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The shameful treatment of Hopkins Park continues

Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010

* When I read this story yesterday, my heart sank…

The governor did not declare St. Anne and Pembroke Township near Hopkins Park in Kankakee County state disaster areas.

That’s because county officials never made that request, Gov. Pat Quinn said.

“That (the damage) might not rise to the level required to make that designation” said Kankakee County Board Chairman Mike Bossert Monday night. But, Bossert said, county officials are meeting this morning to discuss whether or not to make a formal request.

I’ve written about Hopkins Park and Pembroke Township before. Here’s a little history

A New York Times article in 2002 noted that Pembroke Township was statistically one of the poorest areas in the entire country. Ninety-eight percent of its schoolchildren were so poor that they qualified for free lunches. While there were several churches and liquor stores in the township, there was no bank, supermarket, barbershop, pharmacy, gas station, or police force. One part-time physician provided medical care two afternoons per week. The article stated there were few paved roads and no buses or trains running through Pembroke.

Oprah Winfrey told an audience that 55% of Pembroke’s residents lived below the poverty level with 44% without running water. Jon Dyson, a local minister, remarked that “third-world conditions” exist here.

It hasn’t changed much since then, despite a big, splashy press conference by Rod Blagojevich in 2003 when he promised to aid the all-black town and surrounding township. What they got was gravel for their sandy roads. The gravel sank almost immediately. They got a little more gravel. It sank, along with the school bus, which has to constantly be towed out of the sand.

George Ryan tried to help by building a prison there. The area has no sewer system, and some folks literally just have holes in the floors of their bathrooms. That would’ve changed with the prison, which needed a sewer system, but Blagojevich stopped the construction and sent gravel instead. Now, the local unemployment rate is 44 percent and the average household income is $14,000.

The state isn’t the only one that has ignored the area. The majority white county has been notorious for neglecting Pembroke Township over the decades. It’s truly shameful.

* CBS2 did a story on the tornadoes this week

Just down the road, more destruction in Hopkins Park. Jackie Thomas was in her mobile home when, suddenly, the walls caved in and trapped her. Her husband pulled her out of the debris.

She believes warning sirens would have helped. But Hopkins Park doesn’t have one. That’s something some officials in the impoverished community are trying to change. A Kankakee County emergency official said they could have, if they’d applied for a grant to help pay for the siren.

Mayor Samuel Payton says they did, three years ago. The paperwork is at the clerk’s office. But a letter from the state agency that oversees the payout said in a letter that state budget difficulties has made it impossible to give Hopkins Park the money.


The Tribune also had a piece today

When the storm struck Saturday, many residents were inside their flimsy houses, unaware of the severe weather.

In the aftermath, Kankakee County’s emergency responders rushed into Hopkins Park to pull families from damaged homes, and the local chapter of the Red Cross set up camp inside the mayor’s office at Village Hall.

“It was dark; it was raining; the situation was really messed up,” said Kelly Reffett, executive director of the Red Cross of Kankakee County.

The Red Cross started with the basics, delivering food and clothing to hungry families caught in the downpour. Some received eyeglasses, and others, like the Thomas family, were put up in local motels for a couple of nights until the full extent of the damage could be determined.

“A destroyed home is a major event, no matter what your economic status,” Reffett said. “But in places like St. Anne (Township) and Hopkins Park, life is tough to begin with. To have your home and all your possessions taken from you, it just knocks your world.”

If the county doesn’t get its act together and ask the governor to put that area on the disaster list, then the governor needs to find a way to get them some help.

I grew up not far from there, and to say that those folks are regional outcasts would be the understatement of the year. They get nothing but the shaft, and it’s really time for that to end.

* Related…

* Photo: Plass Thomas, 76, stands in the rubble of the two mobile homes on his property that were destroyed Saturday night. A tornado lifted one and dropped it on the other where Thomas, his wife and grandson were watching television at 3000S Road in Pembroke Township. Thomas says there was no warning. “The roof came off. One minute it was there, and then it was gone.”

* Pembroke: Lack of sirens left town unsafe during tornadoes

* Pembroke: Woman buried in tornado rubble survived

* Tornadoes leave heavy damage in wake

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - sal-says - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:37 am:

    Tragic. We send billions of our taxpayer treasure across the ponds, yet can’t take care of our own, less fortunate, with little voices and kids go to sleep hungry every day and many are homeless. And we, including the politicians, stay blind to all this & do virtually nothing to help our own.

