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Interview with Dick Simpson, Ron Shaffman, Mary Lou Daniel and Fabian Padilla

BROADCAST: Oct. 13, 1977 | DURATION: 00:56:58


Discussing Chicago neighborhoods with Alderman Dick Simpson, Ron Shaffman, Mary Lou Daniel and Fabian Padilla.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel Dick Simpson, alderman of the 44th Ward, is a rather independent one we in Chicago know. And Dick and Chicago are hosts at the moment for NAN. What is NAN, Dick?

Dick Simpson NAN is the National Association of Neighborhoods, which is made up of member organizations from cities throughout the country. And I suppose the member groups of NAN have three different kinds of agendas: some provide major services to their community like housing renovation or daycare, some are community organizations that are sort of along the Alinsky model, and in other cities in the country some are actually neighborhood governments with formal recognition, which we've never enjoyed here in Chicago.

Studs Terkel But mostly neighborhood recognition, which we haven't enjoyed in Chicago. But mostly it's about neighborhoods and communities and people having a sense of some kind of say in their lives. It's what it's about, isn't it? Let me just check, and you're here with three people, Dick, from different parts of the country. Suppose introduce them and we have

Dick Simpson All right. Maybe they can tell a little bit about each of their organizations and what they do. We're here with Ron Shiffman, who is president of the National Association of Neighborhoods and with the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Fabian Padilla, who is an organizer here in the Lakeview community in Chicago, particularly working with the Latin community, and Mary Lou Daniels, who is from Pittsburgh and active in a neighborhood alliance in Pittsburgh.

Studs Terkel Well, suppose we start, Mr. Shiffman. You heard the intro. You know, the idea of--this is the big problem, isn't it, people feeling impotent.

Ron Shiffman Yeah. I think a number of years ago maybe, people felt impotent. I think what's happening right now and we begi--we're seeing it beginning in practically every city that we visit, is the fact that people are getting together with their neighbors to sort of overcome the alienation that they felt from their city governments.

Studs Terkel What's happening? Where are you from, and what is happening there?

Ron Shiffman Okay. Well, I'm from Brooklyn, New York. We're part of New York City, and we're part of one of the largest and perhaps most anonymous governments in the world and somewhat inept. And we're beginning to see in neighborhood after neighborhood that New York City isn't this large amalgam, but it's really a whole series of independent neighborhoods. And whether you're in Bedford Stuyvesant or Morrisania in the South Bronx or in Park Slope or Greenwich Village, people identify with their neighborhood and with their neighbors. And we're beginning to see all sorts of efforts, everything from housing rehabilitation to food co-ops, to cooperative daycare centers, to attempts at coordinating the efforts of a whole series of different social services in the neighborhood. We're beginning to see neighborhood groups step in where government has failed. And to a great extent it's in the ashes of New York we're beginning to see new flowers blooming, which are a, really a resurgence of the neighborhoods themselves.

Studs Terkel What I'll do is I'll go around to Mary Lou Daniel, Mr. Padilla, and then we'll keep it open, what specifically is happening in individual cases. Mary Lou Daniel, Pittsburgh, what does that mean when I say that? Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance.

Mary Lou Daniel Right. Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance is a federation of neighborhood groups. What happened in Pittsburgh was probably a result of the Pittsburgh Renaissance that turned our central city district from slums and old warehouses into the now famous Golden Triangle. Cleaned it up, made it beautiful, and completely destroyed most of the neighborhoods, because everybody forgot about them.

Studs Terkel Say this slow, because this is interesting, we hear a lot about the Golden Triangle, and how business and commerce is [marketed?]. Now, you're saying it destroyed neighborhoods.

Mary Lou Daniel Yeah, it did. Because all the emphasis was on the central business district. That was where the money people were interested in. That was where government leaders could get the money to do the most rehabilitation. People who had money, the bankers, the industrialists, weren't interested in doing anything about the neighborhood, and the neighborhood people at that point didn't have enough power or organization to do anything about it. But after the Golden Triangle, the new renaissance, people suddenly began thinking, "Well, now wait a minute, what happened to us back here in Polish Hill? What happened to us in Beltzhoover? In these little neighborhoods, what happened to the big renaissance that we were supposed to have?" And they began organizing for the power for their share of this new beautiful city of Pittsburgh.

Studs Terkel Go ahead, Mr. Padilla, wait, Dick, this sound familiar to you? What Mary Lou just said?

Dick Simpson Oh sure, we've had the same kind of urban renewal problems in Chicago for many years. More often, urban renewal has built a wasteland that they never rebuilt, but in some of the communities when they did get around to rebuilding, it was very similar and of course our downtown Loop emphasis under Mayor Daley was the same kind of emphasis. If there were big office buildings, even if we lost all our jobs and we lost all our housing and we lost all our people, and we're still in Chicago losing people at a rate of hundreds of thousands a year, somehow that was, that was all right.

Studs Terkel Mr. Padilla, I just--I know it's familiar to you.

Fabian Padilla Yes, especially from our point of view of being Latinos in a city that has continuously opposed or given any recognition to us, I think we have felt it the most, and this dates back all the way to the, what Dick was addressing, the Chicago urban renewal projects of the late '60s. And since then it has, it has kept on going. What urban renewal didn't do, they deprive [their?] entrepreneur, continue to do, which was basically pushing Latinos out of their local neighborhoods and preventing from letting them build their own base, economical, economical-political for

Studs Terkel You know Cha-Cha Jimenez, don't you?

Fabian Padilla Yes,

Studs Terkel Cha-Cha, for--this is for Mr. Shiffman and Mary Lou Daniel can be aware, Cha-Cha was a young Latino leader, and Cha-Cha said to me, his family--he came from Puerto Rico--his family were evicted six times. That is, in three years--was it two or three years?--urban renewal, wherever they went, urban renewal took place, and six times in two or three years they moved.

