Many Chicago neighborhoods owe their very existence to nearby heavy industry

Community groups now accusing the city of racism for moving industry into Black and Brown neighborhoods have it backward. South Chicago has been industrialized for more than 100 years.

SHARE Many Chicago neighborhoods owe their very existence to nearby heavy industry
Steel_mill_smokestack_1_020201.jpg

Steel mill smokestack in 2001.

Sun-Times file photo

Community groups now accusing the city of racism for moving industry into Black and Brown neighborhoods have it backward. I grew up in South Chicago, a white person, living in the shadow of the steel mills. This area has been industrialized for more than 100 years. Neighborhoods actually sprang up in the area precisely because the mills — and therefore jobs — were in close proximity. The Irish, Poles and other immigrants settled there. Only more recently has the area become more Black and Brown; the heavy industry was already there.

The Southeast Side, because of its rail service and waterways, including the Calumet River, is an appropriate place for industry in Chicago. When A. Finkl & Sons operated a steel mill on Chicago’s North Side, along the Chicago River, that also was for a long time an appropriate place for industry. But neighborhoods change and morph. The residential parts of the North Side moved west, and Finkl’s land became more valuable for residential development.

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I strongly believe all industry should be regulated stringently, with strict pollution and air quality controls. But my question to those who now object to industry in South Chicago is this: Where would you like the industry to go? To Indiana? Do you want the city and your community to lose these businesses and jobs?

We should not be looking to drive industrial businesses out of the city; we need the jobs and taxes.

Lynn Nealis, River North

Create Virtual Job Corp

Schools are being hit extra hard by COVID-19, and many now are offering only remote online learning this fall. Teachers are on a screen, and there is limited personal interaction with students. Some students have all the tools and facilities they need, with parents who can help, to make remote learning successful. But others have few tools and parents who are unable to help.

My son-in-law has a suggestion to make remote learning better.

Many recent college graduates cannot find a job in this struggling economy. Why not create a Virtual Job Corp? Give these unemployed grads the opportunity to work with students whose schools are using virtual learning. Job Corp participants could tutor individuals or groups in backyards, empty school gymnasiums and other areas big enough to acccommodate social distancing. Everyone would wear a mask. Sanitization, of course, would be emphasized.

This would benefit students. It would also give college grads a chance to earn an income and have their college loans reduced or eliminated.

Tough times call for creative ideas. This new twist on the traditional Job Corp could be of help to all concerned.

Karen Wagner, Rolling Meadows

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