  2. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:38 am:

    Pembroke/Hopkins Park got a *lot* of help from IDOT a few years ago, not just gravel to put on their roads, but some major ditching and grading and paving. Not saying the area couldn’t use more help (the unfinished prison was a heartbreaker), but a little credit is due here. And, as always in IL, there were a few local vultures who took advantage of the situation when state money did come.

  3. - Ghost - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:41 am:

    I do not understand why the Gov has to be asked? What happes if the elected body is wiped out or otherwise unable to make the request? They need a process hat either lets the area ask or allows the Gov to suggest that they are a disaster area. If the area does not repudiate the suggestion within 24 hrs then they become a disaster area. Or something like that.

    It would be an opportunity for RP lumber to donate resources to a community in need…not just support a child to hold an elected office salary free.

  4. - Segatari - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:42 am:

    Why is this town so severely neglected? Was there some past incident so horrible that the county or state turned it into a pariah community?

  5. - George - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:43 am:

    Actually, there was a little more done in Pembroke than deliver gravel for the roads. very little, but a little.

    This Team Illinois site lists all the things the State tried to do for Pembroke (scroll down to Pembroke on the page).

    But, when you compare it to other Team Illinois sites (like Alexander County), it was nearly insignificant stuff:
    - Attending the bud billikin parade?
    - inspecting child safety seats?
    - a three-month storyteller program?
    - A $12,000 grant for WIC?

    There are a lot of things on that list, but nothing large-scale.

  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:47 am:

    –“That (the damage) might not rise to the level required to make that designation” said Kankakee County Board Chairman Mike Bossert Monday night. But, Bossert said, county officials are meeting this morning to discuss whether or not to make a formal request.

    It “might” not, huh? Better not ask then.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a government not requesting disaster assistance because it “might” not qualify. There’s going to be some real high-level brainpower in the meeting to “discuss” making a request.

  7. - Southern Illinois - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:47 am:

    From Hopkins Park to Cario…this should not happen in Illinois. This is politics at it’s worst, no matter what side your on.

  8. - bored now - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:55 am:

    it is time for this tragic neglect to end. pembroke township was the first place in her (new) district that sen. toi hutchinson took me. pembroke represents toi’s belief that government has a place, and that government must bring resources to bear to alleviate the inequalities and injustices that (according to *my* thinking) the markets and people overlook. i know that pembroke rests heavy on toi’s (and lisa dugan’s) heart and i know that they wish they could do more to help this woefully neglected part of illinois.

    southern illinois is right: this SHOULDN’T happen in illinois. unfortunately, there are a lot of people — not just republicans — who think there is nothing wrong with illinois plunging into third world-country status…

  9. - unspun - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:57 am:

    It’s shameful to neglect our fellow citizens this way. Kudos to Rep. Lisa Dugan for being a constant, outspoken critic on this issue. She has worked tirelessly to bring economic development to this area, albeit with clearly limited success. Keep trying, Rep. Dugan. These citizens need a voice.

  10. - Justice - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:58 am:

    Pure and simple, these folks do not represent votes. They have no voice; they have no champions; hope is all but a fleeting shadow.

    This is the true test of our society. Do we take care of our weakest and most vulnerable? It is pretty obvious we missed badly on this one.

    You can bet your sweet bippy that every single Senator and Representative in Illinois slept well through that storm and it’s ensuing havoc. That people, scares me. The callous disregard for those most in need.

    This simply reaffirms my resolve to do everything I can to vote these losers out of office…both sides.

  11. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 10:59 am:

    ===Was there some past incident so horrible that the county or state turned it into a pariah community?===

    Yeah. That incident was all the white people moving out.

  12. - Reality Is - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 11:05 am:

    Rich, do you have some evidence linking the fact that the county has a minority population and the fact that the state is not investing in the area ?

  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 11:13 am:

    It isn’t so much the state, it’s the county.

