1) The building at 500 W. Cermak Rd. is in an isolated, industrial location downwind of a coal-fired power plant that often renders the levels of air pollution very dangerous to children, pregnant women, people suffering from respiratory illnesses and the general public (see "In Chicago, Coal is the Real Crime" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-ra ... message_in
"The Price of Clean Air" http://www.businessweek.com/print/magaz ... 130946.htm
2) Travel to and from the building is through sparsely populated industrial areas and is potentially dangerous for individuals to walk to and from, especially at night;
3) The building itself is very poorly maintained and does not meet building and fire codes. Windows are literally falling out of the building; fire exits are often unlighted and one is blocked with a padlock and chain; common areas and bathrooms are kept in a state of disrepair and filth that render them useless to most people who are used to safety and cleanliness;
4) There is absolutely no security in the building. Anyone who can patiently wait at the front door for someone to leave can then enter the building. Anyone can enter through the overhead dock doors whenever they are opened. Anyone can enter through the side doors that are usually propped open all night. Anyone with minimal - and I do mean minimal - lock-picking skills can break into the building at any time. Once inside, that person or those persons can freely roam through the entire building, including storage areas, hallways in front of and around office spaces, bathrooms, etc.
5) The management's maintenance of the building is very poor and can best be described as "malign neglect".
To sum up: It would be very difficult to search the City of Chicago and find a more shitty building than 500 W. Cermak.
The minority faction of the Housing Committee also opposes the selection of 500 W. Cermak for the following reasons:
1) The majority of the Housing Committee did not do its job of making a thorough search for locations for our new offices. In spite of the fact that they had a large committee in terms of the number of their members (over a dozen) their work was very poorly executed. They actually visited very few locations even though they had over a month to do so; they settled very early on (perhaps 3 weeks ago) on the 500 W. Cermak location; and once they had settled on 500 W. Cermak, they did not even present a single alternative location to the Housing Committee meetings over the past three weeks' meetings which our minority faction attended. The minority faction has located DOZENS of buildings closer to the downtown area that would be infinitely better than 500 W. Cermak Rd.;
2) The majority of the Housing Committee made numerous "misrepresentations" to the Housing Committee and the GA over the past three weeks, including but not limited to the following:
a.) They claimed to have reviewed "hundreds" of locations over the past few months. Besides being physically impossible to do so, this was simply never done. They never presented more than the one single proposal for 500 W. Cermak Rd. over the past three weeks.
b.) Members of the majority of the Housing Committee lied to the Housing Committee and the GA repeatedly when they asserted that they "lived in the neighborhood" near 500 W. Cermak when in fact THERE IS NO NEIGHBORHOOD THERE and they actually live nearly 2 miles west of the 500 W. Cermak location, in a completely different neighborhood;
c.) The majority of the Housing Committee refused to allow the minority faction members of the Housing Committee the time necessary to present alternative proposals, manufacturing the lie that there was a "deadline" to move into indoor space when in fact the deadline was only a figment of the majority's imagination, and the majority had neither access to funds nor a person or persons designated to sign a lease (these persons are still yet to be decided upon);
3) The majority members of the Housing Committee sought to keep their proceedings largely secret by not posting timely updates of their work on the proper "Official" "Occupy Chicago" website (http://www.occupychi.org) and its attendant "Housing" forums but chose instead to hide it away on their own pages on Google Groups;
4) The majority members of the Housing Committee sought to bureaucratically eliminate minority members from participation in Housing Committee meetings by:
a.) Holding their meetings without notifying minority members and GA members of the existence and location of those meetings; and
b.) Voting "unanimously" at one of these secret meetings to issue a "gag order" against Housing Committee member Mark D., denying him the right to voice and vote in their Housing Committee meeting held on 23 November 2011, under the false pretenses that Mark D. had "assaulted" two Housing Committee members and had "threatened" and "intimidated" other unnamed members of the Housing Committee and had "jeopardized relations with" Crossroads, one of our funding-related sister organizations by being honest with a "Crossroads" member - all of these allegations arising from an extraordinary situation that emerged during a Housing Committee/Donations Committee meeting regarding a death threat and ransom demand - and the ransom PAID with the full consent of the majority members of the Housing Committee. (The minority members of the Housing Committee successfully fought to reinstate Mark D. as a member of the Housing Committee with full voice and voting rights, against the continuing objections of certain members of the majority of the Housing Committee, which continue to this day).