Fabian Padilla Yeah, well, that is [amazing?], I have found as a matter of fact I did some survey last year, and I have found that within one year, there were two families that had to move out six different times! So I think that sort of tops Cha-Cha's record. [laughter]

Studs Terkel Well, let's keep this open. Now we're talking about lives of people, and power from the top, and this is what we're talking

Ron Shiffman You asked about specifics before, and this relates to what Mr. Padilla just said. In the Bronx there are a group of young Latinos who decided that no more were they going to be pushed out, and they went into a building at 1186 Washington Avenue in the Morrisania section of the

Studs Terkel This is Bronx, New York.

Ron Shiffman In Bronx, New York. If any of you were watching the World Series, it was right where the building was burning that you saw. At any rate--

Studs Terkel Near Yankee Stadium.

Ron Shiffman Near Yankee Stadium, and you know, 104 million was spent in Yankee Stadium and nothing in the neighborhood. And a lot of it went for private profits of some entrepreneurs. But this group decided to go into a building, and the city wouldn't give it to them. But they took over the building anyhow, and about a dozen of them cleaned out the building. They did all the demolition work, they demolished a little too much. But they went in there and they cleaned out the building and then they forced the city to eventually recognize them, turn over the building for a dollar, and to give them a loan for materials. That building, a year-and-a-half later, is now occupied with the--with 28 primarily Latino families, although there are some Black and white families that have moved in with them as well. They are not only living in a building where they use their own sweat equity homesteading to rehabilitate, but they have a solar unit on the roof. They're using alternative energy. They have taken and recycled their garbage. They're selling off the cans and the newspapers, and it's not much money but it goes into a common rent pool. They then take the organic materials and they break it down and feed it to a couple of [bats?] of worms they have on the roof, and then they are feeding the break--the other organic material to fishes, to trout that they're raising on the roof, and they're completely recycling the garbage. And what they're doing at the same time is they have set up classes in the neighborhood for some neighborhood kids to talk to them about energy, to talk to them about recycling, and to begin to do other buildings, and they've gone into an abandoned section of the Bronx, and this year they're renovating six additional buildings, again with other families coming in, and they're not going to be pushed around anymore. They're going to own the land, and they're now working with another group setting up a land trust. So they're trying to capture this land which is really very, very important. And I think it's, again, a neighborhood effort, that the people's development corporation in the Bronx has, that reflects what's happening in dozens of other cities.

Studs Terkel Let's go over this slowly. Now, Mr. Shiffman's talking, and Mary Lou and Dick and Mr. Padilla, is talking about a slum area, we really--we see this on TV, hear about the looting during the blackout. People in the neighborhood are doing something, he is describing right now, it's incredible, isn't it? This is happening. Does this ring a bell to you, Mary Lou?

Mary Lou Daniel Sure. You know, you said something like slum area and that, it rang a bell to me, because we're talking about neighborhoods that are quote unquote "slum areas" now is because some planner decided it was a slum area and we had to do something with it. In Pittsburgh, we found that this planner or whoever decided the way to get rid of the slum areas was to build highways through them, right? And like 20 years ago,

Studs Terkel That's a familiar phrase in Chicago. Oh yes,

Mary Lou Daniel Oh yes, it's, it's everywhere. And well, what they do you know, they put this big map up, and they drew all these spaghetti lines all over it and just about wiped everything out. The purpose was, get the suburban people into this beautiful "Golden Triangle." Well, 25 years ago a group on what's now the infamous "E Street Valley" formed and called them--

Studs Terkel "E Street Valley" is what?

Mary Lou Daniel E Street Valley is this corridor in the northern end, northern side of Pittsburgh running from the Allegheny River up to where I-79 would now come in, it's supposed to be a spur called I-279, it would be a interstate.

Studs Terkel But it's kind of a rough area, and it's on TV a lot as a high-crime area.

Mary Lou Daniel Well, it is now. When they first started talking about it, it was a nice little German community nestled in this valley, very stable, and the houses weren't fancy, they were little--with the two, two steps up stoop and, but it was nice and clean, but somebody decided that wasn't the kind of house people should live in, and that was where this highway was going to go. But the people have been fighting that. They've--I think they've about lost their battle because now it's a wasteland except for one church, St. Boniface Church. That's the last place the neighbors decided, "We're going to save our church to prove a point." And they've got it now where it's listed as a national historic landmark. But the story of E Street and the Heart Group has given so much inspiration to other neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, that when the planners began coming into their neighborhoods and saying, "Well, we're going to put this highway here, the neighborhood said, "No, you're not." And that highway plan is now down the drain. There's not going to be any more of this spaghetti lines wiping out the city of Pittsburgh. At least we're on our toes, and if they're going to try it again, they're going to get fight--

Studs Terkel Who is the "we"? That's the point.

Mary Lou Daniel We, when I say "we," I say we, meaning the people in the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. A lot

Studs Terkel But how did they coalesce? How do they get together, because one of the big--we know [unintelligible] that people are separated one from the other and alone and feel impotent and absolutely powerless.

Mary Lou Daniel Well, but when somebody--when there's that big danger that comes, the planner who comes, who's going to take your home. The bulldozer starts rolling down the street. You'd be surprised how they coalesce. And it's not true that in all neighborhoods that they are isolated and that they don't know their neighborhood. We've got a lot of little neighborhoods where people are still the brother, the sister, the mother and grandmother living on the same streets. So that's not entirely true. I think that's a fable that people have been shoving down our throat too long.

Studs Terkel Fable that people are absolutely powerless, you know. Dick, what Mary Lou talks about, Daniel, about Pittsburgh is reminiscent of the highway they attempted--expressway through the Citizen's Action Program area, wasn't it?

