COMMUNITY: Opportunities for Citizens to Participate in the Shaping of Their Future

Basic Demographics

Using the Center for Neighborhood Technology's definition of the region, there are 419,000 people in the Calumet region -- 178,000 in Illinois and 241, 000 in Indiana. The people are 53% White, 42% Black, and 15% Hispanic.131

Looking just at Southeast Chicago, roughly bounded by 67th Street on the north, Western Avenue on the northwest, the City of Chicago boundary on the south and southeast, and Lake Michigan/State Line on the east, the proportions are quite different, 14% White, 80% Black, and 6% Hispanic. 132

There is a continuing slow decline in White population in the Southeast Chicago area. Some of the results of this decline are that the White population is more aged than other groups and there are far fewer children among the White population. 133

Many Latinos of Mexican origin have located in the Illinois-side of the region, primarily in the communities of South Chicago and East Side. The Latino population is primarily composed of children and young adults. Immigration of foreign-born people to the region, mostly Spanish speaking, has fallen throughout the 1980's, perhaps because of the loss of jobs. About 20 percent of Latinos in the area report limited English language proficiency, and, with more children and lower incomes, more Latino families are living in poverty. 134

Looking just at Southeast Chicago, roughly bounded by 67th Street on the north, Western Avenue on the northwest, the City of Chicago boundary on the south and southeast, and Lake Michigan/State Line on the east, about 25% of the Latino population, 20% of African-Americans, and 10% of Whites have incomes below the poverty level. 135

The loss of jobs in the bi-state Calumet region has had an impact on population trends. In Northwest Indiana, Lake County, the most urban and industrial county, saw a population drop of 4% between 1970 and 1990. The total population in Northwest Indiana remained about the same, as the loss of population in the industrial communities of northern Lake County was balanced by population gain in the south part of the county and in Porter and La Porte counties. In fact, Porter County is expected to be one of the fastest growing Great Lakes counties over the next 15 years. Rapid unplanned growth is a major environmental threat in southern Lake County and east into Porter and La Porte counties.136

There also has been decline in population and employment in older parts of the Chicago area, including the Calumet region. In the 6-county Chicago metropolitan area, older communities lost 770,000 residents, while newer ones gained one million people.137 Between 1980 and 1990, 54 of 77 community areas in Chicago lost population.138

Economic Opportunity

The loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs has been a blow to many families in the Calumet region. Jobs in the Chicago metropolitan area have shifted away from the Calumet region, both northwest and southeast. In fact, the Calumet region has had a declining share of the total jobs in the Chicago Metropolitan Area. The neighborhoods of Southeast Chicago and the Cities of Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago have not recovered from the plan closures that began in the 1970's. These cities have the highest unemployment and the largest minority population in the State of Indiana.139

Regions like the Calumet area have housing costs which moderate income families can afford, but the areas of high job growth are not nearby. None of the Chicago region's six major employment centers are nearby. In fact, mean travel times to work in parts of the Calumet region -- South Deering, Calumet Heights, South Chicago, and Riverdale -- are among the highest in Chicago at between 33 to 48 minutes.

Adult residents of the Calumet region (at least in the area bounded by 67th Street on the north, Western Avenue on the northwest, the City of Chicago boundary on the south and southeast, and Lake Michigan/State Line on the east) generally have a lower level of education attainment than the overall population of the City of Chicago. 140 Latinos in the area have the lowest rate of educational attainment for adults over 25 years of age. Only 37% have completed elementary school education. In this same area, the unemployment rate for males over 16 years old in 1990 was 13% for African-Americans, 5% for Whites, and 11% for Latinos.141

Residents of Southeast Chicago employed in 1990 were preponderantly found in lesser-skilled occupational categories, with about 42% in clerical and service occupations. In 1990, residents of this area were more likely to be employed as clerical and administrative support, or in service, technical and transportation-related occupations than for the overall population of Chicago. 142 The largest share of employment for Latino and African-American men in 1990 was as machine operators, fabricators, or laborers.

White residents seem, on average, to have better jobs. White women are more likely to be employed in the professional specialty occupations such as technical and sales, while African-American and Latina women are more likely to occupy clerical and service occupations. While White males are more likely to be in managerial, professional and technical occupations, African-American males are found in these occupations, but also in large proportion in service occupations, along with machine and motor vehicle operations. Due to the steel-plant closings and other job losses in this region, many African-American males have assumed less-skilled and lower paying jobs. 143

Increasing local hiring is one way to enhance opportunity for residents in the Calumet region. Sixty-seven firms from Southeast Chicago which were surveyed by Olive Harvey Community College together employ thousands of workers, but only 15% of the workers live in the immediate neighborhood. Twenty-eight percent live outside of Chicago.144

It has been difficult to increase local hiring because, as 82% of the firms which responded to the Olive Harvey survey said, word of mouth is the main recruitment tool they use. 145 Local residents aren't in the networks of workers from other communities . Also, only 43% of the firms who responded said they sought applicants from the local community for skilled positions. 146

It has also been hard to increase local hiring because there are few corporate champions pushing it, many local workers are not well-trained, and there are insufficient training opportunities. Thirty-two percent of firms surveyed by Olive Harvey said they had major problems finding workers with the basic education required to work effectively, and 23% said workers did not have an appropriate attitude toward work. Firms with well-paying jobs say they can't find applicants with the needed skills and motivation. For example, Inland Steel and Ryerson have been marketing in Southeast Chicago without much success and Ford needs electricians, but these firms can't hire the skills they need.

