About these property taxes …

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Last week, a property tax report by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas found the predominantly black and brown suburbs of Berkeley, Bellwood, Broadview, Hillside, Maywood and Stone Park were all ranked in the 12 first suburbs in the county that saw the largest increases in their median residential property tax bill for the 2020 tax year.

The increases among the six ranged from a low of $ 1,040 at Broadview to a high of $ 1,868 at Bellwood. In Maywood, where I live, the median property tax bill has climbed by $ 1,543.

In Oak Park and River Forest, by comparison, the median tax increase for residential properties was $ 249 and $ 305, respectively, according to the Pappas study.

At a meeting in Hillside on August 23, Joe Tamburino, the village’s mayor, found himself transformed into an ordinary citizen during a public comment.

Taxes on his modest home increased by $ 2,000, he said, in response to a citizen who complained to him about his own tax bill.

The current property tax crisis reminded me of the reporting I did on this issue five years ago, an important part of which I have reproduced for this column.

“Middle-class blacks are robbed when they live in segregated black neighborhoods,” Daniel Lauber, a fair housing and zoning lawyer based in River Forest and former senior village planner in Oak Park, said during a town hall meeting on integration held at the Oak Park Public Library in 2016.

“They don’t reach a level of wealth that can be achieved in white neighborhoods,” Lauber said. “It is a tragedy that a large part of the black middle class is deprived of middle class status (and) participation in the American dream.”

In 1966, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chicago after being invited by local activists who had launched their own civil rights battles against racism and discrimination in schools, police and the housing market in the city.

The latter area would dominate the attention of what became the Chicago Freedom Movement – an alliance launched in 1966 between the King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and an array of Chicago-based activists like teacher Al Raby. and Jesse Jackson Sr.

In the summer of 1966, the group led a series of marches and protests across Chicago. They were stoned, spat on and insulted by the white inhabitants of the areas they passed through.

King even moved to a slum in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood to publicize the poor living conditions most of the city’s African Americans suffered.

The demands included calls for real estate listings “to be available on a non-discriminatory basis,” for a “program to rehabilitate existing public housing,” and a program “to dramatically increase the supply of low-cost housing on a non-discriminatory basis. dispersed for both and middle income families.

The Chicago Freedom Movement disbanded in 1967, marking what was widely viewed as a failure by many observers of the time. But that consensus has slowly changed as many historians and political experts take stock of some of the movement’s successes, such as its pivotal role in passing the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which outlawed discriminatory real estate practices.

This federal law is one of the main reasons Maywood has integrated. The fact that most local, state and government officials have failed to actively enforce his dictates and be proactive in realizing his ideals is why Maywood has become largely segregated, and why he suffers from ‘High property taxes and a reduced ability to serve its citizens, say some local housing experts.

In the 1990s, Lauber published a study exploring the dynamics behind the transformation of all-white neighborhoods into all-black neighborhoods within decades.

Since 1968, suburbs like Maywood and Bellwood “have experienced either block-by-block resegregation or dispersed black immigration,” Lauber wrote in “Ending American Apartheid: How Cities Achieve and Maintain Racial Diversity.”

“Until the passage of civil rights and fair housing legislation in the 1960s,” Lauber explained, it was not illegal for real estate agents to categorically refuse to serve black people seeking employment. housing or for the banks to simply deny them mortgages.

“It was not illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in the sale or rental of housing,” he adds. “Restrictive covenants in property deeds that prohibited the transfer of property to blacks or Jews were enforceable until the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that the courts and government could not enforce them. “

At the time, discrimination in credit and real estate was considered normal, if not natural, with blacks and other minority consumers being confined to very specific geographic areas “while the rest of the market was open only to Whites ”.

After outright discrimination was banned, more subtle forms of discrimination began to replace it. The dominant means of maintaining segregation has become what is called “racial leadership”.

It is the practice of directing white homebuyers to all-white communities, or areas within a community, while directing blacks to integrated or all-black communities or areas of a community.

The driving force behind the racial leadership, Lauber notes, were attitudes often encoded in seemingly harmless language and social signals. For example, to this day, many Oak Park residents denigrate living “east of Ridgeland” because it means living in the less desirable part of town – the closest part. of Chicago’s all-black West Side, according to local housing experts. .

What is now often referred to as a “white escape” was motivated by these seemingly harmless social cues which, when decoded, often resulted in racist attitudes that equated darkness, or closeness to blacks, with criminality and values ​​of blackness. inferior property.

It was obvious, Lauber noted, that realtors are blunt about how property values ​​often drop as blacks move into neighborhoods. The resulting re-segregation was explored in a 1981 Chicago Tribune article.

“A sharp shift from white to black has occurred in Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood, Calumet Park, Harvey and Markham,” the Tribune reported.

Between 1970 and 1980, according to data from the US Census Bureau, Maywood’s population grew from about 41% black to 75% black. In those 10 years, Bellwood has grown from less than 1% Black to over 35% Black. Broadview went from less than 5% black to around 30% black.

Today, Maywood and Bellwood are about 82% Black and Broadview about 73% Black. It is no coincidence that for the past 30 years, these suburbs have featured prominently in the Tribune’s archives among stories detailing murders, government corruption and poverty.

In 2016, I spoke to Rob Breymaier, the former executive director of Oak Park Regional Housing Center, about these changes. He cautioned against hasty cuts to the relationship between rapid racial change and bad news headlines.

“These suburbs ended up being all black because of the white flight,” Breymaier said. “It’s not just the movement of owners out of the community, it’s a lot of investment. We are talking about a loss of taxes and property value. And after [this precipitous loss of value], these communities are then invited to maintain this same level of services with less fiscal capacity to do so, which is extremely unfair, and they are criticized for not achieving this.

Lauber, in his study, cited research which found that “the anticipation of global racial change causes the economic base of neighborhoods to shrink.”

“This divestment by the business community,” he writes, “reflects his self-fulfilling prophecy that the new black community cannot support many businesses that [had] long been located in the community. As a result, the municipality’s tax base decreases due to the loss of businesses and jobs in the enlarged ghetto.

Breymaier added that the reality of how all-black suburbs actually operate with depleted resources could be counter-intuitive, even to the general perception of residents who live in these communities.

“The reality is that these places are probably making more, pound for pound, than many wealthy places trying to [service residents], “he said.” In a place like Maywood, the real problem is that we don’t see its real value. Racism prevents us from seeing its real value. “

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com


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