  14. - Irish - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 11:25 am:

    If I am correct there used to be a cannery there that was the major employer. It closed, the white folks and African Americans that could moved out. The people that are left were unable to relocate and probably didn’t foresee the situation that would develop.
    I also believe that Pembroke was the poster child for the War on Poverty and was pointed to many times to show the need for that program. Funny that the poster child apparently did not benefit from the program. But as with all programs once they are started it becomes a political fight to get the money and as Rich has said there is no one to represent this area.

    As I remember it was a terribly poor area with old cars, tires, appliances, etc. dumped in ditches and along gravel roads. A lot of that was being dumped by people not living in that area and the county, township or whoever was not cleaining it up.

  15. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 11:25 am:

    Hopkins Park, Phoenix, Robbins, Ford Heights, St. Anne, Posen, Dixmoor, Bartonville, Brooklyn, Pulaski, Sun River Terrace, and Washington Park were creations of racism. These were unincorporated areas where whites allowed black workers, miners, laborers, and servants to live so that they could perform their day jobs in Kankakee, St. Louis, Rock Island, Harvey, Chicago Heights and Cairo, but not live in these cities.

    The cluster of poor black towns in Kankakee and Cook Counties were also located along the tracks that came up from the Deep South after WWI. The Great Black Migration during this time brought African American families to the factories booming in the South Chicagoland region. Hopkins Park and St. Anne were stops along this north-south rail lines.

    Many large cities had red-lined black neighborhoods within them, but newer industrial cities, such as Harvey and Chicago Heights, were carved out by city founders intended to replicate what worked in Pullman. Blacks had no place in their plans.

    Harvey was a dry town, so immediately across the town line sprang up bars and adult entertainment. These towns became Phoenix, Dixmoor and Posen. Chicago Heights wouldn’t allow any blacks to live west of Dixie Highway, so Ford Heights was as close African Americans could live and walk, bike or drive to East Chicago Heights steel mills, chemical plants and factories.

    These are political towns, built not because of excellent location or soils, but because whites didn’t want the land and blacks had nowhere else to live.

    When the Civil Rights legislation was passed, and the Equal Housing Rights legislation was passed, we see black families moving out of these areas for better housing and locations. Black businesses folded, black neighborhood businesses folded, and black towns fell apart.

    In the forty years since, these towns have been forgotten, along with the guilt that created them. Many folks wonder why these towns exist, and assume that these were places black people wanted to live in. I’ve had many conversations with sincere folks wondering why Hopkins Park or Ford Heights were ever a town, wondering why some folks would actually choose poverty.

    Also, during those forty years, the economic growth of these regions reversed. Had Kankakee, Harvey, Chicago Heights and other mini-industrial towns continued to prosper, then we would have seen these poor towns evolve into poor neighborhoods within them. But over the past forty years, Illinois, along with many rust belt states stagnated. Today, not only are these poor towns suffering, but so are their original host cities. Kankakee’s whites moved to Bradley and Bourbonnais. Harvey’s whites moved to Dyer and Munster Indiana, and to Orland Park. Chicago Heights whites moved to Frankfort, Orland and Mokena.

    So, what does the future hold for these poor towns that were loved by so few? How much money should Illinois pump into what was a town birthed by racism and exclusion? Perhaps what we should be doing is allowing these towns to return to it’s natural habitat of prairie, bogs and lowlands by moving the families stranded there into better communities.

    These black towns are ghost towns that haven’t been buried. Perhaps it is time to do so.

  16. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 11:27 am:

    - Yeah. That incident was all the white people moving out. -

    Ah c’mon, that doesn’t cause problems in this day and age. The free market will take care of these people…

    Ok, maybe inappropriate snark but I’m sick of the Rand Paul worshippers who think everyone starts with an equal chance in this world. I think the state needs to step in on this, whether an official request has been made or not.

  17. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 11:44 am:

    Well said VM.

    And Rich, thanks for keeping this issue out there. I also grew up in Kankakee County, in lily-white Limestone Twsp., the first beneficiary of the white flight out of K3. So this issue is near and dear to my heart. There should be no such thing as a hopeless situation like this in 2010.

  18. - Montrose - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 11:49 am:

    Pembroke and Cairo (and many other communities throughout the state) are our Lower Ninth Ward. These are communities that are the product of structural racism, reeling from years of neglect and active failure to invest. Consequently any disaster, be it natural or man made, hits them hardest.

