The Columbia Chronicle

Chicagoans trying to restore sanity

By Meghan Keyes

October 11, 2010

Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” defined his movement: “Ours is a rally for the people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs)—not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence … we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point.”The main “Rally to Restore Sa...

Urban farm feeds community

By Meghan Keyes

October 11, 2010

Approaching the diagonal intersection of Division Street and Clybourn Avenue, a pedestrian encounters a chain link fence covered in vines and small blue flowers. The ground behind the fence is higher than the sidewalk, bringing the leafy growth of vegetables closer to eye level.The site boasts a full greenhouse and rows of lush green foliage, only a block away from the former Cabrini-Green projects with a postcard view of ...

Railroad bridge repairs postponed until spring

By Meghan Keyes

October 4, 2010

For Metra Union-Pacific North Line passengers, longer travel times and fewer trains were the rule after Metra began a construction project requiring it to function on a single track, causing delays and requiring the numbers of trains to be reduced.However, on Sept. 30 the whole project was postponed until spring 2011.Originally, Metra said to anticipate minor adjustments. When the adjusted timetable took effect on Aug. 22, commute...

FBI raids activists’ homes

By The Columbia Chronicle

October 4, 2010

by: Darryl Holliday and Meghan KeyesIt is 7 a.m. on a Friday morning, and Doug Michel is in Minnesota visiting his friends, whom he met working on a protest at the 2008 Republican National Convention. There’s a knock at the apartment door. The FBI enters, serving a search warrant and a subpoena to one of the roommates, Tracy Molm. By Michel’s account, he and friends were instructed to sit in the corner, asked not to move...

Teachers rally to end ‘attack’

By Meghan Keyes

September 27, 2010

Chants of “When education is under attack, what do we do? Fight back!” erupted in Daley Plaza, 118 N. Clark St., on Sept. 21 as teachers, union members, students and parents joined together, hoisting signs and taking the stage to testify about the various grievances they had with the Chicago Public Schools system.The ralliers have five specific demands: They want Mayor Richard M. Daley to give $350 million in Tax Increme...

Chicago part of global car-less celebration

By Meghan Keyes

September 27, 2010

Residents of a metropolis like Chicago can see a wide variety of traffic—cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, Segways, horse-drawn carriages and trolleys—all clogging the streets in the everyday stop-and-go. However, a growing movement aims to lessen the congestion and encourage alternative travel.Chicago took part in World Carfree Day on Sept. 22, a celebration and initiative to leave the car at home and use alternative mod...

Mayor Daley suggests reversing Chicago River

By Meghan Keyes

September 20, 2010

In the 1870s, the Chicago River was dumping commercial and industrial waste into Lake Michigan, which quickly became a threat to the public’s health. With the completion of the final major engineering project in 1928, the river’s direction was reversed. Today, it flows away from the lake.Recently, Mayor Richard M. Daley said while on the lakefront with his brother, he thought about re-reversing the flow of the Chicago R...

Ordinance to create affordable housing

By Meghan Keyes

September 13, 2010

Chicago is home to nearly 3 million people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, morethan two-thirds of Chicago households earn less than the Area Median Income for CookCounty, which is $75,100 for a family of four.The new Sweet Home Chicago ordinance proposes to allocate 20 percent of taxincrement financing funds generated each year toward affordable housing for low-income Chicagoans.  TIF funds are a part of property tax designated to the district they came from and are used within the district.The ordinance was introduced on March 10 and is working its way through the CityCouncil. It was assigned to a joint committee on financing and housing and had its firsthearing in July.The committee’s next step is to meet on Sept. 21 with the mayor’s office, lawyers and the housing committee, according to Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th Ward),the ordinance’s sponsor.“The mayor’s office really has a lot of control of this, and basically they’ve been saying,‘We’re not ready for you to vote on this,’” said Julie Dworkin, director of policy for theChicago Coalition for the Homeless. “But we have been having conversations with themayor’s office.”The ordinance currently has 22 aldermanic co-sponsors and 66 endorsements fromvarious organizations.“Before the group came to me about  Sweet Home, I was already speaking with people,telling them they should use TIF dollars to help developers,” Burnett said. “When theybrought Sweet Home to me, it was right on target for what I’ve been working on for twoyears.”The ordinance is led by the Sweet Home Chicago Coalition.  One of the organizationswithin the coalition is Action Now, a grassroots organization working on economic,social and racial issues in Chicago.“In the communities where we work, affordable housing is needed badly becauseforeclosures have destroyed communities,” said Aileen Kelleher, communicationsdirector for Action Now. “We’re trying to get affordable housing there so people havesomewhere to live, especially in the recession.”The TIF funds generate around $500 million per year, according to Dworkin, whichmeans this initiative would have about $100 million per year to spend. This could createup to 1,400 units with other funding sources including federal, state, private funding andloans.“It would also put people to work,” Dworkin said. “The industry has been really hurting.It would create jobs and not just in the construction industry, but all of the industries thatsupport the construction industry.”She estimated 3,000 jobs would be created.In order for a development to qualify for the money, 50 percent of the units would haveto be affordable. For rentals, housing needs to be affordable to residents earning less than$37,700 for a family of four.However, citywide, 40 percent of the total units created have to be affordable tohouseholds earning less than $22,600 a year for a family of four. Units for purchase mustbe affordable to households earning less than $60,300 for a family of four.The ordinance itself has not had opposition, according to Dworkin. Alderman Ed Burke(14th Ward) and Alderman Ray Suarez (31st Ward) are the heads of the finance andhousing committees, respectively.According to Dworkin, Burnett asked Burke when they would vote on the ordinance, andhe stated they would at the next finance committee meeting.Another factor in the ordinance’s future is Mayor Richard M.  Daley’s announcement thathe will not run for election again, because the TIF funds are allotted by the mayor and hisoffice.“I think more people will do what they feel is right,” Burnett said.Dworkin thinks their progress so far keeps things looking positive.“If anything, it’s probably going to be a good thing because Daley will have less self-interest in holding on to the TIF money,” Dworkin said. “It still remains to be seen.”A similar law is in effect in California, where 20 percent of TIF funds in every district areused for low-income housing, according to Dworkin.“[The ordinance] uses TIF funds for their intended purpose, which is to go back into thecommunity, instead of creating a huge war chest of funds for the mayor,” Kelleher said.“It directly affects people in Chicago’s communities.”

Wildlife in Chicago surviving urban sprawl

By Meghan Keyes

September 7, 2010

As people hurry through Chicago, they may notice a rat scurrying through an alley or a pigeon pecking at garbage, but when night falls, coyotes roam the streets, possums dig through trash and a skunk might make itself at home in a garage.Several organizations in the city are focused on reducing the conflict between nature and people, with efforts including the 50 motion and heat sensor cameras installed in the Chicagoland area t...

‘Transformers 3’ explodes Chicago’s industry

By Meghan Keyes

September 7, 2010

Chicago’s iconic architecture was blown up in fiery blasts, invaded by alien robots and parts of Michigan Avenue were reduced to rubble.  And Michael Bay is to blame.“Transformers 3” began filming in Chicago on July 9 and ended Sept. 1, pouring $20 million into the local economy and providing at least 1,200 jobs, according to the Chicago Film Office.According to the Chicago Transit Authority, the filming detoured 29 d...

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