c.) Holding Housing Committee meetings during GAs, so as to prevent GA members from attending Housing Committee meetings at all, especially during these critical discussions about 500 W. Cermak, the gag order and possible alternatives to 500 W. Cermak. (The minority faction of the Housing Committee successfully put an end to this underhanded practice).
d.) Repeatedly attempting to shout down minority faction members during Housing Committee meetings, in violation of agreed-upon rules of order;
e.) Members of the Housing Committee majority repeatedly used threats, intimidation and slander to intimidate and malign minority faction members and their allies.
5) The majority members of the Housing Committee have misrepresented the actual cost of renting at 500 W. Cermak by not relating the cost of the liability insurance which MUST BE OBTAINED by Occupy Chicago BEFORE we can move into the building. Absolutely no discussion of this important issue has yet to be held at any Housing Committee meeting which we have attended.
For all these reasons and more the minority faction of the members of the Housing Committee recommend that the proposal being brought before the GA on Friday, December 2, 2011 that Occupy Chicago move into offices at 500 W. Cermak Rd. BE REJECTED and that we in the Housing Committee proceed to examine new proposals over the next week or two while we work out the final arrangements for payments, insurance and try to negotiate concessions from the landlords renting space to us, concessions that could save us thousands of dollars a month. Until a "Finance Committee" with control over spending of funds and lease signers are approved by the GA we can't move forward with ANY location anyway.
In sharp contrast to the cursory and unprofessionally-conducted search for office space conducted by the Housing Committee majority, we in the minority faction, in just under a week, have located a space that is INFINITELY BETTER than the majority factions selection:
It is located right on S. Michigan Ave. in a very high-visibility area the same distance from the Chinatown "el" stop as 500 W. Cermak, and it is of course on the Michigan Ave. CTA bus route 10 minutes from downtown;
It has very nice, separate bathrooms for men and women in the building;
It has 4 already constructed lockable office spaces and a secure way of storing donations;
It is a thousand times cleaner than 500 W. Cermak Rd (it's currently being used as a food processing facility;
It can seat more people than 500 W. Cermak and has a larger standing capacity than any of the rooms at 500 W. Cermak;
It has a built-in speakers platform above the seating area
It has central heat and air conditioning that we have FULL CONTROL of, unlike 500 W. Cermak.
I had wanted to add photos in my possession that would illustrate perfectly the vast contrast between 500 W. Cermak and 2341 S. Michigan. Unfortunately, the file sizes are too big to be used here. I will try to post them up later. Anyone wishing to see them can email me and I will be happy to send them along.
for the minority faction of the Housing Committee
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I have visited and walked through both facilities. I have presented information on two occasions to GA regarding the status of these facilities and can attest to the statements made, that 500 W Cermak is an unhealthy and unsafe location.
I have also been aggressively shouted down on repeated occasions as many of you may have seen at GA meetings during announcements I made regarding these properties.
The word unanimous has been used repeatedly by the housing committee to refer to the vote of only a partial representation of the housing committee. And in some cases unanimous has been used to refer to a majority vote, in either event, misleading.
The minority vote recently went from approx 5-6 people to approx 15 people, which although a significant number of people, was overridden due to a 51% vote, that was voted in at the first meeting I attended when the 500 W Cermak property was blocked originally.
There were further attempts to block the proposal of the Michigan Av property because Mark D and I had both presented announcements at GA to make everyone aware of the potential of a second property.