Dick Simpson Right. The Crosstown Expressway in Chicago has been at least this far blocked, and there is now pending a lawsuit if the federal government approves it. It's hard to know even if that one's going to be won or not, but certainly for the last four or five years, the Crosstown Expressway has been unable to be built because neighbors together along the corridor on the Southwest Side of Chicago and the Northwest Side has won all together, there's never going to be a Crosstown Expressway through the Northwest Side of Chicago. We're really in, probably at a point where we need to start talking about--and in cities like Chicago at least--we don't really need the Crosstown Expressway, what we need is a transportation system that works better than the--

Studs Terkel Mass transit.

Mary Lou Daniel That's

Dick Simpson Yeah. Yeah. And I think a lot of the neighborhoods are beginning to look and say, "Hey, couldn't we--what we want to do is to get across our neighborhood or to get downtown or to get somewhere else. It doesn't seem that complicated, you get in a car you can do it, why can't we do it in some other way?" And I think there is going to be more and more pressure in Chicago for the RTA and the CTA system to become more [workable?].

Studs Terkel RTA, Rapid Transit, for those out of town. Rapid Transit System and Chicago Transit Authority.

Dick Simpson Right.

Studs Terkel What are your thoughts, Mr. Padilla, in hearing this?

Fabian Padilla I have to go back to a phrase that you used before with Mary Lou, how do groups, neighborhood groups, coalesce? Well, I think, you know, when you have an issue of this magnitude that affects so many lives, groups do have a tendency to join together and to try to pull their resources together. And it's something like this that it's, you know, because somebody else dreams downtown, in downtown, about a project of that type, it is when--that doesn't necessarily mean that people living in those communities who have some property, who have something to lose in the project, are going to stand still and wait for city government to make the decisions of their lives. Okay? And so taking it back and taking it a step further, I think this type of issues, you know, the Crosstown, the pushing out of, of Latino residents, the lack of political representation and all that, is what basically has a tendency to put people thinking along the same lines. Okay? And this is where future action comes about and, you know, all of a sudden, even though we may look today as isolated organizations, we are not really that isolated.

Studs Terkel That's what Mary Lou was saying, the myth, the legend, [crosstalk]. So here we are. Now, now it's open. So, events that are happening. Mr. Shiffman?

Ron Shiffman Let me pick up on the highways, because it's not over yet. In New York City, they're proposing the Westway, which is one of the greatest multibillion dollar boondoggles. It's not a highway anymore, it's a major real estate scheme running down the West Side of Manhattan creating something like 270 acres of land for future development. We know what it'll mean, it'll mean the siphoning off of resources away from the neighborhoods in order to subsidize housing and construction along that area and building a highway. A highway that, whose resources and money should be going into our transit system. Yet the President approved, and the President's agencies have approved that highway at the same time that's he coming to the American people and talking about an energy package. And one of the things that the National Association of Neighborhoods did is that we took them to task on it, and as a result have this task force that is now meeting with government agencies and neighborhoods saying, "Hey wait a minute, before you spend billions of our dollars, let's see if we can't develop some national policies that are much more reflective of our needs on a neighborhood level. And I think what we're really saying is that neighborhoods have, and it's, I think, you know, a lot of the neighborhoods have suffered for a long time because the big moneyed interests in the--were able to, for a long period of time, pit the Latinos against the Italians, against the Jews, against the Polish, and begin to get working people fighting poor people. The very poor people. And as a result being able to make decisions downtown, and the fact of the matter is they were all getting screwed. Highways were after, "Well, I'm not going through the poorest neighborhoods," they were going through the working-class neighborhoods because you could relocate them easier, you could hide the social problems. They ripped apart the neighborhoods. When Latino neighborhoods were destroyed, it created, you know, unnatural social movements. Now, I'm not opposed to social--people moving up and into neighborhoods, and I'm not opposed to integration. But when you kill off a neighborhood and you push people into neighborhoods totally destroyed, then it begins to destroy the next neighborhood. And that's what began to happen in our cities. And I think when we saw the highway program, the urban renewal programs, and the dominance of people like the Rockefellers and others in making decisions, you know, in getting on the phone and saying, "We want a highway here," Bedford Hills, but the tactical bypass, the highway passed his estate, but he said he wants a highway going into Battery Park City. So that you begin to see that the wealthy and the powerful politically can get on the phone. Neighborhoods had to organize in order to counteract that strong decision-making of one individual, and I think we're doing it not only on a neighborhood level, but neighborhoods are linking together and making impact now, I think, on a national level, and that's a different point of political action.

Mary Lou Daniel But I think that that's the important thing, that finally we have learned that we, we're not isolated in these by ourselves in these problems. You know, New York and Pittsburgh and Chicago, we've all got the same kind of problems. They may be a little bit different in scope or something, but they're all the same kind. We never had that advantage before. You know, the Mellons could talk to the Rockefellers, and they knew what their similar problems and their similar likes were, but I couldn't call Ron Shiffman and he couldn't call me. Well, now there's this vehicle for us to know what, what we're sharing, what our common problems are, and we're going to get it together, so that we're able to deal with these common problems, you know, with the same kind of power that the Mellons and the Rockefellers and the others who've been running our cities have been doing for the past 30 or 40 years.

