Police accountability and housing activists are pushing back against city government as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attempts to replenish his campaign coffers at his first fundraiser since the Laquan McDonald shooting video was released.
The activists are picketing at Emanuel's pricey Monday night fundraiser, which costs individuals $5,400 while corporations are required to cough up $10,000. The event is being held at the home of real estate developer Robert Winslow.
Affordable housing advocates are calling on the mayor to make "substantive reforms" to the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), including a complete overhaul of the agency's policies. While Emanuel tapped Eugene Jones Jr. to take over the housing agency in January, CHA critics say that is not enough.
The Chicago Housing Initiative (CHI) has pushed back against CHA for its practices, blasting the agency for reportedly hoarding about 6,000 housing vouchers and 2,800 vacant units while more than 120,000 needy families sit idle on the agency's waitlist.
"Activists organizing the pickets link the shooting of black teen Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up within the Chicago Police Department to the systematic dysfunction of yet another mayorally controlled City Sister Agency, the Chicago Housing Authority, which is sitting on a $430 million cash surplus while 122,000 poor black and brown families languish on CHA's waiting lists seeking assistance," reads an announcement for the protest, which argues that public housing will be Emanuel's "next scandal" as argued in The New Republic.
Last fall, CHI members camped out overnight at City Hall in a push for councilmembers to pass the Keeping the Promise ordinance. Under the ordinance, CHA would have to provide the city council with quarterly reports on vacant and offline housing, its voucher utilization rate and a progress report on the replacement of lost public housing units.
The ordinance would also require that the agency replace each unit in its current housing stock with a unit in future CHA development. Additionally, the proposed plan would rein in future CHA land swaps or sales until the agency can prove that it will replace units that have already been lost under CHA's much-maligned, 16-year old Plan for Transformation.
The $1 billion plan was marketed as a means to rid the city of low-income, high-rise housing projects, while replacing them with mixed-income housing. But many of the units lost in the process have not been rebuilt elsewhere in the city, displacing thousands of residents as evidenced by the now-demolished Harold Ickes Homes.
"The way Mayor Emanuel has handled both the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Housing Authority shows just how little Rahm Emanuel values black life," said Haroon Garel, an organizer with CHI and Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP). "Here we have nearly half a billion dollars just sitting in the CHA's bank account, which is supposed to help the city's poorest residents, but instead is being stockpiled to serve investors and developers like the man hosting Rahm's fundraiser tonight.
"It's no accident that the people whose needs are being neglected are predominantly black and brown. It's families like these within Rahm's Chicago whose lives don't count, and whose deaths don't count."