RHA still has questions to answer

By John Guevara
Winnebago County Board District 19

I haven’t said much about the South New Towne development. I believe public housing is an important part of helping people when the chips are down. My difficulty with publicly funded housing, is the same difficulty I have with social benefit at large. Government is good at providing assistance. It isn’t good at building a system that helps people move from assistance to independence.

Much has been made of the resolution the County Board passed opposing the South New Towne project. I voted for it. I voted for it because I’m convinced that the project needed to be discussed by the community at large, that a voice needed to be heard saying, “We will not accept anything less than an open, candid discussion of why here, why now, what it means and what the plan is.” I heard no answers to any of these questions until after the resolution passed. So in getting a community conversation started, I believe the resolution was a success.

I must say I’ve been surprised by the conversation’s tone. Why is it wrong to ask for an impact study detailing what people can reasonably expect of the South New Towne project? Why is it wrong to ask what the community plan is based on the impact study?

Asking these questions doesn’t mean that I expect an increase in crime should South New Towne move forward. Asking these questions doesn’t imply anything about public housing in general or Fairgrounds in particular. Asking these questions doesn’t make me racist, an accusation to which I am sensitive as one who has experienced private and institutional racism.

I think the only way to be comfortable with this project is to know what it is, what it means, and how we can make it successful. For me, as a resident, a citizen and a representative in our community to be comfortable with the project I would need to know its details, the impact it will have, and the plan for success.

So far I’ve heard an extensive explanation of the first point. The attitude on the last two has been that I must have some prejudice against public housing or harbor racism in my heart to even consider asking for such information. I will remain opposed to the project until the information on the last two are made public. Call it what you want–I believe it’s the right thing to do.

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