Poor Peoples CampaignMay 23, 2017

Press Alert

Chicago Westside Tent Revival
Kicks Off Chicago Chapter of the Poor Peoples Campaign


Chicago, IL. May 27, 2017: Individuals, communities and faith-based organizations throughout the City have formed the New Poor Peoples Campaign Chicago in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last campaign. In December of 1967 King announced the plan to bring together Poor People from across the country for a new March on Washington, demanding economic justice. The Tent Revival will be the Official Launch of Poor People’s Campaign Chicago as part of the National New Poor People’s Campaign.

Lead convening group, Blocks Together’s Co-Executive Director Carolina Gaete shared the purpose behind the event,

“The issues impacting our communities show the need for a collective response to demand a real economic development agenda and changes to how our government treats the poor. Our goal is to start a dialogue around the needs of our communities and create an agenda with those impacted to create a new economic agenda.”

“There are millions of poor people in this country with very little or even nothing to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with freedom and power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life,” Dr. Martin Luther King.

The Tent Revival being held, Saturday, May 27th, will begin at 1:00 p.m. with a ceremony followed by workshops and panels concluding with an interfaith service beginning at 5:00 p.m.   The event will be at Blocks Together, 3711 West Chicago, Il. 60651, Chicago, Illinois 60651.

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Democratizing Tax Increment Financing Funds Through Participatory BudgetingDecember 30, 2016

If you missed our TIF Toolkit Launch, no worries, you can download the report here:

Democratizing Tax Increment Financing Funds Through Participatory Budgeting Report

Looking for more information please email us at blockstogether@gmail.com to find out how you can be more involved in Blocks Togther’s Economic Justice Campaign.

November 22, 2016

Blocks Together’s TIF Toolkit Launch Event will be Saturday, December 3rd at Breakthrough Ministries located at 3219 W. Carroll, from 11am to 3pm. To register for the event follow the link below, space is limited.

Image result for participatory budgeting with the TIF in chicago



May 6, 2016

Join Blocks Together for a conversation with Dr. David Stovall, author of Born out of the Struggle on the 15th Anniversary of the Little Village Hunger Strike.
Rooted in the initial struggle of community members who staged a successful hunger strike to secure a high school in their Chicago neighborhood, David Omotoso Stovall s “Born Out of Struggle” focuses on his first-hand participation in the process to help design the school. Offering important lessons about how to remain accountable to communities while designing a curriculum with a social justice agenda. Click on the link to register for the event.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/born-out-of-the-struggle-book-party-tickets-24702334347 link

Elected Representative School Board LegislationFebruary 20, 2016

What is HB 4268 ?

Currently, the Chicago Board of Education (the Board) consists of 7 members who are appointed by the Mayor of the City of Chicago, without the consent or approval of the City Council. The members serve 4 year terms.

    • The Mayor also appoints the Chief Executive Officer and determines his or her compensation.  In the 2015 municipal elections, voters in 37 Chicago wards were asked if they favored an elected board over an appointed board.
    • The results were staggering, yet not surprising: 89 percent of voters favored an elected board.


  • House Bill 4268 provides that:On March 15, 2016, the terms of all currently appointed members of the Board will expire and abolish.
    • 13 new members are to then be elected.  
      • Four electoral regions: Southeast Side, Southwest Side, West/Central Region, and the North Region. Each region must be represented by 3 members, except the North region which will have 4 members. Each region must have 2 parent members and 1 community member. 
      • Eligibility requirements: must be at least 18 years old; parent or legal guardian of a child enrolled in the public school region; and be a resident of the region. Eligible persons must obtain a petition with at least 250 signatures in order to be placed on the ballot.


      • 7 members will serve 4-year terms and 6 members will serve 2-year terms, in order to create staggered terms.
  • These board members would better represent our children and our communities than an unaccountable, unelected board.
  • These elected board members would have strong ties to the communities, chosen democratically by the very communities they would serve.
  • Then, if voters – parents and members of the community – feel board members are not doing an adequate job or are failing our students, they can be replaced. The board will be more accountable.

If you still need more information about whether Chicago needs an elected school board please take a look at these resources:


GEM ERSB Fact Sheet



Community Group Responds to Mayor’s New Economic Development InitiativeFebruary 19, 2016

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel recently announced a plan to increase economic development through the “Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus”  initiative. While this approach is innovative, there must be measures put in place to ensure these funds are used properly and made to be used for change that does not led to gentrification and further isolation of many of Chicago’s residents.

The Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus initiative must have; direct benefit to current residents and homeowners of the targeted communities where the funds will be dispersed; additional accountability for potential development that is created based on these funds such as community benefit agreements that ensure local hiring, local business and contractor support, and community collaboration; and lastly transparency around funds and the distribution of those funds.