Dick Simpson I think it's also very important, Studs, to realize that, that the experimentation that is occurring in neighborhoods across this country is absolutely phenomenal, and since the regular press doesn't ever capture anything that small, that it goes unnoticed. I think the number is there are 43 cities which have formal neighborhood government at this stage. There are many cities which have different community organizations. There is the kind of housing renovation that Ron is talking about that's going forward in New York, but there are also groups on the South Side and in Uptown in Chicago that are doing housing. Philadelphia. Smaller towns. In fact, in many cases the link between the neighborhood and the small town is much closer than the comparison of the whole city of Chicago and a small town. And what's, what's happening is a kind of explosion of experimentation. There is not one national model of how communities organize anymore, and there's not one national model of neighborhood government, and there's not one national model of service delivery. But we find literally hundreds of different groups across the country that have learned to organize themselves effectively for their own purposes. They're now beginning to come to national meetings like this and learn how other communities are doing it, and there's a cross-fertilization so that we're learning from people in New York more about the housing renovation, but they're learning certain things about how we do community zoning boards and land use planning, and the same kind of exchange is happening in group after group. There are 48 separate sessions at this conference, there are about 400 delegates from 175 community organizations in 25 states who have joined together at this single meeting to both exchange information and to take common stands on the kind of highway problem that Ron was, was talking about where we're trying to shift the national highway policies.

Studs Terkel Boy, I'll bet that what's happening is unprecedented. You point this out and Ron does and Mr. Padilla and Mary Lou, that these people down below or middle, that is, those not the power-making people, had never met before, together, that's what you're saying. The Rockefellers or Mellons always had, whether they met or not at a banquet table or whether they met at board of directors meetings, doesn't matter, they had an understanding. And now, I mean divide and conquer is being challenged is what you're saying.

Ron Shiffman That's correct. Let me give you a great example. Last week--for about four months we and a number of other national groups have been trying to get the federal government to write rules and regulations governing assistance to cities so that it would affect and go directly to neighborhoods and go primarily to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and also away from the old urban renewal-type programs. We had gone a long way with the new administration. Then the mayors of 15 cities met with HUD, Housing and Urban Development, the administration in Washington, and they immediately reversed all the work that we had been working on for four months. We then [said? sent?] through the NAN office in Washington and through the Center for Community Change, called 40 different cities, got about 60 neighborhoods to send telegrams to HUD, and within one week they reverted back to the original rules and regulations. In other words, it took that network, in order to countervail the force of the 15 mayors.

Studs Terkel Fabian Padilla?

Fabian Padilla Yeah. What I wanted to point out is, you know, we were talking about the Rockefellers and all these people been able to get together, you know, through [fund?] or whatever, organizing, it's a little bit harder than that, but I think, and at least, you know, is--you can see it more clearly every day. Organizing at the lower level, at the local community level is getting easier, because number one, there have been a lot more people involved in it, okay, especially among the Latino communities. You couldn't talk about organizing in the Latino community ten years ago.

Studs Terkel Is that so?

Fabian Padilla Yeah! I mean, over here we were scarcely spotted all over the, all over the town. I think now the the idea, the trend is to, everybody is dreaming some type of project that is trying to put together. Okay? So as a result of that what you're getting into is a lot more communication down at the local level. Okay? The lower socioeconomic group that is getting together, is putting the pressure where it's, where it belongs, and it's getting things done. And one, one aspect of that, I think one example of that will be, for instance, when the CHA, Chicago Housing Authority, had some, had 585 subsidized apartment units to give out. Okay, these people were still working and they set up the rules to work for a, from a waiting list that they had accumulated throughout the years. And these are the people that they were going to give the subsidized housing. Okay? So I think with the cooperation, which is something that we have got more now than ever, cooperation of the alderman Simpson's office, the different community organization, the social service organizations, at least in this particular area of Lakeview we were able to get subsidized housing, and we thought at that time that we had one chance in a million. And with--I think we got the most out of the entire community. Right, Dick?

Dick Simpson Yeah. Studs, what happened on that is, we, the system they had set up is, they had one phone number and 10,000 people could call the one phone number. And it was a first come, first served prioritized list for 585 units. So working with the Latin organizations here in Lakeview, we--the phone number was going to open magically at midnight, at midnight we had 20 phones working from organization headquarters, we captured every single unit of housing that was available out of the Lakeview community, because we stayed on the phone through the night, through the morning, and we simply had the phone calls in there. We--it was only possible of course because we knew the crazy rules CHA had set up, which were were asinine to begin with, but if they were going to use those rules, we were going to make certain that, that we preserved enough of the Latin community to still have a Latin community in Lakeview if we could. Now, it was only, we only had 18 units and we could only control half of those, so it was nine units that we were fighting over for our area. But we captured all nine units for the Latin community here in Lakeview by a complicated phone system that was worked out of my office and some of the other community organization offices here. But that, I think what Fabian's pointing to is that when pushed, the people in the neighborhoods can be at least as clever as the bureaucracies, and if they set up screwy systems, we can set up a better system to out-organize them.

Studs Terkel So this is happening, isn't it? This kind of a know-how now, you see, what has happened--through the years, through the years, through decades, down below, thought there's no hope, they bank on the aldermen--not like Simpson--the traditional aldermen, or on the ward committeemen or on the hack or on the banker, and so they felt they were nothing. And now something has happened, hasn't it?

Ron Shiffman Yeah. For the first time I think neighborhood groups are getting drafts of federal rules and regulations. It's one thing to pass laws, but once the laws are passed, there are rules and regulations on how the various different administrative agencies function, and groups are beginning to learn and they're beginning to get in there and make sure that you alter the rules so that you can fund neighborhood groups directly, so that you know when criminal justice monies are available, so you can write the proposals and you're there the same day the city is there, so that you know when monies are available for small businesses. So you're there the same day the city is there, and you can begin to get businesses that will really aid neighborhood groups. The Comprehensive Employment Training Act. Neighborhood groups across the country are fighting for the right to hire and pre-select employees from their neighborhood, so that people can work on public works projects and jobs projects that come from their neighborhoods, so the Latinos can get jobs to work in their neighborhoods, to provide role models for their kids instead of seeing people come in from the suburbs on these public works projects, and the fight is happening in every city across the country. And it's the neighborhood unit, not exclusionary. And that's one of the things that NAN is very careful about. We want--

Studs Terkel NAN, National Association of

Ron Shiffman Yeah, we want to make sure, one of those concepts of neighborhood, is that you build to include, not to exclude, and that what we are very interested, is in building these viable and diverse neighborhoods, because it's that kind of neighborhood that'll survive.

