By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
City Treasurer Kurt Summers during his quarterly report on the city’s financial health said Chicago is on pace with the national average in terms of economic growth but admits there are large swaths of the Black community that are not seeing the growth of new businesses thus the local economy.
Summers and two other panelists – Miriam Martinez, chief investment officer for the City Treasurer’s Office and Robert Weissbourd of the Brookings Institute – spoke about Chicago’s economy and the impact it is having on the city as a whole during a teleconference May 10. They also presented data which shows that a strong business community, along with homeownership in a neighborhood greatly reduces crime by up to 80 percent.
Robert Weissbourd said other cities like Portland, San Diego, Minneapolis and others around the country have partnered up with businesses and law enforcement over the years to bring employment opportunities into impoverished areas with great success. He said while policing is an essential part of any stable community, law enforcement as a main solution to stop crime is not realistic.
“Homeowners, businesses and others with a stake in the neighborhood are the key to preventing social disorder and crime,” Weissbourd said. “Crime continues to be concentrated in realitively poor areas. Not in the most disadvantaged areas but rather in the areas near them in basically stable, low-income communities.”
He continued by saying most poor people are not criminals and never will be, even though most criminals live in poor communities. He said poor people are more likely to be victims of crimes than criminals themselves.
“If you want to reduce violent crime you have to address concentrated disadvantage and disconnection…through opportunity, community and family. Those are all largely economic activities,” Weissbourd said.
Summers said there are new opportunities coming to Chicago. He said investing in communities on the South and West sides by the city need to become a priority. Targeting areas that are high crime with intense retail and commercial development has shown huge crime drop in other areas of the country.
Summers said the Local Investment Fund (LIF) he is creating will mean there will be dedicated capital invested in local communities. It is something he is still working on to bring into all of Chicago’s 77 communities after visiting every community in the city during his first three months in office.
“We will leverage the LIF to provide capital to projects, small businesses that promote neighborhood growth and stimulate job creation,” Summers said.
The Chicago Infrastructure Trust is also run by Summers office. They just recently launched a homebuyer’s assistance program that will allow Chicagoans to receive a grant of up to seven percent of their total loan, based on their income. The grant can cover no more than $17,500 and is a downpayment that will apply to new mortgages, as well as refinancing. The person must stay in the home for five years after receiving the grant and contribute $1,000 or one percent of the home purchase price at the closing.