Blocks Together, a community organization in West Humboldt Park, has been working for the last seven years to ensure local Tax Increment Financing dollars in low income communities have direct benefit, accountability, and transparency.  This has been done through annual meetings with residents and the City of Chicago Department of Planning to report expenses and projects being funded to the larger community, advocating for needed projects in the community where TIF can finance such as a new library in the community and a housing purchase support program. In 2014, BT facilitated the first participatory budget process where the community decided projects for $2 million of TIF funds. Through this we know the City can do better in creating more community participation and direct benefit with public dollars.

BT has been proposing additional measures with current and future economic development funds that prevent displacement, and the politics that impact how funds can support the needs of communities in the City such as; using the participatory budgeting model with these new funds, requiring advisory councils that have power to veto and improve upon potential development, and create mechanisms where residents can follow the money without complicated data sets and numbers. BT has seen how people can come together and create solutions for community driven economic development, and where the City needs to change its approach in engaging with community residents to provide community controlled development, and move away from the status quo of top down decision making. We hope this new initiative moves the City in the right direction in real reform and innovation in resource distribution.

February 17, 2016

Join Blocks Together’s Cecile Carroll and parent Rousemary Vega as they discuss why Chicago needs an elected school board. The hearing will be Saturday, February 20th from 10am to noon at Wells High School auditorium. 974 N. Ashland.

Blocks Together ConventionNovember 28, 2015

Blocks Together is having our biannual convention on Saturday, December 5, 2015 at West Town Academy located at 500 N. Sacramento from 10:30 am to 3 pm. This convention is organized to update members about current and potential campaigns and elect new board of directors, please RSVP by emailing blockstogether@gmail.com or call 773.940.2319.

Blocks Together New Office

Blocks Together has moved!

You can now find us in the heart of the West Humboldt Park community at 3711 West Chicago Ave., we are excited to be able to be so close to many of the BT members. You can also reach us via phone at our new phone number 773.940.2319.

#FaciltiesMattersSeptember 18, 2015

It is no secret that quality building conditions support quality education. Buildings that are safe, clean, and comfortable,  as well as accommodating space for class size, enrichment programming, and programming for students with diverse learning needs, are important to student success, but at times are not available to many Chicago Public Schools students. Much of the building condition issues can be blamed on budget cuts, the misalignment of priorities, but more overarching is the lack of educational planning, or the lack of creating and implementing a facilities plan to stabilize facilities in the system with an educational vision to provide quality educational programming in all buildings.

Recent educational controversies show how the district has not implemented an educational vision that has supported financial and educational ingenuity. The debate around the growth of Charter schools is a major one. In the last few years I have witnessed critical building needs in local neighborhood schools be unaddressed while renovations at other types of schools proceed despite a dwindling capital budget in the district. Matter of fact, I have written that after the mass school closures of 2013 a number of Charters were approved including their capital and lease costs despite the months prior where there was the message of “budget constraints and right sizing the district”. Currently there is the Southwest Side of the City struggling to understand new charter proposals under the financial strain of the district, while the needs of neighborhood schools being unmet. A more prevalent example is the current Hunger strike of theDyett High School community members whose story is one of Charter school proliferation while the neighborhood high school lost enrollment and resources.  The past facility decisions lacked the critical analysis that the district should have been thinking through:

-          What are the current facility needs of our schools?

-          What curriculum needs be addressed that our buildings need to accommodate?

-          Is the average class size in a community being considered, including the space needed for our young people with learning disabilities/diverse learners?

-          And are we utilizing any underutilized space to support wrap around services for students and their communities?

In 2013 the hope was that many of these thoughts would be the framework for the mandated 10 Year Master Facility Plan, but it was not entirely considered. While the plan has addressed the needed transparency and updated facility assessments for each CPS school, the plan has not addressed things like embedding community needs in the educational planning of communities to avoid the disruption of some closures and school openings that take away from current community school capacity. The current plan has not been explicit about including any Charter school expansion, and it has not analyzed community growth and needs through more rich data that is available. This information can tell the story of vacant schools potential re-purposing, plans to address capital needs in the district for a more wholistic educational vision, and collaborate more with community on openings of schools.


This fall and winter there is an opportunity for changes to be made to the current 10 Year Master Facility Plan, and the Chicago Educational Facilities Task force yet again will be collecting data and hearing from stakeholders around individual issues around facilities and overarching changes to how school planning should be initiated in this city. Despite the avenue of the task force provides through its community meetings, community stakeholders should share directly with the district needed changes on how CPS plans for school buildings. Additionally next Thursday the City of Chicago City Council meeting will be considering a resolution being introduced by Ald. Sawyer of the 6th Ward to establish a moratorium on charter school expansion for the 2015-2016 school year, and until a comprehensive study of long term facility and school programming needs is completed with significant public input, and CPS’ financial balance sheet demonstrates long term stability. Please review the following fact sheets to learn more about how to be involved in the issues around facilities and reform and stay tune to Blocks Together’s work around Facility Reform on our website or email blockstogether@gmail.com to get more information through our newsletter.

