Sunday, June 26, 2005

Gidwitz a slumlord? Or have the Joliet casinos altered their business model

This from today's Chicago Sun-Times:
    A Chicago Republican seeking the governor's seat said Friday he is the target of a political attack about a low-income housing complex he partially owns that Joliet officials call a "hellhole." Ron Gidwitz, former head of the State Board of Education, contends the 356-unit complex called Evergreen Terrace is not a slum. "What we have here is essentially a political attack because the city fathers of Joliet would like to tear down housing that people who need affordable housing use and replace it with upscale real estate development," Gidwitz said. He spoke about the housing complex, located in Joliet across the Des Plaines River from Harrah's Casino.... "There are people that die there with great frequency. They die of bullet wounds, stab wounds. There are children who are raped there. There are young women who are raped there. There are older women who are raped there. There is a considerable amount of drug dealing going on," [Joliet Deputy City Manager James] Shapard said.
I hope Shapard cleared his statements with the city's parent companies, Harrah's and Emerald. After all, how will Harrah's survive without the low-income housing? I mean, sure, every once in a while you get a high-roller like Betty Loren, but for a casino, it's the poor and desperate that really pay the bills. It was, after all, Joliet's high concentration of the poor and desperate that made it such a natural location for a casino. In fact, Joliet was such a slum, the gaming board felt it could comfortably sustain two of the state's precious casino licenses. Now Shapard and the city want to get rid their little goldmine? Have they forgotten that low-rent buildings are filled with the same people who so gladly plunk down all they have for a chance at striking it rich? That it's those people who don't wisely spend money that powered Joliet's revitalization? Maybe it's a sign that the boats in Joliet are getting a little cocky, like they don't need poor people anymore. Maybe when casino council, er, I mean, city council runs the poor out of town, they'll be sure to send 'em somewhere that has Greyhound bus service so they can still get back to the casinos. But if Shapard really cared about a better life for people who live in the low-income housing development, he'd send a couple of squad cars over there every now and then, take the weapons, and throw the rapists and drug dealers in jail. And if he really cared about the future of Joliet, he'd do everything he could to sink those two boats.

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