    I actually agree with much of Vanilla Man’s analysis, save his over-the-top abandonment plan. Any one that tries to claim racism is not embedded in our societal structures, let alone does not exist, needs to just spend a few days in Pembroke or Cairo.

    Emblematic of this problem is the high profile, shallow attempts at “help.” Be it Oprah or Blago, you don’t address decades of bad policy with a press conference and some summer reading programs. The real work that needs to be done in the Pembrokes of Illinois is expensive and time consuming and anything but sexy. It requires acknowledging that members of that community are so far back, the starting line is just a cruel rumor. Such acknowledgment and investment does not win elections. It does not make for a pretty photo op, but it can have a meaningful impact of the lives of those in Pembroke.

  19. - anon - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 11:56 am:

    What would people suggest actually be done in Hopkins Park / Pembroke Township? What could the County do? Rich? Others?

  20. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 12:20 pm:

    What would people suggest actually be done in Hopkins Park / Pembroke Township? What could the County do? Rich? Others?

    I actually agree with much of Vanilla Man’s analysis, save his over-the-top abandonment plan. - Montrose

    First off, let’s not call it abandonment because that gives the impression of abandoning the problem, which I would not approve. That is an emotional word which has too much baggage.

    Instead we have to recognize that these towns sit on sites that are not optimal for success. They were castaway sites for a few reasons. Sticking a town hall building and incorporating it, didn’t reverse the geographical challenges these towns face. Giving them a name, or changing their names, as Ford Heights did twenty years ago, doesn’t reverse their slide. Although we live in an era where suburbanization has defiled every natural environmental habitat once gracing our landscapes, (ever notice how a suburb ends up naming themselves after the geographical feature no longer present?), there are actually areas where towns should not be. Ask any realtor, it’s all about location, location, location, right?

    It would be more economical for taxpayers to move the residents within these towns to functioning communities, than it would be to turn what wouldn’t have ever been a community into a functioning community. It is more efficient to move a family, than it is to build a town on a bad location.

    What I witnessed growing up down the road from Ford Heights was government funded project that not only failed, but added to the blight as they rotted away. Instead of lifting the village, these project drove Ford Heights further down. When we consider the money being spent every month in Ford Heights to keep these struggling families, struggling, well - you get to a point where you recognize that government funds aren’t helping because they are not changing the basic flaw of the village itself - it wasn’t supposed to exist. No amount of taxmoney is going to move Ford Heights or Hopkins Park closer to clean neighborhoods, schools, jobs and functioning neighborhoods.

    It is time to allow these village to receive their proper burials. We should be funding the removal of the debris and structures in these places and permit the environment to restore itself for everyone’s benefit.

    We are seeing this beginning in Detroit, out of sheer duress. We can start doing this on a much smaller scale to the benefit of the environment, the poor stranded in these no-man’s-land, and in saving to the rest of us. Isn’t it time to start using eminent domain to remove blight from our environment, instead of using it to build future blight? Isn’t it time to utilize our knowledge and wisdom regarding town planning, and fix mistakes instead of papering them over with tax money we don’t have?

  21. - Montrose - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 12:32 pm:


    I hear what you are saying and appreciate where you are coming from. Where I have issues with your solution is it is another situation where someone is coming and telling individuals in the community what is best for them. The people of Pembroke have the right to self-determination. It should be up to them to determine whether to stay and build on the assets they have (and every community has assets) or whether they should cut their losses and move to new communities.

    Our role in this process, as the broader community of Illinois, is to provide the support they need to realize that potential, not come in with our answers and expect them to fall in line.

    This is not to say there does not need to be an honest assessment of what can be done nor does it mean we simply enable bad ideas. What it does mean is that we can start addressing structural racism by ceding power.

  22. - Vote Quimby! - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 1:07 pm:

    My family and I were staying with a college friend north of Iroquois Saturday night when the storm hit. I watched as it tracked north of us–an impressive storm. Of course, the next day I went out driving to check out damage and that’s the first I learned of Hopkins Park. Our friend is a social worker, and she told us a little bit about the area—obviously she had quite the caseload there.
    It is a shame in this day and age areas like Hopkins Park still exist–in our own backyard. They don’t get telethons or celebrity appearances–they get the shaft.
    Watching the amount of money wasted in East St. Louis the past dozen years, for a small fraction of that we could actually improve some peoples lives. Thanks for keeping us updated on this story, Rich.

