CHICAGO, August 22, 2018 – Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas today announced a comprehensive strategy to bring economic revitalization to Chicago’s long neglected communities on the South and West Sides.
“Unlike the current mayor’s Loop-exclusive approach to economic development, I will prioritize on bringing new development to neighborhoods that have been ignored for decades,” Vallas said. “The years of ignoring the vast tracks of Chicago’s South, West and Southeast Sides is over.”
“Chicago has an unparalleled business community and a deep bench of risk takers and entrepreneurs, but the only way our city can thrive is through growing and revitalizing all of Chicago, including our neighborhoods,” Vallas said. “Under Mayor Emanuel, Chicago has seen extensive population decline and has exploded with violence, debt, and neighborhood neglect. I will tackle these issues immediately.”
The Vallas plan has five major components:
4.) Strengthen communities through quality schools and community services.
5.) Creating healthy homes and communities.
(For more on each of the initiatives listed above, click on items above.)
“Sadly, Chicago is unique among the nation’s big cities in that its tax base still has not recovered to where it was prior to the 2008 recession,” Vallas said. “There are many areas of the City that are mired in depression-like conditions with little economic activity and mass unemployment.”
Vallas cited his native Roseland community on the South Side as an example of areas completely left out of the nation’s economic recovery. “I know the Roseland, having grown up there as a grandson of Greek immigrant merchants and having worked to improve the schools there during my tenure as chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools.
“Now Roseland is home to the ‘other Michigan Avenue,’ which unlike the Magnificent Mile is characterized by boarded-up buildings, not boutiques,” Vallas said.
“There are obviously many needs in Chicago’s neglected communities,” Vallas said. “There are also a number of financial and economic tools that could be used to assist these communities – some of which have not been utilized at all and some that have not been utilized very well. From my decades of experience managing major governmental agencies around the country, I understand that the challenge is matching the needs with the tools to solve problems in a significant way.”
1.) Using the purchasing power of the City to “Buy Chicago, Hire Chicago”
“The City has huge purchasing power that can be used to help expand business and employment opportunities in Chicago’s poorer communities,” Vallas said. He cited his success at expanding economic opportunities for minority businesses and minority workers when he was chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools. Vallas set historic targets for contracting with minority businesses, hiring minorities and hiring City residents and far exceeded them.
“At Chicago Public Schools, over 50% of our $3.2 billion capital plan went to minority-owned companies, minority workers and City resident and almost a third of all professional services contracts went to minority companies,” Vallas said. He noted he would also remove unreasonable obstacles to minority hiring that prohibits people from getting jobs because of unpaid fines and individuals who have non-violent criminal records and have completed their sentences.
2.) Major Redevelopment of South, West and Southeast Sides
Vallas said as mayor he would prioritize developing Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods by not only using the City’s existing resources in communities that have the greatest need but by taking full advantage of all federal, state and private incentive programs.
“There needs to be an Amazon-like, full-court-press approach to attracting businesses to Chicago’s ignored communities,” Vallas said, noting that he would actively pursue utilization of the newly created Federal Opportunity Zone (FOZ) program incentives to spearhead the redevelopment of depressed areas. The FOZs provide the City with an economic development vehicle of tremendous value as they eliminate all capital gains on investments made in targeted zones.
Vallas will also work to tie federal incentive programs to other local and state incentive programs to help drive even larger investment bang for the buck into economically depressed areas. Some of these Federal investments could be used to help remediate polluted land in areas such as the Southeast Side’s old U.S. Steel site.
Noting that Illinois ranks 48 among the 50 states in the return of tax dollars sent to Washington, Vallas said, “Our abysmal ranking didn’t happen overnight. Unless our goal is to fall even further when it comes to getting Federal assistance, we need to drop the rhetoric and look for opportunities to partner.”
3.) Universal occupation training and support for disenfranchised Chicagoans
Vallas’ plan would also create a “fourth tier” education system to assist the huge number of disenfranchised Chicagoans, aged 17 to 50, who lack the basic education and occupational training skills to secure and maintain employment. The backbone of this program will be supporting, expanding and improving the current network of adult education and occupational training operators and their support service providers, while identifying, expanding and replicating effective models from around the country.
“The number of Chicagoans who are chronically unemployed, previously incarcerated or are in some phase of the criminal justice system and lacking even the most basic skills to secure and retain jobs far exceeds the City’s entire high school population. This is unacceptable.”
The plan would also ensure that every Chicago high school offers students occupational training and robust work-study opportunities and that every City College with core occupational training programs, reversing the current administration’s focus on concentrating programs at each of City Colleges campuses so that no City College student is forced to travel from one end of the city to another to access the best occupational training programs.
4.) Healthy communities, healthy homes
The Vallas Plan will build healthy communities by ending and reversing the practice of moving polluted facilities to poor communities, cleaning up and reclaiming property and removing lead from the water supplies and lead and mold from homes. As previously announced, Vallas will immediately move to provide aggressive lead testing in water and in homes and will provide water filtration devices to homes, day care facilities or schools with need. Vallas will create a Neighborhood Conservation Fund, to help address longer term financial needs of homeowners and landlords whose property require remediation and rehabilitation.
“We will not ignore the growing lead problem in our water in hopes it will go away. We will also end the practice of supporting the move of a polluting City facility like the Fleet Management Garage or a private polluter like General Iron to the City’s poorer neighborhoods.”
5.) Strengthened communities through quality schools and community services
The Vallas plan would strengthen communities by strengthening community-based institutions such as schools and the building of a community-based system of social service supports. This will be accomplished by only improving the schools and transforming the schools into comprehensive family support centers. Schools would not be closed unless there is a community supported plan to repurpose them. The Plan would establish and partner with community-based organizations to provide community-based health care, mental health services, early childhood and parent training services, legal aid, business assistance centers, and family crisis centers.
“Communities that have suffered from intergenerational poverty and are exposed to constant violence have been traumatized and have huge unmet needs. Building a local social service infrastructure is the best way to address those needs while empowering and stimulating economic opportunity in the very communities they serve.”
The Vallas plan addresses the need of all of Chicago’s neighborhoods in that it recognizes that the ill effects of unaddressed poverty and crime in one area of the City ultimately impacts other areas of the City by way of growing crime and the burgeoning cost of government to address social dysfunction on the backend. “We need to address the effect of the decades of neglect. A strategy that successfully addresses the needs of our poorest communities will ultimately benefit all our communities. When the City grows we all benefit. Chicago is only as strong as our most challenged neighborhoods.”
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