(The following is a message from Carolina Gaete)
Good afternoon queridos amigos,
Hope everyone is feeling spiritually mentally and physically strong. Just want to share notes from todays meeting with Ron Huberman, Whittier Parents and elected officials. We are very excited about the first step in the right direction that was taken today. (Below are notes highlighting today’s meeting). Yes, we recognize that this is potentially a great VICTORY; however, we are not leaving the field house until it is official. Thank you all for your continued support; the greatest victory of this struggle has been the power the parents have demonstrated that when a community comes together they can overcome any adversity. El Pueblo Unido jamas sera vencido.
(Written by Jacky Levy Illinois Facilities Task Force Consultant)Here is what I heard Huberman agree to:
1. Demolition of La Casita, and construction of a soccer field, are BOTH OFF THE TABLE. Huberman agreed to “codify” this. This can be done in the form of a CEO report to the CPS Board meeting next week, saying in writing that the demolition order has been cancelled.
2. Huberman agreed – pending a legal review – to lease the fieldhouse to the Whittier Parents’ Committee for $1.00 per year. This would be an “exclusive” lease arrangement – meaning that CPS would NOT do an RFP – other groups wouldn’t be offered a chance to “bid” or propose to take over and run the fieldhouse.
3. Huberman agreed to the immediate removal of the storage container from the playground.
4. Huberman agreed that CPS will pay for a detailed inspection and assessment to pin down the exact work and cost of the work needed for La Casita to comply with fire and building codes. This will happen within one month’s time.
5. Huberman agreed that CPS will work WITH the parents to design a final plan for a Whittier School Library. He did say it won’t be as large or fancy as the one at Orozco (since that was a new bldg), but there will be a follow up meeting next week to continue working on details for this and other aspects of the agreement.
6. Huberman agreed to report to the CPS Board meeting next week on Whittier. It isn’t crystal clear exactly what form this will take (I’ve made one suggestion in point # 1), but the other key agreements or reports to the CPS Board need to include:
— Ald Solis re-affirmed that Whittier will get what is left of the initial $2 million in TIF funds for which the community lobbied. Solis is already talking to the City’s Corporation Counsel to make sure that the TIF funds are “locked in” for Whittier. You’ll need more clarification from CPS and the Alderman, but Huberman said today that the $356,000 in TIF funds that has been repeatedly mentioned, is actually a larger sum (based on the whole TIF allocation being larger than you originally thought), it hasn’t been spent yet, and the Alderman will work with the parents and Huberman to make sure these funds are “re-programmed” for the initial safety repairs for La Casita. Huberman also said CPS initially said “$356,000″ but that wasn’t all just for DEMO, it was to pay for the soccer field as well. SO. . . Now that CPS has agreed NOT to demolish, or build the soccer field, all that money in “on the table” again.
– Over the phone, State Rep. Ocevedo agreed to talk with the State and with Sen. Munoz to re-program the $200,000 in State school construction funds, originally to be spent on ADA improvements at Whittier, toward the La Casita and library work, as needed.RE: The TIF $$$$ – To make sure the money is there, there has to be an “IGA” – “Intergovernmental Agreement” – between the City and CPS. However, Solis and the City may already have such an IGA in place, it might just need to be “amended” to “re-direct” the $$ to the Whittier Parents’ priorities, instead of the demolition and soccer field.
RE: What CPS wants in exchange for agreeing to all this:
Huberman focused on the combustibility (fire hazards) in the fieldhouse, and based on arguing for the safety of the children, asked the Whittier Parents Committee to agree to keep kids out of the building for now, and agree to limited use and access for adults. The folks at today’s meeting agreed. However, it sounded to me like the moms will stay in the building until next week’s board meeting and the Parents Committee gets the Demo cancellation, cancellation of the soccer field, and “partnership” agreements in writing.
Congratulations, this is a great victory! The more people you tell about all the things that Huberman agreed to today, the better – THEN the parents can organize to hold him to what he said.