It is good to see that my opinion regarding the future of the Brach factory is causing discussion. Because without discussions like those that have been occurring online and in this paper, certain truths would be conveniently left out of the discussion.

Let’s get one thing clear: The Brach site closed down permanently on Dec. 31, 2003. Not a decade ago as Roman Morrow erroneously stated in his One View column last week. Also, I try to always back up my opinions with facts and not just mindless ranting. So I told the story of Danville, Va. to make a point about land use and not the racial makeup of that community.

But that leads me to question why Roman Morrow would bring up race? Because if race is a part of the equation, then white people kept their manufacturing land and landed a manufacturer while black people want to put a school on theirs, thus permanently guaranteeing that the average Austin resident will never work there.

I am offended, insulted and flabbergasted that Roman Morrow would take my support of an economic engine such as my idea for a Black Entertainment District and myopically limit himself to just the casino and hotel portion. He then-conveniently, after mentioning those two aspects-proclaims to everyone that I am at it again and to not believe my hype, which is that I just want to “get my groove back.” Since that type of vernacular in the context of a casino and hotel is a subtle reference to one’s sexual life (ala the film How Stella Got Her Groove Back), I took note of the inference and am responding loudly to that type of assault on my character and my morals.

 

Great lesson to our young people, Roman Morrow. When you can’t make a valid argument, go off base with a personal attack so that the facts never get addressed.

Mr. Morrow, the Brach site is definitely about Showtime at the Austin Apollo. How many of our young people if we had such a venue could go on stage and perform? How many jobs would be created as hundreds of young people who now currently roam the streets with nothing to do could go to an entertainment complex in their own community and see live performances? How many future Tyler Perrys are unable to develop their talents simply because of the lack of venue spaces in the Austin community?

I have not seen the agreement that ML Realty got. But anyone who has read this column over the years knows I have written about the abuse of TIF money. Money that was given to Coca Cola to relocate to Division and Cicero (another ML Realty property) so that Benito Juarez High School could expand and get a soccer field. TIF money given to the Washington Square Mall (North and Cicero) after selling the land to the developer for one dollar. TIF money has been offered for years, and I haven’t seen any protests or letters to the editors in this paper howling about the situation. But now that certain individuals have set their sights on the Brach site, all of a sudden there are concerns about TIF money.

The Brach site is currently privately owned. If the owners don’t want to sell (and since a government agency now would want to buy it, I am sure the price will escalate two-fold), then the only action is eminent domain-a costly legal process that will be paid for by us taxpayers.

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Has anyone done any studies on the EPA aspect of that land? In today’s world, you can’t just take manufacturing land and turn it into land where our children will spend a good portion of their day without making sure the site is safe from toxins. Everyone, of course, remembers how long it took Washington Square to be built because of the problems with toxins at that site-from 1988, when protestors first marched, until 2002 when Cub Foods opened.

Mr. Morrow, it’s nice to quote a study done over 10 years ago and mention the crime statistics for it. But let me tell you about Chicago’s current crime stats. We don’t have a casino, and we are having murders of three or more people, plus a number of shootings every weekend. If unemployment is at 6 percent nationwide, it’s closer to 60 percent for young black people. Those are the same young people being killed or doing the killing every weekend. Yet I am not seeing the same murder rates for anyone coming from or going to the seven casinos in the Chicago area (Majestic I & II, Resorts, Horseshoe in Indiana or the Grand Victoria-Elgin, Hollywood-Aurora or Harrah’s-Joliet). When I spoke to a senior about why she goes to the boats, she told me she feels safe there. No shootings. No robberies. It is one of the few times people of all ages and races can mingle and not worry about gun or physical violence.

Let me again remind everyone that Mayor Daley wants a land-based casino. And what Daley wants, he gets. So while some in the black community act as if we don’t have gambling already on our sidewalks and exorbitant lottery sales every day, the Northwest Side has been proposing that the old Marshall Field warehouse at Diversey and Pulaski would make an excellent location for a casino.

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So whether one likes it or not, wants it in our community or not, there will be a land-based casino at some point in Chicago. We are in dire need of jobs locally and thus as a community we need to weigh our economic needs by determining and providing for our future. A school can be placed in the middle of any residential neighborhood. A business cannot.

Lastly, what has amazed me most in all of the verbiage is the energy being exerted regarding a new school. How come I haven’t seen the same sort of energy being used to deal with current problems in our schools or the lack of summer jobs for young people? Why is that? Just this past 4th of July evening, I watched as about 25 young people ran up and down North Avenue. They were all dressed up with nowhere to go.

They first congregated in the cul-de-sac in front of my house. I went outside and stood on my porch, armed with my trusty cellphone. I watched them. They watched me. They cussed. I grimaced. They apologized. I nodded. They moved on. But they moved on to nothing. No dances. No skating rinks. No mall. No community place to hang out. So the corner became the hanging spot.

Hmm, that brought up a thought. If the Brach site became a new school, based on the drawings that were shown in last week’s paper, are all those black dashes a wrought iron fence? Guess the young kids won’t have that as a hangout spot either. And the drawing also shows a huge soccer field and not one single outdoor basketball court.

Yeah, Austin residents, those folks protesting for a new school at the Brach site are interested in providing a site for children, but it’s not necessarily your children they have in mind!

www.arlenejones.blogspot.com

To our readers…

Please join the debate and share your thoughts about the Brach site and what you would have liked to see there?

Please letters and columns to Ken trainer and Terry Dean-ktrainor@wjinc.com, tdean@wjinc.com