Mary Lou Daniel Yeah, I just wanted to say about building and to including people, five years ago in Pittsburgh if you'd have said to anybody that we would have had such groups as the League of Women Voters and Welfare Rights Organization sitting at the same table discussing the community development funds and how they were being spent in Pittsburgh, and, I mean, there were other groups involved, but that's the wide spectrum we were dealing with. That, that--those discussions that we initiated eventually evolved into a lawsuit against the city because they were not using the funds to help the people they were supposed to be helping. Simple things like how do you get a traffic control light on a corner that you know is dangerous. And they gave you all this gobbledygook about the state laws and the national laws. Well, what we did in our neighborhood on a two-mile very dangerous street, we got a hold of the book that they kept throwing in our face with all these Section 1045c3d and all that, and we got a hold of the book. We rounded up 45 people. We set up pedestrian counts at every intersection, for one whole day from six o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night. We counted the number of cars that went by, that number of people that crossed each street. We recorded all this for, for a whole day. We wrote it all down. We researched how many children went to schools in the area, how many churches were in the area, how many senior citizens were in the area. We had this all documented. When we went into city council, they could no longer say, "You don't meet this requirement or that requirement." We're learning how to do the same thing they've been doing to us. [Echo]

Studs Terkel Resuming the conversation with Dick Simpson, alderman in Chicago, 44th Ward, independent convener of this National Association of Neighborhoods, and we'll ask about the gathering. Ron Shiffman of this group in the Bronx, in New York. Ron.

Ron Shiffman What about?

Studs Terkel The group you are with.

Ron Shiffman Well, I'm not with the group. We provide architectural and planning services for a group called The People's Development Corporation. I'm with an advocacy and public interest architectural and planning office called the Pratt Center for Community Development.

Studs Terkel And that's in New York. And Mary Lou Daniel of the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance and Fabiano Padilla here in Lakeview in Chicago.

Fabian Padilla Yes. Right now I am, I am an employee of the 44th Ward office as a coordinator for the Latino community.

Studs Terkel You know, I'm thinking of what Mary Lou Daniel just said before we had the break.

Fabian Padilla Right.

Studs Terkel And that is, the work. Knowing that is easy. That is, people say, "experts," or here, that's the point what's she's--the undercurrent of what she said, in order to say is that, we left it to the experts, the peop--these very special people on top who know what it's about, down below we do it for you. And what she just talked about is proof that people themselves can know quickly what it's all about because their lives are involved. That's what it's about,

Fabian Padilla There's no doubt about that at all, because through mistakes, but because we have had the opportunity to participate in community meetings, in whatever action, we have been able to learn. Because we are poor, that doesn't makes us stupid. If somebody give us the training or the opportunity, we can learn anything that a planner or a so-called expert that is sitting in downtown has been able to learn.

Studs Terkel Just to add a point, you say it's because we are poor, I think this applies also to middle-class, lower-middle-class--

Fabian Padilla Right!

Studs Terkel It applies to everybody who accepts that which is given from above, so it's not simply the poor. The poor are the spur, perhaps, but

Ron Shiffman Right. There's a very interesting thing, it, in the end, all domestic activity, all domestic policy, is tested on the neighborhood level. That's where people are unemployed. That's where people walk and--in fear if there's a high crime rate, that's where your streets are dirty, that's where you don't get your health services. And it's only therefore at that level that you could really evaluate, test, and in the end coordinate and integrate those services so that they really have meaning to your life. And usually, the way our government is structured, that is the one level that is ignored. I think the 44th Ward in Chicago is a major exception to that. Neighborhood groups, on the other hand, are beginning to sense that, and they themselves are trying to bring together all these services. The only thing that citywide planners ever had over local people is they knew what was happening in other cities, and they could draw on those experiences. What we want to see is neighborhoods communicating directly with neighborhoods so that they know firsthand how to draw on those experiences.

Dick Simpson Give an example that sort of ties together some of what Ron was saying, what Fabian was saying, from our Lakeview community here in Chicago, we decided by simply living here that we had enough high-rises. We decided that when we hit a density that was similar to that of Tokyo, and we were able to tell that on the east side of this ward, there were, high-rises weren't necessarily bad, but after you pass Tokyo's density, that was enough. And so the people in this neighborhood working through the community zoning board and working through the Lakeview Citizens Council got together and said, "We're going to change that. We don't want high-rises." Now, right at the first they didn't know that what they wanted was to switch from R-7, R-8 zoning down to R-6, R-5 zoning. But those are just little symbols on a map, and it doesn't take any great smarts to learn that in R-8 and R-7 you can build a high-rise, and in R-6 and R-5 you can't, and it was a matter of a few months before we were able to say, "Okay, we don't just want no more high-rises, we want R-6 and R-5 zoning," and we drew a squiggly line on a map and said, "We want it here," and then we negotiated with the Department of Development and Planning, the Department of Urban Renewal, we united the entire community, there was 100% consensus, there were seven major meetings before the community zoning board hearing, a formal community zoning board hearing at which the department was present at which we had I think 300 people attend. And it became quite clear that everybody agreed, that they wanted this magic new thing they'd never heard of before, called R-5 or R-6 zoning, and they'd known all along, what they didn't want is they didn't want any more high-rises. And it's just a matter of translating it over and making it clear downtown that there was enough political pressure that if they didn't make the change on the zoning map, that there were gonna be even greater losses for the regular Democrats on election, and once that became clear, of course we could have R-5, R-6 zoning, it's not--it doesn't make any dif--the map doesn't care whether it's marked R-5 or marked R-7. The people in the neighborhood care when you get too dense, when you get too many high-rises. And so it's, it's a matter which, it was just merely a matter of translating what every person in the neighborhood understood, which is they didn't need any more density, they didn't need any more crowding, they didn't have any space to park cars, there wasn't any space to walk. They were getting asphyxiated by car fumes, that they had enough. That was all they had to understand, they understood that all along. It was only a matter of translating it both into technical terms, some symbols on a zoning map, and into political terms that was enough pressure to force the city to respond. And from that experience, people all across the city have learned. The people up in Uptown, the people down in Lincoln Park, they suddenly figured out they didn't want anymore high-rises, either, and it didn't take anymore--you know, they learn from us in that sense, that there are major battles going on in those two different communities adjacent currently. They're saying, "Hey, those people in Lakeview are awfully smart! They learned that they didn't want--not only didn't want high-rises, they didn't want R-7 and R-8 zoning! We don't want it, either." And so it's working out just by the translation.

