Saturday, May 26, 2018

Obama's Polite Gentrification Will Displace Poor Residents - Huh?


therealnews |  Years before he became president, Barack Obama got his start as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago. Now out of the White House, Obama is coming back to the south side to build his $500 million presidential center. But Obama now faces a pushback from the same community he once organized with. For months, south side residents have been holding protests. They don’t oppose the center, but they want to make sure it doesn’t cause gentrification and displacement.
SPEAKER: So we’re here to make this stand, to say that we don’t want displacement to happen in this community. We don’t want to see the jobs come from outside, be filled by people from the outside, the people living here don’t get a chance to work.
AARON MATE: South side residents have formed a coalition, calling on Obama to sign a community benefits agreement which, among other things, would help protect low income residents from eviction and higher rents. Coalition Member Paru Brown outlined their demands.
PARU BROWN: We are pushing for a city ordinance that would, one, set aside 30 percent of new and rehab housing for low-income and working families; two, freeze property taxes for longtime residents; three, require large developers like the University of Chicago to invest in new affordable housing; and four, independently monitor local hiring.
AARON MATE: But Obama and his foundation are refusing to sign a CBA. The former president recently told Chicago residents why.
BARACK OBAMA: And the danger here is that if we sign an agreement with any one organization, or two organizations, or five organizations-. I’ve lived on the south side and in Chicago long enough to know that they’re not representing everybody on the south side. So now suddenly I’ve got five other organizations to say, hey, how come, how come you signed with them? What about us? And then you got 10, oh, I just formed an organization. You know what I’m talking about. And next thing you know you’ve got 40 organizations or 50 organizations, everybody has their own organization, saying we should get, we should have say, control, decision-making over who gets the contract, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
AARON MATE: Well, Obama’s plans have now taken a big step forward. The Obama center has just won approval from two city commissions and the full City Council, moving the project to federal review. South side activists are not giving up their fight. Jawanza Malone is executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, and a member of the Obama library South Side CBA coalition. Jawanza, welcome. Talk to us first just about the struggle that you’ve been involved in for many months now, and the state of it now, and the aftermath of these city votes moving the project forward.
JAWANZA MALONE: Thanks for having me on, Aaron. For the last two and a half years, actually, the CBA coalition has been working to craft a community benefits agreement that involves not just the Obama Foundation but also the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago. In all the turmoil and excitement around President Obama himself, people forget that the University of Chicago is actually the entity that wrote the bill that was awarded to get the Presidential Center on the south side of Chicago in Jackson Park. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel had, you know, said two years ago that he was willing to move heaven and earth to make sure that it happened. And that’s what we’re, we’re seeing it happen over concerns raised with the city councilmen, over concerns raised by the community, particularly about where the money is going to come from for the infrastructure changes that the foundation has called for.
As you said in your intro, the city council and a quasi-governmental appointed body has voted to approve the plan moving forward. What we’ve been asking for is very simple. We’re asking for a legally binding agreement to ensure that residents are not, do not continue to get displaced from the area, because we’ve already seen displacement taking place. And so without a clear community benefits agreement that protects low-income and working families, who is the predominant population in that part of town, we’re going to see mass displacement of people, unfortunately.