By: Alan J. Goldberg, Managing Broker at Al Goldberg Real Estate LLC

al goldberg 2Several people have asked me, “Al, you have been an active community arts organizer, a volunteer on Rogers Park boards and commissions, and a Realtor and investor in Rogers Park for many decades, why are you supporting Belia Rodriguez for 49th Ward Alderwoman over the incumbent?”

Fundamentally, the 49th Ward needs an alderwoman who understands that one of her most important roles is to foster a healthy and livable community. Our current alderwoman, Maria Hadden, has failed miserably in that role. Belia Rodriguez, on the other hand, understands and appreciates the need for balanced economic development, both as a small business owner herself and as an active member and recent president of the Rogers Park Business Alliance.

To attract families and small businesses to Rogers Park and provide a healthy tax base that pays for services, we need growth. I’m not talking “greed is good” growth, but plain old-fashioned private investment and entrepreneurship. 

An alderwoman is single handedly the most influential person in our neighborhood when it comes to community development and so far in the 49th Ward, things are not going in the right direction.

Ald. Hadden came into office promising transparency and a strong community voice in decision-making. She introduced a community scorecard concept and asked developers to bring forward projects that delivered tangible community benefits.

Developer David Gassman did just that, proposing to revitalize a distressed property on Lunt Ave. His plan would have stabilized the building and added affordable and handicapped housing units. Despite Gassman providing a clear set of deliverables that directly addressed her so-called scorecard, Hadden inexplicably opposed his plan.

Hadden also rejected proposals that would have created new affordable housing units in existing buildings She slow-walked the process, made unreasonable and uneconomical demands, and ultimately rejected the proposals resulting in zero units of affordable housing.

When she ran for alderwoman, Hadden said she favored adding accessible and affordable housing units into existing buildings by converting unused basements. After her election, Hadden announced an initiative that allowed neighborhood building owners to do just that—and at their own expense. 

Yet when over two dozen property owners said yes to the plan and offered to create over 90 new naturally occurring “garden” housing units, she inexplicably turned them down. Instead of 90 new units of affordable housing for families, seniors, and students, we have empty basements.

The economics of housing and development can be complicated and nuanced, and each proposed project raises its own unique issues. A standing Zoning Advisory Committee, like the previous alderman had in place, consisting of community-based professionals with expertise in architecture, planning and zoning, together with other community stakeholders, helps an alderperson learn the pros and cons of each development proposal and serves as a guide for larger community meetings. That way, when a project comes forward, the proposal has already undergone its initial vetting with the experts and community stakeholders and can be presented to the public at large for their informed input and suggestions. 

Instead, Hadden has no process other than holding a Zoom meeting with limited attendance. This meeting is followed by a community “vote” influenced by a questionnaire of leading questions designed to illicit a pre-ordained outcome. This “decision-making process” is as totally closed, arbitrary and inconsistent as those conducted by the Machine aldermen of the old days.

By thumbing her nose at “developers” as if they are some sort of parasitic class, rather than valuable community stakeholders, she ignores the important role of private enterprise and entrepreneurship in making Rogers Park a wonderful place to live and work. Rogers Park residents and business owners deserve a seat at the table on important decisions affecting our future. We need an alderperson who will actually create the space for dialogue and who will lean into community development with the community as a whole in mind.

So far, Hadden has demonstrated she is opposed to naturally occurring affordable housing, adaptive mixed income projects, or following a community process that she herself implemented.

I support Belia Rodriguez because we need someone who shares our progressive values, but also understands business and the importance of responsible balanced development to the health, stability, and growth of our community. She will engage in a truly inclusive process that involves every resident and stakeholder of our diverse neighborhood, not just a select few.

Rogers Park deserves no less.

(This is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of any organizations with which I am affiliated.)

Al Goldberg
ArtSpace RP Building