  23. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 1:10 pm:

    If this was about structural racism, then these towns wouldn’t exist today. The racism would have prevented any tax money to go to residents, forcing them to find other sources of money. Consequentially, when this has happened in the past, the entire town dies off. Structural racism created these towns, but structural racism would have killed them off as soon as it could have, because racism would never have given these towns the income to continue.

    What we are doing by our good intentions is preventing reality from doing what it is supposed to do. What our past racism did also prevented reality from doing what it was supposed to do. We’ve replaced hatred with empathy without considering the consequences. It is easier to send black poor money every month, than it is to get involved in their lives in order for them to be included in the community network.

    These towns have no services. They have few businesses. They don’t offer shopping. They don’t manufacture anything. Yeah - there is a Harold’s Chicken Shack on the corner of Cottage Grove and Rt. 30 in Ford Heights, but that’s about it. So, what do you think we should do? Build an entire town of shops, businesses, and places for employment, as well as, give everyone money in order to survive?

    That isn’t realistic, right? But traditionally, that has been the idea we’ve been funding over the past forty years. It is time to think outside the box here, and do some real leadership with these sad little towns.

    If we can get a program together to return these town sites to their natural habitat - then we can start doing something similar with failing neighborhoods, rural communities, rotting trailer parks, and downstate towns in general. I believe this is the next step in town planning - killing off failing towns without killing off the people stuck in them.

  24. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 1:12 pm:

    VM and Montrose,

    We have seen the result of forced “urban renewal” in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Sometimes it worked well, sometimes not. There will always be a hard core of folks in any neighborhood who want to stay where they are at, no matter what the conditions or the enticement to get out, even if most of their neighbors would heartily approve of a resettlement plan that benefitted them. I suppose eminent domain could be used if the intent was to completely clear and re-settle a community, and the public sentiment was mostly favorable otherwise.

    But this was the stuff of great debates during my urban planning classes, where people of many backgrounds tested the limits of doing what was “best for the community” vs. “infringing on the rights of self-determination”.

  25. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 1:17 pm:

    ===but structural racism would have killed them off as soon as it could have===

    Nah. You’re letting rhetoric about “structural racism,” whatever that is, get in the way of reality. They don’t get much at all in Pembroke, but nobody wants them to actually move into other areas of the county. Consider that.

  26. - Ghost - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 1:18 pm:

    Consider this, perhaps the State should be spending its resouces to encourage navistar to come here; it helps restore the community, provide jobs etc and they may even find the community wants them there :)

    That or build the prison! we need to replace a number of century old prisons that are overcrowded and out of date.

  27. - Secret Square - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 1:41 pm:

    Has anyone else noticed that after just about every natural disaster now, there are always a legion of blog commenters who compare it to Katrina by claiming that the survivors of this tornado, flood, etc. are “helping themselves” instead of “waiting for handouts from the government”?

    The irony in this case is that the residents of our “Lower Ninth Ward” in Hopkins Park are the ones NOT getting any help from the government, while the “self-reliant” folk in other communities are the ones applying for and getting it.

  28. - Vote Quimby! - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 2:01 pm:

    ==actually move into other areas of the county==
    That’s what scares people the most! If the poor are stationary and self-contained (but not alarmingly so like at Cabrini-Green) then it keeps voters happy.

  29. - Segatari - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 2:25 pm:

    Here’s my question…why do they stay there and not move to where jobs are?

  30. - Festus Hagen - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 2:32 pm:

    Don’t give too much credit to George Ryan for his personal concern about Pembroke Township and it’s residents when he made the decision to build the prison down there. One of his personal friends and largest campaign contributors had taken out some “very cheap” land options on the land down there months before the prison’s actual location was to be announced. Coincidentally, George Ryan’s best friend and business buddy in Kankakee County was “a good guesser” as to exactly where George was going to finally decide where to build the prison and end “the suspense”. Surprise, surprise. It was all about money and not about the people living in Pembroke Township.

