Caroling for a cause

To the casual observer, the group of fifty carolers, including some dressed in Santa suits, might have seemed like participants in yet another streetside holiday event in the Loop.

But the group, outside City Hall and the Daley Center, sang modified songs that brought anything but holiday cheer.

“We’re dreaming of affordable housing,” sang carolers to the tune of ‘White Christmas,’”with rents we can afford to pay.”

Led by the Pilsen Alliance and the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, the group held a press conference Tuesday outside City Hall during which a city spokesman was presented with two bags of coal, one for Richard M. Daley and one for Alderman Danny Solis.

The gifts were designed to highlight the groups’ opposition to condo developments, which they say raise taxes and made housing less affordable.

One Santa, Eric Steele of the public housing group, said his was going to the mayor “for being a naughty boy for letting public officials receive money from developers.”

In a statement, Moises Moreno of the Pilsen Alliance cited several campaign contributions from firms who are currently seeking zoning changes in order to build a condo complex on the corner of 18th and Peoria streets in Pilsen. David Hill, who’s development firm Kimball Hill Homes presented the development plan for the parcel, has posted $8,500 to Solis’ campaign. The project’s planned construction company, Mota Construction, has given $22,650. The proposed architect Patricia Saldana-Natke has given $2,800, and Rolando Acosta, a lawyer for Hill, has given $3,500, he said.

“I hope that today’s action will inspire other communities to uncover corruption,” said Moreno.

Roberto Montana, Chief of Staff for Solis, said the alderman “did not make a big deal” out of the protest. “This happens to be an off the wall group that has their own agenda. We sincerely do not believe that this group represents this community.”

Gary Gordon, a participant and staff member for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, said the symbolic coal-gifting was a reminder to the mayor to keep his policy on corruption consistent. Early this year, Daley banned all contributions from firms doing business with the city, but that only applies to his office, and not other elected officials.

“The political capital you could buy with that money would absolutely not influence a decision,” said Montana of the contributions cited. “One dollar, two thousand, it doesn’t matter. Come to an event of [Solis’], you’ll see he does well already.”

Jaime Rodriguez, 24, said she was at the protest because for the last couple of years her mother’s property tax bill has escalated as a result of condos in the areas. They may soon be priced out of the neighborhood, she said, if the nearby condo project gets zoning approval.

“I can’t sit at home and complain. Even if they do make the plan happen, I can say I stood up here.”