There is an education/skills gap in the region. Many local job applicants can't meet the standards of local employers. Young people are not adequately prepared to get high skill jobs or understand the connections among local problems. When firms participating in the Olive Harvey survey were asked about educational needs, many said that even their current workforce needed instruction in basic math, reading, work ethic, communications, and computers. 147 Technical skill training mentioned included machin ing, mechanical and electrical maintenance, welding, drafting/blueprint reading, and computer skills. 148

While educational attainment is below average in big parts of the Calumet region, education and training have become more important to obtain jobs in the Calumet region. The Olive Harvey report shows projections of change in local area employment from 1990 to 1998 for various kinds of occupations. Occupations requiring a high school education or less are projected to see a drop in jobs of 1.8% to 118,000. Occupations requiring less than 4 years of college are expecting a modest increase of .6% to 79,500. Occupations requiring four or more years of college are projected to have an increase in jobs of 4.4% to 44,000. 149

Hope for the Future

Loss of jobs and population and growing distances to jobs have had an affect on the hopefulness of residents of the region. People see life in the region as not good enough. Crime is higher than it should be, even if perceptions are worse than the facts. Some residents continue to be exposed to extreme environmental hazards.

Table XI reflects findings of the 1996 MCIC survey data for a core part of the Calumet region. MCIC defines the Calumet region as South Chicago, Calumet Heights, South Deering, East Side, and Hegewisch community areas.

Table XI
Results of MCIC Calumet Region Survey

Calumet City 6-county Suburbs
with neighborhood
27% 38% 55% 67%
In 5 years,
neighborhood will
29% 23% 18% 15%
Neighborhood is a
good investment
65% 61% 75% 84%

Source: MCIC 1996 Survey
Satisfaction in the Chicago part of the Calumet region is probably lower than for the rest of the city or suburbs because of residents' higher concerns about crime (33%), drugs (10%), and gang activity (23%).150

Fear of crime also affects the relationship of local firms to the community. The vast majority of employers and their workers feel safe within the confines of their places of work, but the image of the area beyond the confines of the plants is that crime is high. This is a major obstacle in recruiting employees and marketing sites. There are efforts underway to address the perception among those outside of the corridor. 151

Although there is not comparable data for Northwest Indiana, image and self-image are clearly big issues which surface often in strategic planning discussions.

Nevertheless, people who live in Southeast Chicago like many things about their neighborhoods, including that housing is suitable and of good quality (28%), there are friends and family nearby (23%), and public transportation is good (20%).152 Residents in Northwest Indiana also appreciate local housing and communities.

If job opportunities and the image of the region can be improved, it should be possible to improve hope for the future. There have been many achievements in the past decade in the Calumet region. However, they are not widely known outside of the circle of people who care about a particular issue. It might be useful to facilitate the flow of information so that the broader community is aware of these achievements, either through an annual report or on the internet.153

Civic Capacity

Residents on the Illinois side of the Calumet region already may be more community- involved than is the average for the region:

6-county City SouthEast Side
to vote
77% 78% 86%
Belonging to
Block Club
14% 17% 20%

Source: MCIC 1990 Metro Survey Report 1

However, voting and belong to block clubs don't necessarily translate to working together as a region. The communities within the Calumet region are not homogeneous. Communities in close physical proximity have very different histories, problems, and outlooks.

Table X below shows the big differences in racial composition, poverty rates, unemployment, and educational achievement across a few adjacent communities in Illinois. These differences across communities make it hard to organize.

Table X
Community Diversity

Area # Area % Black % Hispanic % Below Poverty
46 South Chicago 60.9% 32.4% 25.1%
51 South Deering 58.6% 28.2% 18.4%
52 East Side 0% 39.5% 12.9%
48 Calumet Heights 92.2% 4.6% 7.8%
55 Hegewisch 0.75% 11.29% 7.8%
Area # Area % Unemp. % < 9th grade % College
46 South Chicago 11.3% 20.6% 6.8%
51 South Deering 8.6% 15.7% 6%
52 East Side 6.2% 20.6% 4.7%
48 Calumet Heights 7.8% 6.6% 11.8%
55 Hegewisch 5.4% 15.9% 4%

Source: Community Indices 1990, Metro Chicago Information Center

The situation has been quite similar in Northwest Indiana. East Chicago, Whiting, Hammond, and Gary don't have much of a history for collaboration.