    One guy who I watched down in Kankakee County who actually cared about this economically depressed area and it’s residents was the former Kankakee County Democrat Chairman Don St. Germaine. I am a Republican but I will give credit where credit is due. The Democrat Party Chairman Don St. Germaine actually did whatever he could to help that area and it’s residents when he previously served as the Kankakee County Democrat Chairman before.

  31. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 2:35 pm:

    ===It was all about money and not about the people living in Pembroke Township.===

    It was also partly about Pembroke, dude. And Don was a strange duck.

  32. - Irish - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 2:40 pm:

    Isn’t part of the problem that this area has been economically, socially, and opportunity depressed for so long that major training and educational issues would have to be undertaken before these folks could be employed by a Navistar, etc.?

  33. - anon - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 2:47 pm:

    The past is the past. What can we do now? What should we be doing now? Are there real ideas, or just a general statement that someone should be doing something, but no one wants to figure out what?

  34. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 3:00 pm:


    =we need to replace a number of century old prisons that are overcrowded and out of date=

    You mean like Tompson?

  35. - Montrose - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 3:06 pm:

    *If this was about structural racism, then these towns wouldn’t exist today. The racism would have prevented any tax money to go to residents, forcing them to find other sources of money.*

    Just to be clear, structural racism is more about subconscious decisions than conscience ones. It is not about x people or program deciding we will not give money there because folks are black, but rather racism is embedded in how we have structured our society based, in part, on unexamined assumptions.

    *Isn’t part of the problem that this area has been economically, socially, and opportunity depressed for so long that major training and educational issues would have to be undertaken before these folks could be employed by a Navistar, etc.?*


  36. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 3:11 pm:

    I remember when an incinerator/generator was proposed for Robbins and was defeated by the NIMBYs (nearby suburbs, not Robbins) and folk who were worried about exploiting disadvantaged people who would take a job in a plant even if it was “dangerous”. I’m sure those folk didn’t ask the residents of Robbins how they felt about that. Jobs must be nearby to a community for it to be viable. Ever hear of ghost towns? While the loss of an industry that provides ready employment for unskilled laborers can have a detrimental effect, it is a reality in our industrial/post-industrial society. The state providing a boost with a prison or some other public works project is a temporary fix, at best. Construction may require many employees but even a prison hires only so many folk - would that be enough to lift the Township from the pits?

    Folk want to remain where home is, even if it is not the nicest place to live. People wanted to remain in the high rise housing projects, not because they were nice but because they were home. Hard to work upstream with that.

  37. - LevivotedforJudy - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 4:17 pm:

    I have been working with Pembroke for about three years on economic development issues. We actually have made some progress, but it was initiated locally and with the help of the State (DCEO) and the federal government (U.S. Department of Commerce- Economic Development Administration).

    We are converting a shuttered plant into a small business incubator that should be open for tenants in late August/early September. We also received a grant from ComEd to conduct a feasiblity study targeting food processing for the area that has resulted in a concerted effort to promote the Township’s established organic food operations. We are also targeting energy/recycling businesses on the 10-acre incubator campus. Those efforts will continue over the next 12 months.

    Finally, we applied for a broadband infrastructure grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is sorely needed as an education/health care/economic development resource. We’re not sure when the awards will be announced, but it would be a real game-changer for the community.

    To date, the county has not been helpful. We can’t even get them to designate the incubator or the 10-acre campus as part of the established Enterprise Zone. We have learned to not rely much on Kankakee County for anything.

  38. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 4:17 pm:

    Just to be clear, structural racism is more about subconscious decisions than conscience ones.

    LOL! Oh please! Clear? Tell me you see how ridiculous that load of crap is, right? I was told that by sociology and poli-sci professors too, but please tell me you don’t really believe in that! What a load of crap!

    Can you imagine claiming that someone who disagrees with you really doesn’t know just how they actually are prejudiced against you subconscientiously, causing them to disagree with you? Have you any idea how that completely misses the entire point of the Age of Enlightment, makes a mockery of wisdom and intelligence, and denies anyone a chance to ever better themselves?

    It’s like “Original Sin”, we’re all born sinning, so we really view everything through the eyes of evil. Horsecrap!

    Please - keep that religion in the church of the Tenured Liberal Arts Professors.

  39. - anon - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 4:32 pm:


    1) What would the benefits be of the incubator being in the Enterprise Zone?