There is also a specific statement that disallows housing any members there, thus providing no shelter for our homeless brothers and sisters. That many of the same people have already abandoned at HQ (LaSalle and Jackson).
Again, I agree with the original statement in the main topic :
VOTE NO TO 500 W CERMAK
WHY WOULD WE WANT TO MOVE INTO A FILTHY, DARK, UNHEALTHY, UNSAFE, INDUSTRIAL AREA WITH ZERO VISIBILITY?
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2341 S. Michigan -14 (~21%)
500 W. Cermak – 52 (~79%)
(Abstentions – 7)
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It is a concern to me that when someone in the minority brought up the broken windows at the GA meeting and a majority member responded: oh, they're boarded up with wood, so that's okay (paraphrased).
No, that is not okay. That just shows how ignorant the people in the majority are about finding a suitable shelter for this movement. Abandoned dilapidated houses have windows covered with wood--I would know, I've personally removed the wooden boards from some of those windows.
Someone else was excited to hear that hey, 500 W. Cermak has no security deposit. Do you even know the legal and monetary implications of that? It is -not- a good thing that we "save" money by not having a security deposit.
Also, a lot of people were excited about having Occupy in an "artsy" neighborhood. Now it's all well and good that we can recruit people who are already sympathetic to our cause to join us, but what about those who are skeptical? Those who are apathetic? Those who are contrarian? We can't only reach out to audiences who are already on our side--our movement is strong enough to take on a greater challenge and reach even more of the 99%.
I am sure there are more negative details I could mention about this place, but I feel like it is important to know that there are other options out there, and it's not a zero-sum game choice of 500 W. Cermak or we freeze to death.
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This letter, written by Mark D., was circulated in paper copies at G.A. on Thursday, December 1. It was also posted on the Housing Forum on Occupychi.org. (http://occupychi.org/phpbbforumforum/viewtop ... =21&t=1605)
We are disappointed with the manner in which this dissenting opinion was presented. Here we will respond factually, scare-quote free, and without personal opinion. Please ask us any questions that you might have. We thank you for your thoughtful consideration on this matter.
We think it's unfortunate that a self-identified faction has come forward. Just to be clear, we have had several internal committee votes to bring this proposal forward. The proposal passed with 75%, then 84%, then 79%. (All of these vote counts are available in our meeting minutes posted on the forum.)
It is misrepresentative of the committee to imply that there are two distinct factions, one being the majority and the other being a minority. There has in fact been a diversity of opinion expressed within the committee. Our past meeting notes show that we had opinionated and multi-faceted discussions.
1) In regards to the criticisms of the 500 W. Cermak building:
a) “The building at 500 W. Cermak Rd. is in an isolated, industrial location downwind of a coal-fired power plant that often renders the levels of air pollution very dangerous to children, pregnant women, people suffering from respiratory illnesses and the general public” - While this is certainly a valid concern, we will be spending the vast majority of our time indoors, thus minimizing exposure to particulate matter.
b) “Travel to and from the building is through sparsely populated industrial areas and is potentially dangerous for individuals to walk to and from, especially at night” - Other committee members have lived near or worked in the building for extended periods of time, and they have expressed that they have not felt threatened near this property. We encourage you to look into the crime statistics for this area and compare them to other areas in the city.
c) “The building does not meet building and fire codes” - Building management expressed that inspections happen quarterly, and that anyone can look up the history of any building violations on the city's website.
d) “Common areas and bathrooms are kept in a state of disrepair and filth that render them useless to most people” - We have visited the bathrooms in question several times. All bathrooms are in functional condition. Out of seven others, there is one toilet in disrepair, but it is in the same bathroom as another functional toilet. The units we would rent also have private bathrooms which are clean and functional.
e) “There is absolutely no security in the building” - There are forty-eight (48) security cameras in the building. The footage is digital, and it is stored for 3-4 days.
f) “Anyone can enter through the overhead dock doors whenever they are opened.” - Dock doors can only be opened by tenants, and they close automatically after a very short period of time.
g) “Anyone can enter through the side doors that are usually propped open all night” - We observed the side doors at night and they were not propped open.
