CITY HALL — The City Council's Latino Caucus wasted little time Tuesday in telling Mayor Rahm Emanuel where to direct his new $100 million Community Catalyst Fund — to Hispanic neighborhoods aldermen say have long been ignored in city development.
"It is disappointing that positive accomplishments in Latino neighborhoods were mentioned only once in the budget address," said Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th). "Given that Latinos generate greater numbers than ever in business and retail dollars, it is imperative that we give focus on continuing their development."
Emanuel made neighborhood development a keynote of his 2017 budget speech Tuesday. He proposed a $100 million Community Catalyst Fund, as well as $10,000 in matching funds to aldermen who use their discretionary spending menu on community art projects.
The 11 aldermen in the Latino Caucus felt slighted, perhaps because Emanuel devoted so much attention to attempts to stem street violence by expanding youth mentoring, afterschool and summer jobs plans widely perceived as African-American programs.
"Our community is vibrant but it is not without its difficulties and we face daunting challenges," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), caucus chairman. "We are a silent majority that has time and again risen to ever-changing circumstances. It would be detrimental to the city as a whole to ignore the needs of the Latino community."
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) praised Emanuel's plans to spur neighborhood development, but again asked that they be specifically targeted to Hispanic areas as well.
"Mayor Emanuel was spot on in that we need to help existing small businesses grow and become big businesses," he said, "but Latino businesses have historically been underrepresented in city contracts and this needs to change. We will be focusing on addressing these issues in the upcoming budget hearings."
Emanuel administration spokesman Adam Collins took issue with those charges.
"Whether it's our growth-zone strategy around manufacturing, our neighborhood opportunity fund or the new community catalyst fund, we are looking forward to continuing to partner with aldermen on investments in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods," Collins said. He cited "the new bike path in Pilsen and the new school on the Southeast Side," as well as "all neighborhoods in Chicago."
The caucus cited how 30 percent of the city's population and 40 percent of Chicago Public Schools students are Hispanic.
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