    2) What would you have liked to get from Kankakee County (or relied on them for) that you haven’t gotten?

  40. - Montrose - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 4:50 pm:

    *LOL! Oh please! Clear? Tell me you see how ridiculous that load of crap is, right? I was told that by sociology and poli-sci professors too, but please tell me you don’t really believe in that! What a load of crap!*

    If you actually believe you are fully aware of why you make every decision you make, then that, my friend, is the load of crap.

  41. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Jun 9, 10 @ 6:50 pm:

    Festus Hagen 2:32 hit on one of my points at 10:38. But it was not the only example of a local taking advantage of a funding situation in the area.

  42. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jun 10, 10 @ 9:05 am:

    Fully aware? And how do I do that, beside allow a stranger whom I do not know, and knows nothing about me, to claim I am in my subconscience a racist, sexist human. That is just plain stupid, and empowers a self-selected intellectual to reign like a dictator over everyone.

    Smart people don’t fall for crap like that.

  43. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jun 10, 10 @ 1:18 pm:

    Perhaps the community could be trained and employed to install and maintain its own water and sewage system?

  44. - Anonymous - Friday, Jun 11, 10 @ 12:30 pm:

    Maybe we need a ” clear and hold ” strategy. Hmm where have I heard that terminology ? Garner the support of the citizenry in these communities who want to turn the situation around and let THEM be at the forefront of the revival not outsiders.

  45. - x ace - Friday, Jun 11, 10 @ 4:33 pm:

    Obviously , a sad situation worsened by the disinterest of the County Bd chairman.

    Ironically, in the old days the Kankakee County politicians took great interest in Hopkins Park and Pembroke.

    The area was running “wide open ” and politicians visited often. Political Rallys were held “out there” so you could have some fun afterward.
    But then state law enforcement cracked down.
    By the late 70′cs the once majestic pleasure palaces were mostly gone or crumbling or operating as the local tavern. Vice was dead.

    All subsequent attempts to defeat the poverty have flopped. The County Board chair is from lily white Limestone Twp. He’s too young to remember ” Gibbs for Ribs”. So maybe his lack of concern comes natural.

    In any event , tornadoes are bad and help is needed.

  46. - Ralder1967 - Friday, Jun 11, 10 @ 4:52 pm:

    Its sad to think in this day and age that a part of the country could be left out of the emergency equipment and supplies they need to be safe, but speaking from experience working in that area a few years back, one couldnt leave anything laying out or unlocked because it would be gone. I even went around the back of the house and when i came back my saw was gone. I’m not sure of any solution but it does make it hard to make improvments or work under those conditions.

  47. - James Taylor Sr. - Friday, Jun 11, 10 @ 10:28 pm:

    I have owned a weekly newspaper that serves Hopkins Park and Pembroke since 1972 as well as the rest of Kankakee County, Will and Southern Cook County. I grew up in the Pembroke and Hopkins Park area and have been trying to get the county and state government to put a emergency siren in Pembroke for over ten years. I have been seeking the assistance of Rep. Lisa Dugan and Senator Debbie Halvorson as well as State Senator Toi Hutchinson. Now since the tornado these folks are like rats in a cheese house in their public stance on getting a warning system for the Hopkins Park Community. It will be good if they do get the system finally, but can’t help but point out how they neglected the community for so long.
    They still are neglecting to deal with the fact that there is no emergency evacuation or emergency response for the area. There are such projects in all the other areas of the state. Now as for why, the simple answer is racism. Pure and simple racism!

  48. - James Taylor Sr. - Friday, Jun 11, 10 @ 10:45 pm:

