Uptown, lakefront referendums pass by wide margins

Voters in Uptown, Edgewater and Hyde Park approved advisory referendums dealing with housing and development issues by landslide margins yesterday.

In Uptown, an affordable housing advocacy group, Northside Action for Justice, succeeded in placing two measures on the ballot.

One asked voters if they wanted 40 percent of the money from tax increment financing districts to be used to build and preserve affordable housing. The other asked if companies that get money from TIFs for projects should be required to hire local workers first and pay a living wage.

With about 4,000 votes cast, 66 percent of voters approved the affordable housing item and 80 percent favored new requirements for companies getting public subsidies.

“The results of the advisory referenda really reflect, you know, the desires of the people not just in those precincts but in the city to have some basic policy changes,” says Marc Kaplan, one of the leaders of Northside Action for Justice.

The measures appeared on ballots in 11 precincts located roughly between Montose and Lawrence, and east of Truman College.

Northside Action for Justice has said it targeted precincts with large numbers of low-income residents. The precincts that had the items on the ballot also closely overlapped with the area under the Wilson Yard TIF.

The special district, one of many in the city, is designed to reduce blight and encourage redevelopment. Bonds can be issued for infrastructure improvements and to help subsidize the construction of new projects.

Kaplan’s group has been roundly criticized in the comments of several widely read Uptown blogs for cherry-picking which precincts got to vote, keeping many voters who don’t live in those areas from weighing in.

Kaplan said the next step for his group is to start finding aldermen who can bring ordinances to the City Council that would make some of the changes the referendums called for. He said no alderman have been approached yet, but that the group might turn to officials like Alds. Patrick J. O'Connor (40th), Helen Shiller (46th), Mary Ann Smith (48th) and Joseph Moore (49th).

“The idea is that now that we have what we think is a clear mandate, then we have to figure out, what are the next steps,” Kaplan says.

In Hyde Park voters narrowly approved a referendum that would prohibit the sale of alcohol in some precincts.

The vote was 252-233 in favor of the referendum in Precinct 39, Ward 5.

A group of residents banded together, gaterhing enough signatures for the referendum, which effectively kills the proposed redevelopment of Doctor’s Hospital site at 800 S. Stony Island.

The University of Chicago purchased the hospital for about $10 million and White Lodgings, Inc. planned to build a couple of hotels and a Starbucks in its place.

University officials had said that the hotel is needed near the campus to serve visiting  students, professors and special speakers.

The hotel was also supported by business groups, including the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, which condemned the anti-alcohol referendum.

Meanwhile, voters in the 48th Ward supported a referendum calling for a moratorium on development along Chicago's northern lakefront.

With 96.30 percent of the city vote counted, 60 percent of voters were in favor of the moratorium and 39.96 were opposed.

The referendum opposes the planned expansion of the lakefront bike path from Hollywood Avenue, where it currently ends, to Evanston. Existing designs would require the creation of an off-shore island. 

The project, headed by the advocacy organization Friends of the Parks (FOTP), has been met by criticism from StopTheLandfill.org, an informal group of Edgewater residents who fashioned the referendum after a similar one introduced in Rogers Park last fall.  

The referendum is not legally binding, but is “meant to put the community’s view of the project on record,” said John Redell, Edgewater resident and administrator of StopTheLandfill.org.  

Discuss

JEFF CATE, 11-06-2008

The intent of Mr. Kaplan’s referendum was not to get a sense of what the public wanted. The intent was to get their referendum passed. Therefore, his group hand-picked who would have the opportunity to cast their vote and opinion on each of the referendum.

You make a statement that implies that voters who do not live in those areas are criticizing the referendum because they were unable to weigh in, “keeping many voters who don’t live in those areas from weighing in.” The fact is that the voters you refer to do, in fact, live in those affected areas and are greatly impacted from a property ownership/tax dollar perspective by the outcome of those referendum and Mr. Kaplan’s next steps. There was not question that Mr. Kaplan’s hand-picked group would vote yes on the referendum; not to mention some of the questionable tactics his group used at polling sites to gain support.

I suggest that if you intend to provide information about this story from Mr. Kaplan’s perspective, you also get in touch with advocates within Uptown to gain understanding as to why the referendum and Mr. Kaplan’s tactics are dangerous to most residents, including the low income Mr. Kaplan claims to be helping, who live in these areas.

GEOFF DOUGHERTY, 11-06-2008

Jeff,

Thanks for your comment. I think the article does a pretty good job of acknowledging both sides of the issue, and reflecting many of the concerns you raised in your comment.

JEFF CATE, 11-06-2008

I disagree, but I’m not surprised by your response. Your author reduced the criticism regarding the Uptown referendum to 1 short paragraph/sentence within several comments by Marc Kaplan. His acknowledgement of both sides of the issue is anything but unbiased.

GEOFF DOUGHERTY, 11-06-2008

Jeff,

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. And we'll keep your name handy in case we do additional reporting on the issue.