Jarvis: 49th Ward Holds Aldermanic Candidate Forum
By Sarah Vonnegut
The Red Line Project
Posted: Feb. 12, 2011
Affordable housing, schools, jobs, diversity and the ongoing issue of tax increment financing highlighted the second of two 49th Ward aldermanic forums in one day for Democratic candidates Joe Moore, the incumbent, and challenger Brian White.
The forum, held Wednesday night at the Mision Cristiana Elim Church in Rogers Park, was the second of the day, following a Wednesday morning forum at a local Mexican restaurant.
Sister Patricia Crowley of the St. Scholastica Monestary moderated the evening event, which was hosted by the Rogers Park Business Alliance, SSA No. 24, and RogersPark.com. More than 50 people attended.
And while issues of the schools and jobs in Rogers Park, which has roughly the same borders as the 49th Ward, materialized during the debate, the argument over affordable housing and tax increment financing, or TIF, have emerged as two of the leading issues in the Feb. 22 election.
And they were not ignored on this night.
Tax increment financing, which would call for both the ward and the city to make a joint investment in the redevelopment of Rogers Park, works with the intent that any short-term gains be reinvested and leveraged for larger financial gains in the future.
Pastor John Hoekwater (left) introduces candidates
Brian White (center) and Joe Moore (Photo by Sarah Vonnegut)
White’s plan gears much of the proposed financing to improving and maintaining rental housing, a step he believes is crucial in keeping minorities in the neighborhood. The rental improvement funding, or RIF, is a direct attack on gentrification or what White refers to as the “development by displacement” model.
“The population has been displaced outside of the neighborhood and not so much out of the city,” White said. “I think the biggest issue that we’re struggling with is where people can afford to live and how they’re going to be able to live in the neighborhood. What we’ve seen is over the last couple years because of all the condo conversions are an increasing cost of housing, and people simply can’t afford to live here.”
But Moore cited a city-wide decrease in minority populations.
“We are in many ways a microcosm of the city,” Moore rebutted, “and Chicago has experienced roughly 20 percent decrease in both African-American and Hispanic population, so we have to understand that city policy and indeed national policy affects our ability to accomplish our goal of maintaining ethnic and racial economic diversity.”
When the question of racial diversity and what it looks like arose, Moore was quick to address the diverse room staring back at him.
“Racial diversity looks something like this room,” Moore said. “Historically, neighborhoods of diversity are those in transition…but Rogers Park has been able to maintain that stage for over 30 years.”
But White disagreed, citing a one-fifth decline in both African-American and Hispanic populations in the neighborhood, and while 2010 census data isn’t available yet, estimates predict a a small-scale decline in minority populations.
“We’ve seen more recently that with the downturn in the job market people have left the neighborhood looking for more work,” White said.
“The bigger challenge is that if you want to be able to live in a neighborhood you have to be able to afford to live [there] and you have to have a job that can pay you a decent wage that allows you to pay the rent and right now we don’t have enough of that – the jobs or the housing,” White said.
“Moore has in the last four years set his priorities on his community. He has pushed for sensible spending, transparent government and a concerted fight against Chicago's persistent political corruption,” the Tribune wrote. “Challenger Brian White has been a leader in affordable housing efforts, but he didn't make much of an argument against the incumbent. Moore is endorsed.”
Moore said that the most important job he’s had during his 20-year tenure as alderman has been providing service to his constituents, noting his weekly e-mails and the Greenwood Market as benchmarks of service provided.
White stressed his self-described humble upbringing as the ninth of 10 children in a struggling family. He said what he was most concerned about – and struggles he’s needed to face himself – are those quality of life issues surrounding jobs, housing and schools.
“I’m running for alderman to help Rogers Park reach its potential,” White said.
Early voting runs through next Thursday, Feb. 17, followed by the election on Feb. 22.