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Polikoff-Gautreaux Fellowship

Political Reform

 

BPI has been at the front lines of social justice in the Chicago region for nearly 50 years. Though a relatively small organization, our size is no measure of our impact. BPI’s current agenda includes a broad array of policy, legal, organizing, and research initiatives to:

Increase housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income people and help build strong, safe, healthy, and opportunity-rich communities.

  • In 2012 BPI formed the Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Coalition, a broad-based community coalition to improve educational opportunities for children from birth to eight.  In this endeavor, we have brought together schools, service providers, residents, neighborhood organizations, faith-based groups, as well as City institutions in a collective effort to improve learning for young children and to help forge a stronger, more cohesive community. We view this work as a model for new multi-sector collaboratives in other high-need Chicago communities.
  • Deeply involved in public housing issues for decades, today BPI lawyers sit on each of the 11 Working Groups planning the development of new mixed-income communities under the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation. Recent BPI advocacy for a broader, more holistic approach to community development has resulted in agreements with CHA and developers to address the need for good schools, parks, and recreation opportunities and increased retail and shopping choices—all vital ingredients of a good community.
     

Help homeowners and municipalities deal with the challenges of the foreclosure crisis.

  • In our work to deal with the negative effects visited on families by the Chicago region’s foreclosure crisis, BPI is leading an effort to introduce land banks to the Chicago region—an approach that promises to return thousands of vacant and foreclosed properties to productive use. BPI advocacy helped create the Cook County Land Bank, potentially the nation’s largest and the only body in the County with the skills, tools, and resources to take on vacant property challenges at meaningful scale.
  • Early in 2013, BPI led efforts to pass state legislation that will generate hundreds of millions of dollars to help local governments to maintain and secure vacant properties, and to help homeowners avoid foreclosure altogether.
     

Improve educational opportunity for Chicago public school children.

  • In addition to our early learning initiative in Altgeld-Riverdale, BPI’s education agenda includes our ongoing work with the Partnership for Instructional Leadership. A BPI-led initiative in collaboration with CPS, the Partnership works to improve student learning as it helps schools build capacity for effective teaching and collaboration while developing accountable, shared leadership between principals and teachers.  Today, our partnership efforts involve 53 elementary and nine high schools in Chicago.
  • In a legal challenge to the Illinois school funding system, BPI charged that Illinois’ inequitable school funding formula violates the Equal Protection Clause of the state constitution by discriminating against taxpayers in property-poor school districts. The BPI lawsuit (Carr v. Koch) made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court in late 2012.  While the state’s top court dismissed our case for lack of standing, BPI’s challenge served to shine an important light on the failed and unfair nature of the Illinois school funding system—a problem that will not be solved until the State Legislature decides to act.
     

Promote open and honest government in Illinois.

  • BPI has represented the Chicago Inspector General’s office in its effort to subpoena documents from the City pursuant to a no-bid contract investigation. While the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling in this case was not what we sought, the decision and resulting media attention helped raise awareness and garner public support for the position that the IG should have the authority to enforce its subpoenas when investigating fraud and corruption in government.
  • BPI is currently acting as special states attorney on behalf of the Cook County Independent Inspector General in litigation regarding the extent of his jurisdiction over Cook County offices headed by independently elected officials.
     

Conduct a focused inquiry into the current state of thinking on select aspects of the challenges of urban poverty.

  • BPI has engaged Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning to serve as our Visiting Fellow in Urban Poverty Strategies for a two-year period. During this time, the Visiting Fellow will lead both BPI staff and directors in a focused inquiry into the current state of thinking on select aspects of the challenges of urban poverty.
  • Throughout the course of our two-year inquiry, the Visiting Fellow will provide BPI staff and Board a steady stream of information, analysis, and structured dialogue on leading-edge research, concepts, and legislative and policy proposals respecting urban poverty in American society today, with the goal of determining the implications this new learning holds for BPI program work going forward.

Recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions

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