Getting Hosed

Getting Hosed: Here’s how you get charged $50,000+ for water you never used.

Warning: this is a water bill story, but it’s also an opus on how Chicago really “works.”

Brad Edwards reports. (Kayla supports)

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David Krupa

While most of us were at home enjoying our long winter break, one DePaul freshman was taking on one of Chicago’s most powerful political machines, and winning. Kayla Molander has the story.

This is one story that is part of a full broadcast you can see here: https://vimeo.com/314037377

The Harder the Band, the Softer the Guys

God Mother
Swedish hard core band God Mother plays a show at Slipstream bar in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa on 21 January 2016. The concert was part of a South Africa tour the band was playing after their record became successful in their native Sweden.

Slipstream was an intense scene on Wednesday night for the Grahamstown debut of God Mother, an up-and-coming Swedish grindcore band currently touring through South Africa. Pitchfork.com rated their first full-length album, Maktbehov in the top 10 best metal albums of 2015. Opening their shows in South Africa is Maximum Carnage from Pretoria, a hardcore band that rocks-out equally as hard, so the set-up is sure to please.

God Mother delivers a lively performance, complete with a jumping bass player, Daniel Noring, and a vocalist, Sebastian August Campbell, who cannot stand still. Campbell sings in and amongst the audience, and head bangs with them as well.  Guitarist Max Lindström, who hails from a funk background, told Activate in an interview before the show he likes playing metal music because he can play it as loud as he wants to – and he didn’t disappoint.

God Mother is an exceptionally kind and welcoming group, and offered a very engaging conversation. According to drummer Michael Dahlström (26), “the harder the metal band, the softer the guys.”

When questioned about the success of their latest album, the group cites their combined effort and determination. “We put a lot more time and energy into it,” says Dahlström. “Do your own thing and be friendly,” adds Campbell. “If you want to do music, you’ll find a way.”

Another important factor to their music is how well they work together. “If you don’t like each other it could be a f****** nightmare,” says Dahlström. “The four of us, we’re used to touring and we know each other’s habits,” adds Lindström.

“There have been a few bumps that we’ve learned to deal with, but I think we’re pretty mellow. We mesh well,” says Campbell.

Their biggest musical influence as a group is Converge, an American metalcore band. But even they need a break at times from the metal scene. “When we’re on tour like this, playing every day, we don’t even want to listen to metal in the car,” says Dahlström.  “We listen to hip hop and electro and you get enough of the playing with two or three metal bands every night,” he adds.

Lastly, they offer a bit of advice for any Rhodes student trying to pursue a career in music. “A lot of people are lazy and they don’t know what to do,” says Dahlström. “You need to knock on every door that you can find,” adds Lindström.

The guys love South Africa, especially the beauty and the animals they don’t get to see in Sweden, so if they come back for another tour, be sure to check them out. In the meantime, you should definitely check out their album.

 

This article originally appeared in Active, the online student magazine for Rhodes University. It was published 15 March 2016. When the publication restructured, much of the old content was lost, including this article. I republished it here to keep it alive on the web.

A Tale of Two Chicagos

It’s a classic story of the haves and the have-nots. Neighborhoods are either rapidly and exclusively developed, pushing out vulnerable communities, or they are left in shambles to rot in decades of disrepair.

In the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., over 200 buildings and businesses were destroyed. Many of those buildings, especially in East Garfield Park and North Lawndale, were never rebuilt. Fifty years later, vacant lots and boarded up buildings gather litter and crime on the West Side.

Meanwhile, West Town, Logan Square, and Bucktown are bustling with new development. New luxury high rises seem to open every month. While the overall population of Chicago falls, millennials flock to these rejuvenated neighborhoods.

Gentrification

Gentrification is a buzz word in Chicago these days. It’s been written about extensively, but it is not as black and white as it is made to seem.

The basic definition of gentrification is when the average income in a neighborhood rises due to an influx of higher-income residents and an exodus of lower-income residents. This comes complete with residential and commercial development. The new residents can pay more, so rents rise until the original community can no longer afford to live there.

Gentrification is often vilified. But when an area is developed, it brings economic life to a neighborhood. An increase in high-income, educated people comes hand in hand with better schools, more tax income for the city, and more amenities.

Disinvestment

The positive effects of development become clearer when we look at the areas of disinvestment in the city.

According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Land Use Report for 2013, 14% of Chicago’s undeveloped land is in East Garfield Park and North Lawndale. Those areas have seen a rise in poverty and a rapid loss in population.

According to a census analysis by Rob Paral and Associates, In 1970, the poverty rate in East Garfield park was 33%. It has risen to nearly 43%. The population has fallen by nearly 62%.

The poverty rate in North Lawndale has risen from 30% to almost 45%. The population has fallen by 63%.

Development’s Effect on Communities

When development pushes residents out of their neighborhoods, it is more than simply picking up and moving their stuff to a different home. They lose their neighbors and friends, their children’s schools, their grocery stores, doctors offices, and hospitals. They are left in a strange area that they do not understand, surrounded by people they don’t understand.

“I think on average it takes people 5-7 years to get settled in a community and build networks and relationships of trust,” says Leah Levinger, executive director of Chicago Housing Initiative (CHI).

When a community starts losing its members, they become weaker and more vulnerable to the changes happening around them.

“It’s terribly ironic that at a time when people most need to be able to push back together, they are often being most destabilized by gentrification and are least able to resist,” says Levinger.

The Loss of the Projects

Rose Muhammed is a doula, or a birth coach, who has worked with low income women in Chicago for over twenty years. She thinks the destruction of the housing projects is an example of this destabilization.

“[The women who used to live in the housing projects] used to be able to come down in the same building they lived in, or somewhere walking distance, and go to the doctor. And they can’t do that now,” says Muhammed.

The housing projects usually had a clinic nearby that geared its services towards lower income people. When the projects were shut down, its former residents scattered throughout the city. Muhammed says those women now feel “lost” in a large hospital system that is often far away, doesn’t take their insurance, or is not equipped to handle the issues of low-income individuals.

 

Inclusive Development

The housing situation for low income people in Chicago has largely become a lose-lose situation. Many spend their lives in neighborhoods that are ignored, run-down, and dangerous for decades. Then when the development does happen, the rent becomes too expensive, and they are forced from their homes. This is not the only experience of poverty in the city, but it is a common theme.

Development does not have to be this way. According to Sarah Duda, deputy director at IHS, this problem can be alleviated with development that is “inclusive and equitable.” Requiring affordable housing in areas that are being developed is one way to rejuvenate a neighborhood without losing its original residents.

CHI is currently fighting for legislation called the Our Home, Chicago Ordinances that would make affordable more widespread across the city and require developers to build affordable housing in every new building. The organization is currently trying to rally the support of enough aldermen to make the ordinances laws.