ENGLEWOOD — Aldermanic candidate Stephanie Coleman's ownership of a vacant building facing city demolition has led a group supporting her opponent to accuse her of being a "slumlord" — a charge Coleman denies.
Coleman, daughter of Shirley Coleman, former alderman of the 16th Ward seat her 27-year-old daughter now seeks, is catching flak from the neighborhood group Action Now over a two-story building at 913 W. 59th St. she owns with her father, David Coleman.
The city is pursuing a suit against them, seeking to demolish the building. It has previously been cited by city inspectors for numerous violations, including charges of uncollected trash and uncut weeds that resulted in an $890 fine in 2011.
The city filed suit in 2013 citing "dangerous and unsafe conditions" at the building and seeking to tear it down. That suit goes back before Cook County Circuit Judge Mark Ballard on March 31, a week before the April 7 runoff in which Coleman faces Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), who is trying to switch wards after hers was dramatically altered in the most recent remap.
According to the city lawsuit, the building is in disrepair, with the heating system having been vandalized and the electrical system stripped and rendered inoperable. The house is surrounded by five other boarded-up homes or buildings on the same block.
Coleman said she and her father are repairing the building. She denied the "slumlord" charge, saying no one lived in the home and that the property had been secured.
"That's absolutely not true," she said Monday evening. "In order to be a slumlord you have to have tenants.
She added: "It's actually my father's building, and my name is just on the building, and we are going to court with those violations; however to be a slumlord, you have to have tenants, and the property is not occupied, but it is secured. There are doors, there are windows."
She said it was taking time finish the renovation and she hopes to turn the building into a "peace house" — a place where youth could go to be safe from the streets.
"Just like any other homeowner or person who owns property you go through things, you need licenses, some things take longer than others," she said.
Action Now Executive Director Katelyn Johnson said she was shocked to discover the suit against Coleman, especially after Englewood residents in general and Action Now in particular fought to pass the Vacant Property Ordinance calling on building owners to monitor, board up and better police vacant buildings.
"We didn't think anyone would be so brazen as to violate something like the Vacant Property Ordinance, which we worked so hard for over the years," Johnson said. "If you're gonna run for alderman in a ward like Englewood that has just been completely ravaged by foreclosures and vacant properties ... it looks like a disconnect from the community's needs."
"You're supposed to lead by example, and that's not a good one," Foulkes said Monday at City Hall.
Action Now plans a demonstration at the property Tuesday. Not coincidentally, it has endorsed Foulkes in the race.
According to Johnson, "Toni Foulkes is actually one of the founding members of Action Now and has worked with us over the years on many different issues."
Foulkes led the Feb. 24 election with 43.1 percent of the vote, followed by Coleman with 35.1 percent.
Coleman is one of five aldermanic candidates under age 30 still alive in the 2015 city election. She and three others are in runoffs, and Ald.-elect Carlos Ramirez-Rosa has already won outright in the 35th Ward.
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