Sunday, Oct. 15, was a beautiful day even though it was raining in the early morning. The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) chose to close down the New Maxwell Street Market that day. It also closed down the market the week before. And it also substantially shortened the season of the market, ending at the end of October, stopping the vendors from selling during the busy Christmas shopping season.
DCASE announced on their Facebook page, “We’ve got big plans for the remaining dates this Season on 10/15, 10/22, and 10/29, so save those dates!” Then they needlessly closed down the market and failed to announce it on their Facebook page. Two of the comments were:
“Super unprofessional from a City-handled event that no announcement was made for those of us that went for nothing.”
“Super trashy of you to advertise you’ve got ‘big plans’ for the market today. We traipsed all the way over this morning to find it deserted. Not cool!”
I was upset too. I checked the Facebook page and saw no announcement of a cancellation. I checked the weather forecast and saw the chance of precipitation during the market hours was only 15%. That means that there was an 85% chance that it would not rain during the market’s hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. As a poker player, those are good odds. I also went to the 41st and Ashland Swap–A-Rama Market to see how they were doing. They were not as busy as they usually are but they were still very busy. Photos of the New Maxwell Street Market compared to Swap-A-Rama Market on the same day are in a Facebook post at https://shorturl.at/elPW9.
I met Danny M., an old Mexican-American Maxwell Street vendor, selling at Swap-A-Rama. I asked him if he would ever come back to the New Maxwell Street Market. He said, “They chased the vendors away. The fees were way too high. Produce vendors were charged the same fee as prepared food vendors. They gave out tickets for minor infractions. They gave us no respect.”
There was a lot of activity that same day at the Norine Morehead Tent City Homeless Encampment next door to the New Maxwell Street Market. I applaud the City for letting these people have a place to put themselves. But it seems the policy of the City is to squash opportunities for immigrants and low income people to have entrepreneurial opportunities to earn extra family income. But when they become homeless, the City is happy to provide extra space for them to live in tents.
Mayor Richard M. Daley’s and the University of Illinois Chicago’s vision was to destroy the old Maxwell Street Market to further gentrification in the Near West Side. It is hard for me to believe, but the new Mayor Brandon Johnson seems in sympathy with that policy direction. I and others have steadfastly tried to contact people in the Johnson Administration to correct what is going bad at his Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and all I get is silence.
As busloads of refugees are sent to Chicago from Texas and other states, there is a crisis here. Many of those refugees could and would like to become vendors at the New Maxwell Street Market. They could generate income and get a start on the USA economic ladder. But that economic asset will not be around for those refugees.
If they were from Germany rather than from Venezuela, Mexico, or Ukraine, City Hall would gladly open up its arms to them to expand its Christkindlmarkets for them. I love German food. But I also love street vendors who are Hispanic and African-Americans selling affordable used items and tasteful taco and Polish sausage sandwich specialties.
Chicago can be great again through the efforts of our own population and does not need Daley-like efforts to look for urban improvements as only coming from outsider elite European culture.