I attended two of the three budget hearings for the City of Chicago that were held last week. I have since learned that the one held at 2102 W. Ogden is considered the “West Side.” The one held at 3020 N. Lamon was considered the North/Northwest Side meeting. But looking at the small number of black people who turned out for either one, those hearings are the “green light” for things in Chicago to stay the same.
If you don’t think attending budget hearings and getting involved in the political process is any of your concern, then the events of last week with Hurricane Katrina has made it very evident that politics and politicians can control your life?”especially as it applies to black people. Choosing to not get involved in the political process is a choice that allows others to choose for you. And so I am taken my “commentator’s license” to compare some aspect of the budget hearings with the situation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The Mayor of New Orleans got upset about how his constituents were being treated in the recovery effort. The Mayor of Chicago at the budget hearings got upset about having to listen to his constituents.
The Mayor of New Orleans told the federal government to get off their behinds and come do something to save the people in his city. The Mayor of Chicago sat on his behind and gave every excuse in the world why he can’t do more to save the people in his city.
Mayor Daley read his prepared speech about how he “failed the citizens of Chicago by not doing more to prevent what has occurred in his administration.” However by the time he read it at the N. Lamon location, it was obvious he was bored with that prepared speech. So he read it quickly and without emotion, and the apology was dry.
Mayor Daley also added to his speech about Chicagoans sending money to help the survivors of the hurricane. Mayor Daley told us any amount would do. Yet when a young man from Coalition to Save Public Housing suggested that several buildings in the housing project that were empty but still had heat and electricity be opened to allow those hurricane survivors to have a place to stay, Mayor Daley was opposed to that idea. Why?
I signed in to speak at 6:09 p.m. at the Lamon address. I should have been one of the first 10 people called to testify. But when some friends who came in an hour after I did were called, and I was still expected to wait, well I became the definition of an ABW (Angry Black Woman). So one of them ceded her time to me, and I began my testimony.
I started by greeting the audience as voters and then acknowledged the Mayor and his staff. I explained to the audience that it was now 9:15 p.m., and I had signed in before most of them, but the Mayor wasn’t interested in hearing from me.
Mayor Daley proceeded to deny my comments; however, during the testimony of others, I saw him going through the registration cards and picking the ones he wanted to hear from. Many of those folks were challenged by the mayor. He wanted proof when they made mention of their concerns. If they didn’t have it, he dismissed them.
I began my testimony regarding the permit parking on my block. How is that that those who never choose to be a part of the permit parking now all have permits? Who sold decals to folks not within our parking boundaries? Why should residents have to walk past cars that don’t belong there? Is the city more interested in the revenue those permits bring in than in the residents of the block. When my seniors can no longer park their cars near their homes, and women who leave early or come in late walk past cars that don’t belong, why, I hold the mayor and the city responsible for whatever may happen.
I also questioned the mayor on the timing of traffic lights. Why is it with gasoline at $3.50 a gallon, traffic during rush hours moves only from light to light? I also mentioned the devastation that “illegal conversions” will soon have on the North Austin community. How is it that I can find an ad on the Internet for a home at 1542 N. Laramie that is a bungalow with 7 bedrooms and 3 baths and the city can’t find any illegal conversions? That house has a kitchen in the attic and one in the basement. If that attic kitchen catches on fire, then the whole block will burn. How is it that you can send couples out to see if there is racial steering or discrimination, but you don’t send anyone out checking on those properties that will soon have too many people living in a single-family home?
I also wanted to know why the city is allowing brand new buildings to go up and the owner has the brick go all the way to the sidewalk property lines and then is putting in balconies that hang over the public sidewalk. Is the city leasing its air space? If something should fall from those balconies, will the building owners have to pay and not the city?
I questioned about the CPS rules that send children to the streets. Why not make the parents and children attend an alternative school during that time?
The budget hearings are the only time when the mayor must come out to hear a citizen’s concern. It is a shame that so may of you weren’t concerned. So I’ll end my column with this. Those folks in New Orleans sitting on their rooftops surrounded by 20 feet of water with alligators munching on dead bodies were voters. Those who didn’t vote were made aware fully aware of it by the response of those politicians in charge of their rescue. Those who did vote will use their anger at their treatment to unseat those politicians who didn’t do right by them. The political process affects our lives. This past week in New Orleans proves it!
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