As well, many community groups which have been very effective at the neighborhood level, have had little interest or experience in working across communities. There is a long history of distrust among organizations. Turf issues are common. Much organizing has been very local and there has been resistance to broader coalitions.

Lack of interaction and coordination has also been common among government agencies in both states. People have held their cards close to their chests. Even within the City of Chicago, initiatives at the Department of Environment and Department of Planning and Development which affect the Calumet region are not always coordinated. There is only modest collaboration between the City of Chicago, its departments, and other local, state and regional officials with initiatives in the Calumet region.

Environmentalists and development proponents are often at odds. There is basic disagreement about whether open space preservation will facilitate economic development more than landfills. There is a perception that environmental organizations beat on industry, and visa versa.

Local clean up projects are beginning to involve the community more. However, it is, for obvious reasons, hard to retain community participation through the tedious process of site characterizations, clean up and redevelopment on a site-by-site basis to ensure that clean up efforts create jobs for local residents, enhance environmental and aesthetic quality, and remove health and safety risks caused by uncontrolled contaminated sites.154

Bi-state collaboration is also weak. The bi-state Calumet region lacks a regional identity. There has been much talk, many reports, but not much action in the form of bi-state efforts. The only truly bi-state initiative is the Sea Grant program out of Purdue. It has brought people together from both sides of the state line for several meetings about the future of the region. Even though the Calumet Ecological Park Proposal extends into Northwest Indiana, public and nonprofit interests in Northwest Indiana were not asked to participate in defining the proposal to examine the feasibility of creating the Park. The $100 million flood control and recreation project on the Little Calumet River extending from Gary west stops at the state line.

However, especially in Northwest Indiana, but also in Southeast Chicago, there are signs that communities are beginning to collaborate more and become more involved in planning for the future. In Northwest Indiana, there is budding regionalism. Greater cooperation and coordination has occurred through a number of environmental efforts, such as Turkey Creek, Lake George Sedimentation study, Memorandum of Cooperation regarding petroleum products in the Grand Calumet, and the Brownfield Redevelopment Task Force. All sectors of the community seem to be working seriously to carry out a Remedial Action Plan for Indiana Harbor. The State of Indiana Department of Environment's Northwest Indiana Office and U.S. EPA have developed a very good and close working relationship.

There is also greater cooperation around economic development and education issues through the Northwest Indiana Forum. The Umbrella Partnership in Northwest Indiana is trying to pull together different initiatives and weave them into a broader vision under the direction of NIPSCO and Inland Steel. Indiana University is co-sponsoring with NRPC sustainable community roundtables. Purdue is managing the Sea Grant program with University of Illinois. The Northwest Indiana Association of Parishes is organizing churches throughout the region.

In Illinois, the East Side community is actively working with Hammond. Claretian Association is helping to build a sense of regional community. East Side Pride has become a vehicle for people in East Side to get together. The Metropolitan Alliance of Congregations is successfully organizing churches throughout the region. City Innovation is holding meetings of regional stakeholders. Sierra Club is convening environmental and open space groups. Southeast Chicago Development Commission is convening many different stakeholders around corridor strategic plans.

Perhaps most important, many new opportunities for collaboration represent efforts to involve the residents of the Calumet region in shaping their future. Environmental agencies in both states have improved public participation processes. Communications between U.S. EPA and citizens is better. U.S. EPA has made community planning/participation more of an issue than before. So has IDEM.

There are a number of convening initiatives in both Southeast Chicago and Northwest Indiana. For example, the City of Chicago's Brownfields Forum created new opportunities for public participation in policy-making. 155 The same is true for Southeast Chicago Development Commission's Corridor Strategic Plans. Several groups convene local environmental groups. Chicago State University hosts meetings, especially on environmental issues and neighborhood development. Calumet Area Industrial Commission convenes local plant managers. City Innovation convenes local researchers, community organizations, and others in quarterly planning groups on job growth, environmental improvement, and site selection and development.

The Brownfields Project in Northwest Indiana includes broad community involvement, including business, government, labor, environmental and community groups. The same is true for the Grand Calumet Task Force's Grand Calumet River/Indiana Harbor Ship Canal Corridor Vision Project and the Indiana University's Sustainable Development Roundtables. Northwest Indiana Forum convenes corporations and other stakeholders on a regular basis.

Several organizations also plan new convening initiatives within the next year. Center for Neighborhood Technology intends to create something likes its transportation commission, a broad stakeholder group, to reach consensus on development priorities and implementation in the Calumet region. David Eubank at the Chicago Department of Environment hopes to bring stakeholders together to collaborate on an integrated planning effort aimed at environmental and economic revitalization of the Lake Calumet region in a joint project with the University of Illinois. Judy Beck of U.S. EPA's Great Lakes Program Office plans to hold a broad dialog on regional priorities for ecosystem restoration on the Illinois side of the region. Southeast Chicago Development Commission is also considering pulling people together for a locally-driven development process for the Calumet region.

All of these initiatives and others are described in Appendix A.

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