Ron Shiffman That reminds me of a story: a couple of years ago, about eight years ago the New York State Urban Development Corporation gave a private architect a contract for over $86,000 to do a study of whether high-rise or low-rise should be built. And I remember walking with a group of people on a tour with Bobby Kennedy at that time, must have been more than eight years ago, and somebody yelling out of a window, "Hey, build us some new housing, but make sure I could yell to my kids!" And what she was doing for nothing was telling him exactly the kind of housing that they needed, and would have saved them 86,000 bucks. [laughter]

Studs Terkel We're talking, aren't we, this is a recurring theme here. And the theme is people getting together, seemingly separated from not only different neighborhoods, different cities and exchanging ideas, as a way the big shots have through the years, saying, "Hey, maybe we do have some clout." That's what this is really about, isn't it? It's the reason why this gathering, the National Association of Neighborhoods, is so important, is it comes at a certain moment I think in our history, I don't mean to sound too dramatic, but it does, it comes at a time when a great many people feel, you hear the phrase "alienated, alone, lost, turning off, don't vote, young, dispossessed," middle-class, too, and at the moment that unfortunately the press, the media, whatever it's called, doesn't carry, because it doesn't understand something is happening. And that this is about, isn't it?

Ron Shiffman I think you're also seeing it in the way we're communicating. For the first time, people have tape recorders, and people can make their own tapes. If we ever have a media explosion in terms of video, we'll be able to do the same thing with video. Newspapers I think are the great--the great breakthrough. We see in city after city neighborhood newspapers.

Studs Terkel You mean these small newspapers, yeah.

Ron Shiffman Yeah. And we're beginning to communicate, some are good, some are bad.

Studs Terkel I know that Mary Lou Daniel wanted to say something about Pittsburgh, but you said "ward assembly." And I know we've talked about this on occasion, but perhaps just to recreate it. The ward assembly in the 44th Ward. What is it? How does it

Dick Simpson Okay. We actually have two assemblies. Let me talk about the 44th Ward assembly first. It's very simple. We have two delegates from all 61 precincts in the ward, one from each community organization in the ward. They meet once a month with me, and by a two-thirds vote of those delegates after hearing any citizens who want to come to the meeting, they mandate my vote in city council, they mandate the--

Studs Terkel You do what they tell

Dick Simpson I do what they tell me to. All the aldermen in Chicago are controlled, but I'm the only one controlled by the community. I carry their legislation to city council in terms of new legislation, I vote the way they tell me to, and we introduce projects in the ward like ward fairs or raising food for the private pantry system for the hungry, that don't require legislation. In addition, Fabian is part of a separate group. Since we have such a large Spanish-speaking group in the Lakeview area, we have an "Asamblea Abierta," which is, means simply "Open Assembly" in Spanish, and that meeting is conducted entirely in Spanish, and it meets once every two months simply because we have a language barrier and they introduce for me new projects and other ideas and occasionally the two groups get together, not in the same room but in terms of exchanging ideas so that I'm able to get the pulse of the community in both methods and to both represent the English-speaking community and the Spanish-speaking community in a way which is one form of neighborhood government. It's not the only form in the country, but I think there are a lot of advantages to this particular type.

Mary Lou Daniel Fab--

Studs Terkel Does that ring a bell to you?

Mary Lou Daniel I was going to pick up on the media discussion we were having before. In Pittsburgh up until about two or three years ago, everything that was west of the Ohio River was the West End, even if it was a suburb--a suburb that was 20 miles out of the city, it was the West End, there was no--the media has no idea of what a neighborhood is. And it used to anger people so much. So what we started was a neighborhood newsletter, and we are also doing some videotape, although we've not gotten into the color tape, but we're doing some things like that. There's a citizens group called Cable Communications, and then they train the citizens groups to do some of their own video work. Well, in just two years of our constant pushing at the major media, the two major newspapers and the television stations, they now have begun using the word "neighborhood" over and over. They have been using our neighborhood atlases which we've printed, of each of the 78 neighborhoods in the city, when they have a story about a specific area. Word for word, they're using what we've printed. Suddenly there's an awareness of the word "neighborhood" that there wasn--there was just no idea of what a neighborhood was as far as the media was concerned three years ago.

Dick Simpson Mary Lou, tell a little bit about the neighborhood atlas, because it's the only project I've seen like it. I think it's worth explaining a bit.

