Despite challenges, the Austin community will prevail

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The Sept. 29 and Oct. 20 Chicago Tribune articles about the failure of the city of Chicago to coordinate with the Austin community to develop a successful economic development plan failed to document the successes of individuals, families, community stakeholders and black businesses.

The Tribune articles were well written, but the writers did not interview a range of stakeholders who could have balanced the articles about certain failures with stories of success and ongoing successful collaborations between community partners.

In the Sept. 29 article, the Tribune chose to print photos of young men that presented a negative image of Austin.

Why did the Tribune editors not research for photos of young men like Patrick Easley, a student from Austin attending Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., on a full academic scholarship majoring in international business? He was selected by his school to study in China for a semester.

My sons Malcolm and Matthew Truss (twin brothers) are entering their fourth year of college at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Cal Poly majoring in software engineering and construction management respectively.

MacArthur’s restaurant extended its operating hours to serve breakfast and hired additional community residents to work those extended hours.

Larry Williams of State Farm Insurance has supported numerous Austin-based youth programs and community organizations with his philanthropy while successfully operating his business in Austin for nearly two decades.

Austin is home to the most active Chicago Park District advisory councils. Because of the advisory councils organizing together, Columbus, LaFollette and Moore Parks have received significant ongoing capital investments.

As much as our neighborhood schools have been maligned by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), from 2009 to 2011 Austin neighborhood schools had the largest improvement in test scores citywide – 21 percent on the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT).

The South Austin Community Coalition Council (SACCC) has successfully gone toe to toe with major financial institutions like Bank of America to save families from having their homes foreclosed.

Real estate entrepreneur Duane Ehresman has kept rents affordable for low-income families, and his rental properties are well maintained.

Austin Coming Together (ACT) and Ruth Kimble of the Austin Daycare Providers Network recently hosted the first of its kind workshop to align daycare providers with local neighborhood school principals to create a smooth transition from daycare to kindergarten.

The Austin Community Action Council (Austin CAC) prepared an education plan that emphasized collaboration between the schools and community stakeholders and vertical alignment between the elementary and high schools.

Austin is the most-populated community within Chicago, but Austin has no kindergarten to eight grade magnet school. The Austin CAC education plan proposed establishing a magnet school for Austin.

The Tribune completely ignored the hard work of Austin educators and community stakeholders put into preparing an education plan for Austin.

Finally, why is the selling of liquor is such a horrible enterprise for Austin but not for the Near North area in Chicago or Madison Street in Forest Park?

I can only speculate that is a much better story to malign poor urban communities like Austin because of the high tolerance of dysfunction around liquor stores then to illuminate our successes despite the lack of economic development support from the city of Chicago.

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