Members of JPF, along with followers of our various social media channels, are undoubtedly aware of the numerous development proposals that are in various parts of the planning stage in Jefferson Park. There’s Long/Argyle, a 48-unit, 4-story apartment building. There’s 5201 W. Lawrence, a 39-unit, mixed use, 4-story apartment building. There’s Ainslie/Lipps, a mixed use building which is now up to 15 stories with 114 apartments. And, most recently, is 5150 N. Northwest Highway, a 100-unit apartment building, 80 of which are priced at varying levels of what’s considered “affordable” housing.
It’s the latter development proposal that has drawn the passions of many in the community, far more than any other.
Jefferson Park Forward was founded in part because we take a more pragmatic view of development in the ward, especially around our “downtown” and the Jefferson Park Transit Center. We support transit-oriented development based on the proven fact that TOD supports existing transit infrastructure and additional population can help revitalize our commercial district. Those are principles that we adhere to. They are not endorsements of a particular development proposal.
We’ve been pressured to take a stand both in favor and against the 5150 N. Northwest Highway development proposal. Our Board of Directors refuses to weigh in on this development or any other.
It is in the principle of protecting our organization. That protection is grounded in two reasons.
First, Jefferson Park Forward, as a non-profit public charity falling under the 501(c)(3) section of the IRS code, cannot legally engage in politics, per federal law. We also, as a matter of principle, simply refuse to subject our organization to votes or resolutions that can be viewed through a political lens, even if it is not overt political activity prohibited by law. Because we depend on a working relationship with our elected officials, no matter who they may be, we also need to maintain our objectivity, so that we may be rightly seen as an actor in good faith, regardless of the issue.
Second, and maybe most importantly, we view resolutions on development as inherently damaging to the functions of JPF. Because development is so inherently polarizing, it seems, we are reluctant to take resolutions that force our members or potential members into disagreement with our organization. This is detrimental since it tends to bleed over into other aspects of our work program. We need members and volunteers to sustain our work, to help with our cleanups and landscaping projects, to expand our reach into the community as we help to strengthen the neighborhood. Our Board believes our essential mission can be compromised by polarizing resolutions such as those regarding development.
It’s our belief that our organization can only thrive if we stay above the fray of local political issues (of which development certainly falls under). We hope you will agree and thank you for your support.