Editor’s note: In a continuing ser-ies of articles, Gazette Chicago will provide an opportunity for local experts to comment at length as we offer a forum for local experts and community organizers to weigh in on challenging issues. The opinions expressed are those of the experts and do not necessarily reflect those of Gazette Chicago. Reporter Claire Cowley obtained the article below, written by Jonathan Peck of CivicLab.
By Jonathan Peck
President and CEO of CivicLab Inc., www.civiclab.us, firstname.lastname@example.org, (773) 770-5714.
“We’re coming to get our check,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said.
Chicago’s leaders, movers, and shakers continue to exploit with no shame the poor and Black and Brown communities in order to satisfy their own families’ material desires and needs resulting in the massive and tragic loss of human life. They have stolen $10 billion in property taxes since 1986 through their racist Tax Increment Financing Program (TIFs). About $6 billion should have gone to public schools.
Chicago’s legacy of the tale of two cities is a legacy of deeply baked in racist, materialistic, and militaristic public policies and complicity of local foundations and affluent networks. Only bold moves using big public efforts funded by local sources will suffice. We know how to get the public response pump primed with $1 billion. To wait and to dither is to further affirm that Black lives really don’t matter.
This pandemic of violence and disease fueled by failed civic and philanthropic leadership results in at least 100,000 kids not graduating high school, thus being pushed out into the street economy. A staggering loss of billions of dollars in wages, as a person makes much more over lifetime with a high school or college degree.
We need a revolution of values. A way to move from frustration and anger into a transforming force that will redistribute the wealth and resources in our society positing the notion that all people and individuals have the fundamental human right to development as prescribed by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner: www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/righttodevelopment.aspx.
One of our visionaries, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw this clearly more than 50 years ago. He said:
“…We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing oriented’ society to a ‘person oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives, and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth…A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Chicago’s “community development” fixates on improving the affluent neighborhoods and the central district. We need to stop investing in the most expensive police force in America.
We need to invest in the health and talent of our people.
Martin Luther King also said, “Racial injustice is still the Black people’s burden and the White people’s shame.”
So use the $10 billion for guaranteed jobs for all Black and Brown youth 14 through 28; invest in Black and Brown and Women owned businesses; build the Red Line to Indiana through Pullman and train local labor to build it—a Chicago Public Works Project like the Works Progress Administration; snap up all homes in Chicago with mortgages under water and give them to Black and Brown families; create a Chicago Public Bank for home ownership and business development financing in Black and Brown communities; work with local unions for staffing a series of neighborhood health centers; and cancel TIFs and use $1 billion+ as down payment to begin developing and implementing the above.
Our bill is due: $10 billion for Chicago reparations now.