Last night Editor Tom Tresser and Contributing Author Jonathan Peck addressed the questions raised by their book “Chicago Is Not Broke: Funding the City We Deserve.” An engaged and enthusiastic crowd of about 30 residents heard Tom summarize the book’s approach to identifying the City’s financial problems and offer the authors’ solutions.
The book is divided into three sections: “Money That is Stolen from Us,” which deals with the costs of corruption, toxic bank deals, and police abuse settlements; “Money That is Hidden from Us,” otherwise known as TIFs; and finally “Money That We Are Not Collecting,” including taxes on financial transactions made by bankers and traders, such as CBOE, as well as discussions of a progressive income tax and a public bank for Chicago.
Jonathan Peck, community organizer, then engaged the audience by asking that it imagine the city as we would like it to be. The audience offered a wealth of dreams, such as great public education, affordable housing, and citizen participation in decision-making. He then offered suggestions on organizing around such topics, working together to build coalitions of family and friends, adding neighbors and other community members, until a good idea becomes a movement.
Peck calls this “jammin’,” the term that describes musicians getting together, with each playing his own tune while creating music together.
That’s what’s happening at the West Ridge Community Organization (WRCO), the successor to the West Rogers Park Community Organization (WRRCO), founded in 2005.
Its focus has expanded to include creation of a park advisory council for Warren Park, and it is working with other organizations and individuals to influence economic development on Western Avenue in addition to its many other activities. It continues to play a leading role in the LEARN Coalition and helped organize the petition drive that resulted in the new library in West Ridge. WRCO is also about to launch a membership drive and a new Web site.
WRCO co-sponsored last night’s book forum with People of West Ridge (POWR), which focuses on community research and organizing for progressive change in West Ridge.
A strong community-focused organization like WRCO can make positive change a reality in our neighborhood. Activist democracy—residents engaged in the decisions that affect their daily lives—can become a way of life if enough of us are willing to work together to develop and implement workable solutions to neighborhood problems.
Peck discussed the African concept “Ubuntu,” which translates as “I am because you are.” Archbishop Tutu of South Africa has been quoted as explaining it this way:
“We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘a person is a person through other people.’ It is not ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am human because I belong. I participate,
Works for me.