By Dr. Juanita Bratcher
Editor & Publisher, CopyLine Magazine
About 200, 8th Ward residents showed up for a scheduled community meeting at St. Ailbe church in the rainy-cold only to find out in the church’s parking lot that the meeting had been canceled.
Residents cried foul, they believed that their meeting had been toppled and killed off by someone, but by whom? Nonetheless, they vowed that it would make them more determined in their efforts to keep out of the neighborhood a 134-unit, 7 story low income Section Eight proposed housing project which is scheduled to be built in Calumet Heights at 9329 to 9429 S. Stony Island Ave., in the middle- and upper-middle class neighborhood
Certainly, the 200 attendees were baffled and taken aback when they got the cancellation news in the parking lot. They were angry and felt that someone had sabotaged their plan of getting together to discuss their opposition to a project the alderman has sanctioned and the majority of the community residents do not want.
“This just put more gasoline on the fire,” said one of the residents, when hearing that the meeting had been canceled without notice. “This will only make us work harder to keep it out. We don’t want it in our neighborhood, the alderman wants it there. I say put it somewhere else.” That was the overall feeling of all people who attended the meeting in their interaction with each other in the parking lot. That’s why they came to the meeting in the first place – to find ways together to stop the building from coming to the area.
Said another 8th Ward resident: “We want the alderman to know that we don’t want this huge, low-income building in our neighborhood. We will fight tooth and nail to keep it out. She better take heed or she will be voted out of office in the next election. This is the same alderman that was going to bring a marijuana business and pawn shop into the 8th Ward. 8th Ward residents fought back and kept them both out.
However, the setback didn’t stop some of the attendees from finding another meeting place. They were successful in their efforts to seek refuge at a nearby restaurant about two blocks away. They were accommodated in their efforts to hold the meeting there. Much planning went on between the people who stayed. But one thing was certain; they said they will “fight like hell” to keep the building out of the 8th Ward community
Many of the prospective attendees voiced disappointment and anger that St. Ailbe had canceled the meeting at the last minute. But according to a staff person at St. Ailbe Church, the meeting was canceled sometime ago after they learned that a woman had falsely called in and used the name of another person to use the meeting room, and there was no telephone number listed to call the person back. She had used the name of a woman several in the church was familiar with.
The staff person said the woman whose name was used was part of the Calumet Heights group that meets at St Ailbe every month. The lady that called in and scheduled the meeting used her name, but the woman whose name was used said she didn’t call and schedule a meeting.
“So we took the meeting off the book because we didn’t know who or what was going on,” said St. Ailbe’s staff person “There was no telephone number for the person who called in under false pretense and we had no way of notifying her that the meeting was being canceled. We would have gladly called back if she had left a telephone number.”
While St. Ailbe has always been a good neighbor in the community and has provided availability to many organizations to utilize their facility for meetings over the years, they had to cancel the meeting because someone had called the church and falsely used the name of someone else.
“It’s like we did something wrong,” the St. Ailbe staff person added. “We do not deal with politics and who’s running for what. Alderman Michele Harris doesn’t run our office, facility, and who we let into our meeting room. No one can tell us what to do. We had no idea what was going on (in the parking lot because there was no meeting being held), and we didn’t know about the guy out there in the parking lot passing out flyers (brochures about the low-income housing project).”
Linda Hudson, a perspective candidate for 8th Ward alderman, said when the alderman held a meeting regarding the low-income Section 8 seniors building, she said she had sent a survey to residents and they wanted it. “But everyone at the meeting said they were not aware of the survey. She (alderman) told us it was not a done deal and she would like more meetings with the community to discuss it.”
The alderman had a meeting on March 27 at the Montclare senior residence on East 78th Street. “The meeting should have been held in Calumet Heights where the people who will be affected live.” said Hudson.” Reportedly, the alderman told people at the meeting that “We need to jump on this opportunity because some white alderman would want it….We really don’t need more senior housing in the ward. The ones that are here already have vacancies.
“We sent her (Alderman Michelle Harris) an invite for the meeting last night (the one that was canceled). We were disappointed when we got to meeting and it had been canceled. One of her staff persons was passing out flyers in the parking lot and told people that the meeting had been canceled.
“Our voices should be heard on projects like this coming into our ward,” Hudson continued. “Every time a project comes into the ward we never know about it until it happens. But it will never happen on my watch. The community will get input and transparency.”