Facilities Fact Sheet

QandA_What is the EFMP

Charter School Moratorium Fact Sheet



Blocks Together News

Or Email us at blockstogether@gmail.com to sign up.

Blocks Together Calendar

Plehttps://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfezjveFI5nMy5fY22KJe61l0HHMZYC51e8VhGKB-D7B1KyPA/viewform?c=0&w=1ase register at

012616_Soto_Elected School Board

Meeting for re-purposing for vacant Laura Ward

Residents of West Humboldt Park are welcome to attend a meeting around the re-purposing of the vacant Laura Ward Elementary School.
When: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:00pm – 8:00pm Where: Nia Family Center 744 N. Monticello Ave. Chicago, IL 60624

BT members began working on the re-purposing of the vacant school early 2014, many issues arose such as immediate safety concerns. Never the less the re-purposing of the school is important. Read a recent articlewith BT Co-Director Cecile Carroll, and Alderman Walter Burnett around the issues facing the community and the re-purposing of Laura Ward.

Next CEFTF meeting

Saturday, July 11th will the next Chicago Educational Facilities Task force at :

SATURDAY, JULY 11th, 2015 

10 A.M. – 12 NOON

(Sign-in/Registration to begin at 9:30 A.M.)

Hope Presbyterian Church

1354 West 61st Street

Chicago, IL

The purpose of this Meeting is to gather public input and take testimony on the following topics:

–  Chicago Public Schools’ 10-Year Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP)




Concerned parents, educators, students, community members, elected officials, and other stakeholders are urged to provide testimony on these topics atSaturday’s meeting.

Written testimony on these topics may be submitted to the CEFTF via email to this address:  ceftf.ilga@gmail.com

As always, the members of the CEFTF welcome and value your input.

Blocks Together’s Community Forum on Teachers Contract

Blocks Together is sponsoring a community forum regarding the current negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools. In 2012 the CTU and CPS negotiations failed and the historic 2012 teachers strike happened. Come ask questions about the contract negotiations, share your concerns and offer input on your own school and community and how both sides can better serve our children during these negotiations. RSVP by emailing blockstogether@gmail.com.

When: Wednesday, June 10, 6-8pm

Where: Kelly Hall YMCA 824 N Hamlin Ave, Chicago


Blocks Together LSC Training

This Saturday January 24th and next Saturday January 31st Blocks Together will be sponsoring Local School Council training at BT’s office 3455 West North Avenue. The training will start promptly at 9am and end at 5pm both days. To RSVP email blockstogether@gmail.com or call Cecile Carroll 773-276-2194. Chicago trip planner

TIF Project Expos

The Peoples Budget consist of residents living in the Chicago/Central Park TIF deciding how $2 million dollars from the TIF will be used. Project may fall under one of the 4  categories :

Affordable Housing, Job Training, Public Works and Small Business

If you live within the Chicago/Central Park TIF come out to the Project Expo’s and learn about projects designed by Community Residents from the Chicago/ Central Park TIF .

Projects Elected by community residents will receive funding from the Chicago Central Park TIF.

November 7th,  14th               3:00– 6:00 p.m.               Graffiti Zone  3722 W Chicago Ave.

November 8th , 14th              12:00– 2:30 p.m.              Daley Library   733 N Kedzie

November 11th , 14th               6:00– 8:00  p.m.              Daley Library    733 N. Kedzie




Date change for BT”s People’s Dinner Fundraiser

Blocks Together’s People’s Dinner Fundraiser date has changed. It will be Sunday, November 23rd 6-9pm at La Finca, 6237 S. Archer Road in Summit, Illinois. Tickets are $25.00 and includes food and drinks. There will be a cash bar. You can purchase your tickets online at the Blocks Together webpage, www.btchicago.org,  to purchase your ticket or you buy tickets at Blocks Together through our paypal button.  

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BT is hiring a full time Restorative Justice Coordinator.

Please email your resumes to blockstogether@gmail.com.

The deadline is November 15th.

Job Description for Restorative Justice Coordinator

Blocks Together’s -The People Dinner Fundraiser

Join Blocks Together in celebrating a great year and reflecting on our victories and building toward next year. Come enjoy great food and drinks. You can purchase tickets online at www.btchicago.org. Additionally we are looking for nominations for our first award for a community leader from West Humboldt Park. Nomination forms are available at this Nomination Form and are due October 31st.



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