    Some may say, State Senator Toi Hutchinson is black, how can her neglect be racism. The answer is that she won’t rock the boat. Her’s is racism by reflection. She mirrors the actions of her white counterparts. The neglect of Pembroke and Hopkins Park is also evident in the fact that most of the poverty stats used to justify poverty programs in Kankakee County are based on the extreme poverty in Pembroke and Hopkins Park but few if any of the funds are actually spent to assist the people in Pembroke and Hopkins Park.
    There is one agency in the Pembroke and Hopkins Park community, The Kankakee County Youth Intervention Program, headed by a man who grew up there, Mr. John Howard, who has a modern and full service day care center in the middle of the poverty area. A day care center that is often the only place young children in that area ever come in contact with carpets, indoor bathrooms, modern facilities and yet, to date even the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Illinois Dept. of Human Resources deny that agency funds. The Kankakee County Community Services Agency, the largest community service agency, which also gets it’s funding base based on the poverty in Hopkins Park and Pembroke, fails to provide funding there.
    Last year the Kankakee County Youth Intervention Agency worked to provide over 200 jobs for area youth but when Governor Quinn contracted to run the Put Illinois To Work project, he failed to even consider contracting with the Kankakee County Youth Intervention Agency to provide any services. Why? Racism, again the answer.
    The cycle of poverty in Pembroke and Hopkins Park goes on to include the fact that a white contractor, a Mr. Joe Franco of Heritage Development recently was awarded a $4.6 million dollar grant to rehabilitate a building in Hopkins Park as a business incubator but did not hire anyone from the Pembroke or Hopkins Park area to work on that project! Said nobody in Pembroke or Hopkins Park were qualifed to work on the program, why, same reason, pure and simple racism!
    Pembroke because of the Super Fund case involving the Cross Brothers pail recycling project, a project were two brothers brought 400 gallon barrels into Pembroke and Hopkins Park that once contained contaminated materials, burned the barrels and sold them to locals as bar-b-que pits as well as for garbage cans. They poured the contents of these barrels onto the ground, fouling the ground water and since most in Pembroke and Hopkins Park have shallow wells, the area ground water became dangerous to drink. Now Pembroke and Hopkins Park are cancer clusters and again, Rep. Dugan, Stenators Hutchinson, Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson and the Governor don’t act to protect the people there. Why, you got it, the town is 98% African American populated!
    James Taylor Sr.

  49. - James Taylor Sr. - Friday, Jun 11, 10 @ 11:11 pm:

    Recently, a United States Air Force pilot who has flown combat missions in Afghanistan toured Hopkins Park and Pembroke with me, his name is Adam Kinzinger, told me he believed the best answer to the issues of racism and the resulting neglect in the area was the same as in Iraq and Afghanistan, to empower the locals.
    His response to the lack of a siren was that one was needed and that he failed to understand why any town in Illinois would be without such a warning system.
    Kinzinger also pointed out that with the number of railroad tracks that surround the Pembroke and Hopkins Park area that a warning system should include a way of warning locals if a tanker car derails and a poison gas of some sore escapes into the air and blows in the direction of Pembroke and Hopkins Park. He also pointed out that he views the children in the Pembroke and Hopkins Park area as the real victims of the racism and political neglect. He said, they can’t look out for themselves, especially the very young ones.
    Coming from a combat veteran, such comments are truly moving and inspiring to those of us who want to see real progress come to the towns of Hopkins Park and Pemroke.
    James Taylor Sr.

  50. - whisper - Saturday, Jun 12, 10 @ 2:55 pm:

    what would need to be done to make things better in this area??

  51. - James Taylor Sr. - Monday, Jun 14, 10 @ 12:29 pm:

    The town needs to be free to establish it’s own community institutions. This would require that locals like Mr. Howard be given the opportunity to receive state and federal funding to address child care, vocational training and economic development and public safety. Now the funds needed to address those efforts are being directed to institutions outside that community. It would be shocking to many to see the number of individuals who actually get paid to run programs in that area but who do not actually have operative programs there. Most of it is for show, for reports but the actual money is in salaries and also no bid contracts, all of which don’t allow funds to ever reach locals.
    In addition, the people of the community need to be financially responsible and follow established accounting and bookkeeping rules and regulations.
    State officials need to make a real effort to support the establish local institutions and Governor Quinn, Repersentatives Dugan and Halvorson and Hutchinson need to also support the establishement of local institutions. It is important to note that part of the reason they don’t now is because those who are now receiving the money intended to address issues and development in Hopkins Park and Pembroke would quickly pull their support for these politicians if they show an interest in shifting where and to whom the state and federal funds go.
    Kankakee County government also needs to take it’s collective foot off the neck of Pembroke and Hopkins Park as do businessmen like Mr. Franco who come there and refuse to hire locals even when, as in Mr. Franco’s case, they are receiving millions in federal and state tax money for projects in Pembroke and Hopkins Park.
    James Taylor Sr.

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