Despite his statements to the contrary, Alderman James Cappleman has led a multi-pronged, years-long effort to drive homeless people, poorer people in general, and people of color out of the 46th Ward. He has been a longtime opponent of working class people in the ward, prioritizing development for upper income “urban pioneers” (an appropriate term for would-be conquerors) while destroying homes and services for modest-incomed people who have long lived here.
His goal: Lincoln Park North, a trendy playground of boutiques and entertainment venues for whiter, richer, newly-arrived residents. Along the way, he’s enriching his developer friends / campaign contributors by doing their bidding.
His latest attack is the purposeful driving out of the people who inhabited Uptown’s Tent Cities, and the redesign of the Lake Shore Drive bridge viaducts with yuppie-pleasing bike paths on the sidewalks so as to intentionally keep homeless people away permanently. As if that was not enough, the purge of homeless people from the LSD viaducts has been accompanied by a new policy of preventing them from pitching tents ANYWHERE in the city.
In a city where homeless shelters are frequently full even in good weather, this a recipe for more injuries and perhaps deaths as the cold weather approaches. It is also a recipe guaranteed to increase trauma for people already in highly stressful situations, as at least three homeless people suffered medical crises during the series of evictions following the closure of the LSD viaducts.
The past week’s evictions of homeless people are only the latest in Cappleman’s drive for a whiter, richer Uptown:
* Among his first acts as alderman was the removal of basketball hoops from the ward’s playlots, because they allegedly attracted gangs, rather than providing one of the few affordable entertainment outlets for black youth;
* Among his other first acts was to try to stop the Salvation Army from feeding poor people in the ward;
* He has repeatedly targeted the social service centers serving the ward’s poor for zoning and code violations in an attempt to shut them down;
* He did “absolutely nothing” to prevent the threatened closure of a homeless shelter on Lawrence Avenue last December, according to its director, which was only saved by a community outcry that prompted last-minute donations;
* He has stood by as a series of SROs, the least expensive form of permanent housing, have shut down, losing over 2,000 units of such housing in the area over a three-year period alone;
* He led an attempt to outlaw and thus close the least expensive forms of the SROs, of which there are only two in the city, one located on Wilson Avenue. After failing to close the Wilson Men’s Club Hotel legislatively, he recently stood by as a loophole in the SRO preservation ordinance allowed the previous owner to flip it to a luxury developer. This loss of 200 more units of permanent low-income housing could probably still be stopped if Cappleman refuses to sign off on necessary zoning changes and permits.
* He aggressively promoted a $15.8 million TIF subsidy to build luxury highrises at Montrose & Clarendon Avenues – prime lakefront property literally within sight of the former homeless Tent City. In doing so, he also gifted the wealthy developer by circumventing the 2016 Affordable Requirements Ordinance which guarantees at least token housing for the non-wealthy.
* Besides supporting Rahm’s record shutdown of 50 schools in 2014, he thumbed his nose at widespread community support – gauged at City-organized public input sessions – for the conversion of the Stewart School on Kenmore to low income housing and small business incubators. Instead, just a few years after the Board of Education spent $10 million on repairs to the historic school, he sat by while the Board sold it for $5 million to a developer to turn it into luxury housing.
* On September 26, 2016, he collaborated with police and the Stewart School developer’s construction contractor to close down and evict the tent city that had peacefully existed in front of the school. This prompted the federal suit currently being pursued by Uptown Tent City Organizers to stop City harassment of homeless people and help their attempts to survive in Chicago’s harsh weather with tents.
Please come out to a protest vigil during Cappleman’s public office hours this next Monday, Sept. 25, 5:30 pm at his ward office, 4544 N. Broadway.