2) In regards to the criticisms of Housing Committee's process:
a) “The majority of the Housing Committee did not do its job of making a thorough search for locations for our new offices.” - A committee consisting of over 10 people, meeting 3 times a week for a month, conducted individual research, which was then reviewed collectively and discussed at length in accordance with pre-agreed upon criteria. We did research based on preliminary criteria, which were later refined, and followed by another round of research.
b) “...they did not even present a single alternative location to the Housing Committee meetings over the past three weeks' meetings which our minority faction attended.” - Each of us was tasked with identifying possible locations, and committee members presented multiple options for discussion, as evidenced in our previous meeting minutes.
c) “The minority faction has located DOZENS of buildings closer to the downtown area that would be infinitely better than 500 W. Cermak Rd” - Dozens of locations were not presented in detail. We were only given a list of locations that had not been individually researched or visited.
d) “Members of the majority of the Housing Committee lied to the Housing Committee and the GA repeatedly when they asserted that they 'lived in the neighborhood' near 500 W. Cermak” - The building is located between E. Pilsen and Chinatown. One member of the committee lives less than 2 blocks away from the building. At least two other members have lived in Pilsen for extended periods of time and expressed that they frequently walk through this area into Chinatown.
e) “The majority of the Housing Committee refused to allow the minority faction members of the Housing Committee the time necessary to present alternative proposals, manufacturing the lie that there was a 'deadline'” - All members were given the same amount of time to conduct research. In addition, some members were given extensions, inclduing those who have identified themselves as the minority faction. The deadline was not a lie. The deadline was established based on the impending winter, made evident by last night's snowfall.
f) “The majority members of the Housing Committee sought to keep their proceedings largely secret by not posting timely updates of their work on the proper 'Official' 'Occupy Chicago' website” - Minutes have been consistently posted to the Housing section of the forum. To aid in the review of these minutes, they are also consolidated into one single thread on the forum.
g) “Holding Housing Committee meetings during GAs, so as to prevent GA members from attending Housing Committee meetings at all” - Only one meeting began at 8pm. It was announced beforehand that this would be the case. We did this on a one-time basis in response to time contstraints.
h) “The majority members of the Housing Committee have misrepresented the actual cost of renting at 500 W. Cermak by not relating the cost of the liability insurance which MUST BE OBTAINED by Occupy Chicago BEFORE we can move into the building. Absolutely no discussion of this important issue has yet to be held at any Housing Committee meeting which we have attended.” - We have in fact had this discussion. In our committee minutes from November 16, the application for the building lease was discussed, which included the requirememnt of obtaining insurance. Moreover, any building we pursue will require this insurance. The Legal/Housing/Donations working group will address this issue after we vote to approve a location.
3) In regards to the claims of unfair treatment of Mark D. and the self-identified faction:
a) “The majority members of the Housing Committee sought to bureaucratically eliminate minority members from participation in Housing Committee meetings” - No members were ever removed from the committee, especially not for their minority viewpoints. One member was temporarily suspended after a unanimous vote in an open committee meeting, due to multiple acts of violence against other committee members.
b) “Voting 'unanimously' at one of these secret meetings to issue a 'gag order' against Housing Committee member Mark D. ...” - No gag order was issued. This member was temporarily suspended, but given the opportunity to send a representative to vote on his behalf.
c) “...under the false pretenses that Mark D. had 'assaulted' two Housing Committee members and had 'threatened' and 'intimidated' other unnamed members of the Housing Committee” - These are not false pretenses. The violent acts occurred in the presence of eyewitnesses. In addition, the victims have provided testimonial statements. Mark D. has not refuted these claims.
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