UPTOWN — Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said he will not be one of the more than 100 people expected at a rally Thursday night where activists had planned to question him about an array of issues, most of them related to affordable housing.
The meeting was originally supposed to be hosted at the Peoples Church, 941. W. Lawrence Ave. But this week, the pastor of the church, the Rev. Jean Darling, informed both organizers and the alderman that the church will not host the event.
The church, she said in an interview, "does not want to get branded as being in one camp or the other."
"We're about reconciliation; we're not about taking sides in a fight," Darling said.
Because the event now lacks a venue, Cappleman's office is declining to put it on his schedule — but activists hinted Tuesday that the rally will now be held outside his office.
The relationship between Cappleman and the two groups has been described as "strained" by activists, and the alderman's office has expressed frustration with them as well.
Both organizers and Cappleman's office gave conflicting accounts of what caused Darling's change of heart, according to interviews and emails obtained by DNAinfo.com Chicago that were sent back and forth between Cappleman and organizers.
Cappleman chief of staff Tressa Feher said Darling thought the event was divisive and disapproved of the activists' tactics — something Darling agreed with in an interview.
"I support ONE's programs for the most part, I just don't always like their tactics," Darling said. "I don't like shaming people. To me that is not an effective way of making change."
In January, ONE marched on the Gold Coast home of real estate developer Jay Michael, whose FLATS Chicago brand has bought distressed buildings across Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park that were formerly affordable to poor people. FLATS is renovating the buildings and raising rents.
Michael had decided to skip a meeting organizers invited him to attend in Edgewater to discuss the issue.
Cappleman’s office has said it finds the activists' tactics to be frustrating — and counterproductive.
An email from Jennifer Ritter, executive director of LAC, however, to Cappleman accused the alderman's office of intimidating Darling: "The venue initially agreed to host the meeting; however, they began to feel bullied. Because of fear of retribution, there is no location for this meeting," Ritter wrote.
Darling told DNAinfo.com Chicago she "wouldn't put it that way."
"But on the other hand, we need to maintain good relationships with the alderman," Darling said. "If they want to interpret it that way, they can."
"We don't particularly want to be labeled as being an enemy of the alderman," Darling added.
Ritter's email to Cappleman said that activists wanted to meet with him in advance of the event, but that he had been unresponsive.
The email thread shows that Ritter invited Cappleman to the meeting on March 1, Feher confirmed receiving the invitation on March 3 and ten days passed without an email from the 46th Ward — before Ritter wrote Feher again asking if the alderman would be at the meeting.
On Tuesday, complaining of a lack of communication, Ritter sent Cappleman an email that said, “If you are willing to come to hear from us and respond, you will have the opportunity to meet us outside of your office, where this event will now be held.”
She also asked him numerous questions to be discussed at the meeting.
They did not see eye-to-eye on most issues, yet Cappleman pledged in his reply that the Wilson Men’s Club Hotel would not be closed until every tenant there has found stable housing elsewhere in Uptown.
But, he said, “I won't be able to attend the rally and unfortunately there is another
meeting scheduled at our office during this time.”
Neither Cappleman nor activists were immediately available for comment, and it is unclear what will happen on Thursday at 6 p.m., when the meeting was scheduled.