Mary Lou Daniel Well, what we did was develop an information system for the neighborhoods. We, we did a citywide--first of all, we went to the people and we asked them to establish their neighborhood boundaries. And we didn't ask them to establish them based on what the city planner said, we asked them to establish them based on what they knew their neighborhood to be. Was the boundary the church on the corner or the corner of South Main Street? Where it was drawn on a map? We took all this information and put it onto a master map and we came up with easily identifiable boundaries of the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. We then did a mail survey. We got a 30% return, which everybody told us was just phenomenal.

Studs Terkel That's fantastic.

Mary Lou Daniel Nobody gets anything like that. We got the attitudes of the, to city services, we got the attitudes to the problems in the are--in their neighborhood. We included in the atlases some information like crime statistics, census information, income information, public assistance information, housing information, mortgage disclosure information, it's all in this one little book and it's all on the neighborhood level, so the people who live in Polish Hill can pick up and read about Polish Hill, and they're not picking up a book and reading about the whole eastern end of the city. They're reading, they're getting the information about their neighborhood so that they have it all there together and they can sit down and plan for some of the things that that information indicates. We've just learned after a whole lot of negotiations that the Census Bureau has consented to begin getting neighborhood information in the '80 census. They will begin giving it out on the neighborhood basis in some selected cities. Those things are still up for negotiation, but we think it's a big step, because one of the things we've been saying all along is, people can make decisions if they have information. But if you're going to keep it all secret from them, they can't do that.

Ron Shiffman Here's another level of communication. Pittsburgh did the neighborhood atlas. New York had something but it came from the top down, it was very large, so it didn't relate to neighborhoods. The need for the Census Bureau to begin to give us the data we need on a neighborhood level, not on a politically gerrymandered district or on a, on a census track district that has no relationship to our lives, and because of the leadership from Pittsburgh, there was a communication to other cities and a great deal of negotiation with the Census Department and the Department of Commerce. We want information about our neighborhoods. We want information about what banks do in our neighborhoods. That started in Chicago.

Studs Terkel Red, anti-redlining.

Ron Shiffman Anti-redlining. And we got disclosure information last year. And most people don't know it, it just slipped through Congress and the Senate, very strong anti-redlining provisions in the new housing bill that require investment in neighborhoods by banking institutions. So it's incremental, but it's coming from communication and people beginning to learn from one another.

Dick Simpson In fact, at this very national meeting will be the first public announcement that has been made. The Census Bureau is present and we're releasing to the press their press release tomorrow, which will announce the Neighborhood Census Program, as it's called. And that, that's one of the achievements of the group that's meeting together. Sam Brown from ACTION is going to be here tomorrow night, and he is going to also announce that for the first time ACTION is going to earmark VISTA workers for neighborhood work, rather than simply placing them in existing agencies like hospitals and commissions and governmental agencies and those kinds of things, which they've been in before. They're really reverting back to the whole purpose of VISTA, which was to help organize those people in the country who needed to have assistance and help and couldn't afford staff. So that while we have certainly not taken the Carter administration by storm and trans--and moved the national government completely around, we have won some concrete victories which will be celebrated here, which are a testimony not to any one neighborhood but to the pooling of neighborhood resources and finding ways to be effective. We expect to come out of this meeting with another 20 or 25 programs, some of which require federal action, some of which require local action, as an agenda for the next year and the kind of battles that neighborhoods will be doing jointly in the year ahead.

Fabian Padilla Yeah, I just wanted to pick up back in the style of the ward assembly. I don't know how familiar you are with the differing wards of Chicago, but if you have read anything about Chicago, you know that wards, the ward leaders in the City of Chicago are basically controlled by the city council and the mayor over there. But, you know, what we mentioned before, the participatory aspect, okay, and I think Alderman Simpson has given us that great opportunity to participate in that sense. So while before you couldn't possibly, you could find Latinos meeting over any angle or over any, or any problem in the area, their basic communication was dealing between them and the problem never got out of it, never got out of that small circle around the corner store or in the church. Well, by now having the ward, the Asamblea Abierta, not only that problem has been transplanted from the corner store, it's come into the alderman's office and from the alderman's office is going downtown. So the government itself is going to have to take a close look at it. So it's getting--it's getting, it's been heard now. Okay? And not, not as much as we would like to, naturally, but at least it's a beginning step.

Studs Terkel And as you're saying this, I'm thinking of something early in the program that Ron Shiffman said that haunts me, that thing that happened in that community where those people took over a place, this community. And they recreated a place, they made it, and there's solar energy in this. So people--I know Mary Lou is thinking about this, too. That is almost a metaphor. What happened there could be the--obviously this can happen elsewhere, too.

Ron Shiffman Oh, yeah. I know at least in New York we have now formed a group called the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers. These are nothing more than neighborhood groups that are dealing--they're calling themselves housing groups because that's the basic shelter, but what they are is really groups that are working in their neighborhoods to revitalize them. And they range from those in the South Bronx that are the very poor to the middle-class Jewish community in Flatbush that is beginning

Studs Terkel South Bronx is Black.

Ron Shiffman Predominantly Black and Hispanic. And the section of Flatbush which is beginning to see all its adjoining neighborhoods crumbling, and they're talking to each other now and saying, you know, you know a city is like nature, you rip down the forest, you're sure to--on the mountain, you're sure to know that the valley is going to be flooded, and that you've got to do is, you've got to conserve both. What we've been told by our great city planners is we have limited resources. We have to do this or this. The fact of the matter is, in order for cities or the nation to survive, we're going to have to do both. We may have to do both a little, you know, in terms of the resources available, but the people are talking to each other, and that the program conflict of the '60s I think is leading to a more rational sense of cooperation and coalition-building. One based on, you know, yeah--you know, you have to deal with our self-interest, but we're also going to realize that our self-interest is interdependent. I'm sure you know the Latino community in the 44th Ward can't get what they need unless there's an alliance and coalition with the other ward assembly. But there are trade-offs, and it's through those trade-offs that people begin to know each other, begin to communicate, and I think begin to build together. I think that's sort of the realism that we're beginning to approach in the '70s.

