than in neighborhoods like Brighton Park ($21,000 to $27,000).

A Grassroots Collaborative analysis showed that while TIF subsidies created thousands of downtown jobs over recent years, they created zero jobs in Brighton Park.  Indeed, from 2002 to 2009, Brighton Park’s share of downtown jobs decreased by nearly 15 percent.

(Earlier this year the Chicago Reporter found that much of downtown TIF spending was actually creating jobs for suburban residents.)

Thus “a program meant to address blight in fact reinforces it,” Tellez reports.

A posting of the article at Progress Illinois includes data tables and interviews with two residents of Brighton Park (it’s also been published in the Back of the Yards newspaper, The Gate; the article breaks out data on Back of the Yards, Brighton Park, and Englewood).

David Uriostegui, a young Brighton Park resident who works three minimum-wage jobs to support his family, talks about getting home at midnight and getting up at 5 a.m. – and still worrying every day about how he’s going to cover his family’s expenses.  “I hate having to have a calculator in my head every day, trying to see if I’m going to have enough.”

Rosalba Guzman talks about the need to taxpayer subsidies to come back to communities.  She describes a downward spiral, with businesses closing because their customers are losing jobs.  Taxpayer money “should come back to the community, not to the corporates, because they’re making their own money,” she says.

Undocumented youth: dreaming, waiting…

In the last couple years we’ve heard about “Dream students” – college students who’ve “come out” as undocumented and protested to press Congress on the DREAM Act, which would offer a path to citizenship.

With vivid profiles of five young Back of the Yards residents, a new report  in the Gate gives us a view of the many kinds of challenges these young people confront – as well as the impact on many who don’t make it.

For kids who’ve grown up fully integrated into local school and culture, realizing the implications for their lives of being undocumented can be a profound shock.

“You feel lost,” says Quintiliano Rios, 21.  “You feel like all doors are closing on you.”

As a teenager, Aurora Vizcarra, 20, became convinced that school was pointless for her.  Today she works in a factory and a restaurant, while raising her two-year-old daughter.

University of Chicago professor Roberto Gonzalez explains that the students who end up succeeding  are those who gain support from teachers and counselors – and are able to talk about their immigration status with them.  In many Chicago schools, large class sizes make it difficult to establish those kinds of relationships, he has found.

At Holy Cross Church, immigration committee chair Jose Alonso works to motivate young people to prepare for college.  Those who succeed become expert fundraisers, he said.

Unfortunately, their future depends not just on their own talent and hard work but on the vagaries of national politics.