So far, the Emmet School repurposing is a failure of leadership

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“The School Repurposing and Community Development website hosts a comprehensive list of former school sites in need of repurposing. The website maps out all available properties and includes photographs as well as physical and financial information about each site.

“After the community preference for reuse has been established, interested parties will be able to submit formal redevelopment proposals through the website. A summary of submitted proposals will be posted on the site for public review.

“CPS will be working with aldermen to facilitate the determination of community reuse preferences and to communicate the process for making proposals. The aldermanic community meetings will provide an additional forum for Chicago residents to contribute to repurposing efforts with the goal that each property is redeveloped in an appropriate manner for its surrounding community.”From Chicago Public Schools (CPS) March 28, 2014, press release.

29th Ward Ald. Chris Taliaferro either did not research the process developed by CPS-based on community input for securing community preferences for the repurposing of Robert Emmet School or he chose to ignore it.

As of January 2017, CPS reneged on the community process.

My grievance is about the lack of transparency and misinformation concerning the Emmet School health clinic project proposed by the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, the Sinai Health System and the Oak Park-based PCC Wellness Center.

As documented by the Austin Weekly News and AustinTalks, PCC and its partners proposed to house a health clinic, dental clinic and daycare center in the closed Emmet School at 5500 W. Madison St.

I continue to question the proposed project because of two issues.

The first: The impact of the project on existing businesses and institution like Loretto Hospital, Circle Family Care, Hartgrove Hospital, black-owned daycare providers, and clinics like the Madison-Pine Dental Clinic.

And the second: Why Taliaferro did not insist from the start that the aforementioned institutions have a seat at the table or partner with the health clinic? These institutions employ hundreds of workers. Their primary revenue sources are Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

During the Oct. 11, 2016, town hall meeting, Bob Urso of PCC admitted the project will compete to serve the same population currently served by the aforementioned existing institutions and businesses.

Because of the pushback from the community, Taliaferro formed a hand-selected committee that held several meetings, closed to the public, to review the proposed health clinic project. Attendance and information at these meetings were inconsistent.

The Westside Branch of the NAACP (a committee member) voted against the project because of the lack of transparency and an impact study.

It is not too late for the project proposers, community stakeholders and existing institutions to organize and work together to increase capacity in providing needed healthcare services.

I hope this op-ed will ignite the leadership needed get all us all to work together and not apart.

Dwayne Truss is a longtime Austin resident. AustinTalks encourages other West Siders to share their opinions on this issue and other subjects affecting the community.


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