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home : community forum : community forum - submit/review comments August 20, 2017


Posted: Friday, July 28, 2017
Community forum entry by: Jean SmilingCoyote

John Tuzson says "Low income is a symptom, not a cause, of low achievement." We have another "public misconception" here. I achieved a B.A. in school, in a useful major, with much to contribute to this economy. Yet my income is below the Federal Poverty Line. The only thing this is a "symptom" of is job discrimination against me - for a long time. The Social Darwinist misconception is that employers are a superior breed, and that every case of involuntary individual unemployment or underemployment results from a "due process" so is justified by deficiencies in the job seeker. Social Darwinism was discredited decades ago. If Tuzson thinks I must be poorly educated and useless in this economy, I invite him to study my website at

Posted: Friday, July 28, 2017
Community forum entry by: Jean SmilingCoyote

Christopher Thomas opposes minimum wage increase, and claims that “the people who do the thinking in this community got the idea that the economy is a kind of pie, of a certain size,…” I don’t know who has this idea. I do know that in every business, when there is a payroll to be distributed among the employees and owners who get regular compensation, there is a certain amount of money in the account available for this. The distribution of the payroll is a zero-sum game in the sense that there is a fixed amount for every pay period. You can’t do accounting with question marks in the amounts columns. The bosses decide how to distribute the payroll, and a raise in the minimum wage means that from an actual amount of money in a payroll, more for the lowest-paid employees means less for higher-paid employees.
Yes, the money available for a single pay period can increase for a business, from one or both factors of decreased non-labor costs and increased revenues. A raise in the minimum wage can be passed along to customers only to the extent that the demand for the business’s goods or services is inelastic. If demand is more elastic, more of the minimum wage has to come from the higher-paid employees. There is no Law in economics that says each business’s payroll has to be distributed the way it is now.
Thomas also says that “The best way to [have a livable wage] is for businesses to expand and need more people.” But businesses don’t want to risk expansion unless they’re confident of more sales to support it. As a person’s income goes down, he has less value to businesses as a customer, because he can’t afford to buy much. The only good that’s free is the air he breathes.
It’s also a fact that when a factor of production costs too little, too much of it is likely to be used. Here, too much labor of minimum-wage workers is used by many businesses. Even the workers can see ways in which more capital investment would make their work more efficient. If some would be laid off, well, there are many minimum-wage workers who could and should be earning more anyway, even if they needed more training. They’d prefer this.

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2017
Community forum entry by: Gail Schechter

How Do We Use $5 million?
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that private housing developers in Evanston are building exclusively for the well-to-do. Indeed, the newly approved 242-unit development at 831 Emerson is no exception, with 575 square-foot one-bedroom apartments to rent for $1,850 per month.
Since the market will not serve ordinary people, let alone those struggling, without a regulatory nudge, Evanston adopted an “inclusionary housing” ordinance to ensure that Evanston “maintain[s] a diverse population.” Under the ordinance, 10% of new units in a private rental development have to be affordable to those earning roughly half the median income for the Chicago area, or between $33,000 and $47,000 based on family size.
But in practice, “inclusionary housing” isn’t resulting in those new buildings lodging families of different incomes who are together enjoying the benefits of a downtown location. Instead, developers, including Focus Development for 831 Emerson, are opting to buy their way out of providing the affordable apartments by paying a “fee in lieu” of $75,000-$100,000 per foregone affordable unit.
Ald. Ann Rainey suggested at the June 12 City Council meeting when the project was approved that, as quoted in the Roundtable: “We have never had $2.4 million in an affordable housing fund. This is real cash money. We’ll be able to provide real affordable housing.” She mentioned that with another development in the pipeline paying fees, the fund could increase to $5 million.
What can Evanston do to maximize that $5 million for low- and moderate-income renters? And how can it do it in such a way that we don’t have a City of rich people “over here” and everyone else “over there”? The City’s challenge is that without a clear offset, allowing opt-outs of low-cost units within high-end developments can reinforce all forms of segregation. Affordable housing furthers diversity goals beyond economic such as race and age, and makes room for people with disabilities and families with children.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller “Evicted,” Matthew Desmond suggests a universal housing voucher program, which has prevented homelessness, improved housing quality, and allowed families to thrive where it exists. Especially in expensive areas, “vouchers are far more cost-effective than new construction.” Since vouchers are portable, all rental units in any town – within defined fair market rents – become “affordable.” The City should use some of the funds for vouchers, with a set-aside for higher cost units downtown to meet a primary goal of the inclusionary housing ordinance.
Vouchers alone, however, don’t solve the problem. Most housing is older and inaccessible to someone who uses a wheelchair. Vouchers don’t help if there are few apartments large enough for families. And what housing that exists that’s not exorbitantly priced in Evanston may be substandard or isolated from public transportation and shopping. This brings us back to bricks-and-mortar affordable housing – not just for the 25-year term under the Evanston statute, but in perpetuity. Ideally, these inclusionary units would remain affordable under a deed restriction or “community land trust” ownership.
The “coherent plan” that the Roundtable calls for with regard to the $5 million should incorporate these considerations.

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2017
Community forum entry by: John Tuzson

Given the privilege to speak publicly, you have the moral obligation to expose public misconceptions:
Low income is a symptom, not cause, of low achievement. The wish to achieve is instilled before age 3. Giving more money to schools is a waste.
Solar and wind energy, in the Chicago area, replace non-polluting nuclear energy. It does nothing for the environment.
Continual deficits and large tax increases, feeding unions, show incompetence of officials (or a deliberate misleading of the public), which would never be tolerated in private companies.

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2017
Community forum entry by: Christopher Thomas

Opposes Minimum Wage Increase
In your July editorial, the Round Table lauded the affirmation by the City Council of Cook County’s minimum wage and sick leave ordinance. In a bow to local businesses who see yet another burden being placed on them, limiting their competitiveness in a broader economy, the suggestion was that we should all “buy locally.” In contrast, in a nearby article, the short-fall of revenues to the City due to the problems with the economy were outlined. It boggles the mind that the editors of the Round Table (not to mention Evanston Aldermen) don’t see the connection.
Never mind that there are not enough people living here to support all of Evanston businesses, it is difficult enough to suggest that residents go against their own economic self-interest and buy inflated products here in the name of social equity (whatever that is), but to suggest that surrounding communities will cheer us on by donating their dollars to a “just cause,” is laughable.
Somewhere at some time, the people who do the thinking in this community got the idea that the economy is a kind of pie, of a certain size, and the only way to make things equitable around here is to find a way to slice the pie up equally, taking from those who have a larger piece and increasing those with smaller pieces. If the economy were such a thing as that, the actions taken by the Council might be justified. But then, we would be living in medieval times and the likes of Robin Hood would be welcome.
As it is, the economy isn’t fixed, it can grow and shrink. And entrepreneurs in our community compete with entrepreneurs in other communities, or around the globe. Every tax, every regulation, every act to take something from them and to give to someone else for a noble cause, makes them less competitive, because the money to finance the largesse of the Aldermen, won’t then go into expanding businesses, hiring more people, adding more equipment, developing new lines, building new buildings. Certainly the wealthy will survive, local businesses will fail, unemployment will increase and revenues to the City’s coffers will diminish yet further.
Having a “livable wage” is important. The best way to achieve that is for businesses to expand and need more people. Competition among businesses for employees will cause wages to rise. Mandating a higher minimum wage will do the opposite, eliminating jobs so that companies can fight to remain competitive.
Yet the Aldermen’s social conscience will be clear.

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