The West and South Sides of Chicago will receive $250 million dollars over a three year period according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox, and BMO Harris Bank CEO David Casper. The ten neighborhoods targeted are: Auburn Gresham, North Lawndale, Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Quad Communities, New City, Roseland, South Chicago and South Shore.
This is a great start to revitalize the West and South Sides of Chicago; however, I'm afraid this move just might fail. Mainly because there are a few institutional voids in the execution of this ambitious, economical stimulus. Those voids are the admittance of not only stakeholders (tax paying residents) of the aforementioned neighborhoods, but also the social and economical leaders of said neighborhoods.
I truly believe the mayor's heart is in the right place relative to transforming the West and South Sides of Chicago, I'm just concerned the people this initiative is aimed at helping won't have a say in how this is rolled out. That's extremely problematic in that not knowing the history and cultural ethos of the aforementioned communities could lead to services that aren't really wanted or needed by the people. I don't doubt Mr. Maurice Cox work in Detroit relative to planning and development, nevertheless, Chicago isn't Detroit.
You can't just walk in a neighborhood with a load of cash and just start building stuff without those in the neighborhood knowing exactly what's going on. The mayor must have meetings with business and social leaders before she roll this plan out, and no, her GENERAL listening tour meetings don't count when talking specifically about her $250 million dollar transformative plan for the West and South Sides of Chicago relative to each neighborhood which have very different needs.
Let's take a neighborhood like Austin for example: If Mayor Lightfoot isn't willing to meet with Austin neighborhood leaders such as Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch, Dr. Amara Enyia, Malcolm Crawford, William Riley, Charmaine V. Rickette to name a few, then the mayor's execution is going to lack serious impact. In a neighborhood like Austin as well as West Humboldt Park, the mayor must consider meeting with other institutions such as The Westside Health Authority, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Austin African American Business Network, The Leaders Network, as well as the Westside NAACP.
"I've also heard activists such as Rev. Anibal J. Vega (Auburn Gresham) express interest in meeting with the mayor and her team relative to the South Side of Chicago"!
There should also be funds set aside for community newspaper such as The Austin Weekly, The Voice Newspapers, The North Lawndale Community News, The Windy City Word, Bronzeville Life, the Hyde Park Herald, and The Chicago Crusader to assist in getting the word out to the aforementioned neighborhoods. Our local newspapers as a collective reach MILLIONS of Chicagoans on a weekly basis.
I'm also willing to assist in this great endeavor as well. If the mayor along with Mr. Maurice Cox is willing to fill the above institutional voids, I sincerely believe the $250 million dollar transformative plan for the West and South Sides of Chicago will indeed be airtight and would wildly succeed.
Written By: Jim Allen
CEO of One Business Chicago