The Crusader Newspaper Group

Mitchell denies allegations that he’s blocking Black females from opening businesses in his ward

More women come forward with proof that he does

Fed up with the “lies” being touted by Alderman Greg Mitchell (7th) against four Black business women blocked from opening up their businesses in his ward, they are calling for a meeting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to censure him and ban him from using his “aldermanic prerogatives,” which turned their dreams of ownership into a nightmare.

Jasmine Baynes, a realtor, said her mother gave her $150,000 to open a daycare center in the 7th Ward, but because Alderman Mitchell refused to give her an “access to alley” letter, she is unable to open and is selling her business.

Another Black owner is filing for bankruptcy. Jocilyn Floyd, a senior mediator for the Chicagoland Mediation Service, LLC, who represents Yolanda Kemp, owner of the Open Arms Day Care, said the alderman has never met with them, will not return calls (including to the Chicago Crusader), or answer emails. When the alderman claimed residents of his ward do not want their businesses, both women said he has not held a meeting since the pandemic began.

Alderman Mitchell is accused of allegedly blocking four African-American business owners from opening their establishments because he will not give them an “access to alley,” which is required by the city of Chicago.

On Tuesday, through a recently hired PR person, Alderman Mitchell is sticking to his story.

He denied preventing Black women from opening their businesses in his ward saying he has spoken to each of the complaining Black owners either in person, by email or by phone.

“Unfortunately, all the proposed businesses profiled, fell short of standards established by the city and/or lacked the support of the community and the applicable police district,” Alderman Mitchell wrote in a letter given to the Chicago Crusader.

“For example,” he wrote, “in the case of the proposed cigar lounge, residents of this quiet, bedroom, community of South Deering, as well as the police commander and business liaison for the 004th district, objected because businesses of that type have had adverse/deleterious effects on communities throughout Chicago.

“The president of the local community organization and I communicated this decision to Lori Shelby (who represented herself and partner Nolan Hardy) prior to the purchase of the building. Despite this information, Ms. Shelby continued pursuing a business she knew the community objected to and would not support,” Mitchell stated.

“The other three individuals failed to do their due diligence prior to investing in the proposed businesses by either purchasing property or signing a contract to lease space,” Alderman Mitchell said. “As these individuals do not live in the community, they did not or made minimal effort to find out the desires and direction of the community. Desires that I have been charged with and committed to carrying out.

“Additionally, it appears that these individuals did not determine what licenses were required to legally operate the proposed businesses or the necessary steps to obtain such licenses,” Alderman Mitchell wrote.

In a Zoom meeting with a group of Black women, they all said Alderman Mitchell’s allegations are all false and that he is practicing “aldermanic prerogatives” they thought Mayor Lightfoot had ended when she was elected.

Floyd reacted to Alderman Mitchell’s letter calling it “grandstanding from a lackluster city official that is only seeking sound bites. It is unfortunate Alderman Mitchell chooses to misrepresent fact as fictional tales that never end.”

Floyd said Alderman Mitchell’s job description does not include community engagement “of which he has not hosted a community meeting since 2019. The alderman does not make statements on behalf of the Chicago Police Department. The alderman does not evaluate business plans for new businesses proposing to come to the ward. That is specific to Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Zoning, Public Health, Fire and Building Inspection Departments.

“The alderman is imposing aldermanic prerogative as a means to keep out businesses,” said Floyd. In Mitchell’s letter, Floyd said he cites “Minority owned-businesses that were in the ward prior to his election.”

Floyd cited Mayor Lightfoot’s executive order curtailing aldermanic prerogative on May 20, 2019. The wo- men owners said Alderman Mitchell is in violation of that order.

“The alderman’s prerogative and the old-school politics of yesterday have no place in the 7th Ward. Alderman Mitchell should not have the unilateral ability to sway permits, applications, approvals, block or veto municipal code,” Floyd argued.

Lori Shelby-Hardy said she spoke once in 2019 about her interest in opening a cigar lounge, but has not been able to speak to the alderman since. The persons she was told to meet with never showed up or returned her calls at that time.

“That was April 2019—all prior to my purchasing a building that was vacant for 11 years,” she said.

And as far as her business, Shelby-Hardy said it is zoned to sell tobacco. “I feel I met my obligation of due diligence.” She took offense at Alderman Mitchell “exploding about a loop-based project. What about his ward? Downtown has plenty of business while his ward is covered with abandoned buildings, unkept property and property like mine that has been vacant for over a decade.”

Yvette Moyo, who owns the popular Real Community Investment Group, which holds The Quarry, 2419-2427 E. 75th St., where she also publishes her South Side Drive magazine, said the alderman refuses to speak to her. He refused to give her a letter of support to purchase the building. She was able to buy it anyway and has distributed more than one million pounds of food by Real Men Charities in a year’s period.

Moyo said she also provides jazz, music and pre-daycare for children. “The alderman ignores us,” she said.

When Mitchell said the women do not live in the ward, Baynes said, “You don’t have to live in the 7th Ward to own a business. We all own our businesses.”

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