Studs Terkel Mary Lou, I was thinking, Pittsburgh. Well, we're Chicago. Pittsburgh, so when you're in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pirates and the Golden Triangle. And you're saying, beyond these three phenomena something else is popping there.

Mary Lou Daniel Oh, yeah. A lot of wonderful things happening. People opening up their food co-ops, art, art co-ops where the neighborhood group opens up an art, a storefront where artists from the neighborhood come in, do their -- whatever they do. Macramé or painting or what, and sell it, and put the money back in, and housing rehab. In the Hill District, predominantly Black, where they're taking some old houses, buying up one, rehabbing it, renting it out, taking the income from that, buying up another one. And this has been an area that's supposed to have been redeveloped for 25 years and it's still a wasteland. The city can't do anything about it. Here are these poor people that everybody thinks are so dumb and helpless, are buying up these houses one by one. It's a slow pace, but they're doing it. So there are these really great things happening. The other great thing that's happening is that, people from the Hill District, predominantly Black, people from Polish Hill, obviously predominantly Polish, people from the south side, the Slavs, the Germans on Tory Hill, the Irish on the north side, they are coming together. And that hasn't happened before, because there's always been that wedge that somebody's been pushing between them, saying, "Well, we can't do this for you because we've got to do it for them," always trying to drive people apart. Well, finally we're getting together and we're finding out that we're not so different. We all have the same problems. And I think that's, I think that's the answer. Getting together, talking about the common problems, communicating, sharing our experiences, our information.

Studs Terkel You know what's interesting, again this theme recurs. Through the years this is made clear here during this hour before we have our sort of last comments of each of you, is that up on top. They've always gotten together one way or another. Sometimes it's the unwritten agreement, they may not have met physically, but they understood one another, whereas down below was the separation. And you're saying now the breaks are being made in the walls that separate. And that's what the exciting aspect--I suppose that's what this National Association of Neighborhoods is all about, in a way. By the way--you were going to say something, Ron.

Ron Shiffman Yeah. I think there are other--two other elements that are adding momentum to the neighborhood movement. One is with the kind of society we have now, where the vast majority of families are no longer the nuclear family, believe it or not, where you have either a single head of household or a split head of a household, or different types of singles living together. What is happening is that we need to have different kinds of support for our own mental health, that the extended family isn't around, the relatives aren't around in many cases the way they were before. And with the new sort of dynamic society that we have, the neighborhood is beginning to provide that kind of helping relationship. The other impetus is, believe it or not, the energy crisis. Neighborhoods in urban areas are much more energy-efficient. Our highways that destroyed neighborhoods, that spread us apart for defense reasons, you know, the highways with the National Defense Highway network, and they've pulled us out of the central cities. For defense reasons and for energy reasons we need to bring people back together again, to conserve, so that I think we're going to begin to see the resources and the momentum aiding the neighborhood movement. We've got to be careful that the neighborhoods don't lose control of that movement. Because it's, it could be easily manipulated on top, and one of the things we are trying to see is that neighborhoods are aware of all these issues, that we never again allow any outside force to come in and pit one group against another. And I think that's to a great extent what we're about.

Dick Simpson In wrapping up, Studs, I think I would add one point, which is while there is, while the conditions are ripe for neighborhood government and neighborhood power and neighborhood services to succeed, and the people and neighborhoods have the skills and the ability and the concern to be able to be successful if it's pulled together, it's still always a matter of choice. Government isn't going to do this for us. Someone isn't going to come in from outside. President Carter isn't going to issue a memorandum one day, "Let there be neighborhoods" or "Let there be neighborhood government" or "Let there be neighborhood power." It's a matter that everyone who listens to your program is, you know, can make a choice about. They all live in neighborhoods, they can't live anywhere else. It's a matter of whether in their local community through political structures or through economic recovery structures or through housing structures or through traditional community organizations or whatever, it's important that people begin to just finally say, "We're going to make a choice, and our choice is that we're going to have a voice in determining our own destiny. And we're going to get together in our local community, we're not going to go to Washington, we're not going to go to New York, we're not going to go to some other place, we're going to, wherever we are we're going to get together, and we're going to make a positive choice on our own part that we're going to have a voice in those decisions that are important to us." And what the National Association of Neighborhoods and groups like it can do is give them some of the techniques and the mechanisms. It's no longer a case that they have to invent the wheel, but no one is going to provide for them the will and the courage to do it. That's something that everybody is going to provide for themselves.

Studs Terkel I'm going to ask this before I have a round robin, the last, you know, comment briefly. Fabiano Padillo, something you haven't said you feel like saying now, before we go around.

Fabian Padilla The last point that I want to make is that as Ron said before, interdependence, communication, and cooperation are three big ingredients that we need and we are going to have to share with each other if we want neighborhoods to really grow. And I think to a certain extent we're going in the right direction, but we should continue on.

Studs Terkel Mary Lou Daniel.

Mary Lou Daniel Well, I think I'll just say what we've been telling people where we're going out to organize. You don't have to move to live in a good neighborhood. You just do it by organizing here.

Studs Terkel Ron Shiffman.

Ron Shiffman I just want to say, I want to echo what Mary Lou Daniel said and, and leave it at that. And thank you for having us on.

Studs Terkel Dick, any further word,

Dick Simpson I guess I would just reemphasize that no one gives away power for free. If people want power, they're going to have to organize to get it, and that all of us are about that task.

Studs Terkel Thank you very much.