After North Side Shooting Community Fights Back to Keep Starbucks Open
A shooting in Uptown that left one dead and others seriously injured in a Starbucks has turned into another power fight between the alderman and the community.
Uptown Ald. James Cappleman threatened to close Starbucks on the corner of Lawrence and Broadway because he told the media he would not tolerate businesses that do not work with the police and his office to maintain safety in the area.
The community responded by starting a petition entitled, “We Support our Uptown Starbucks on Broadway,” which states, “We support our community Starbucks at Broadway & Lawrence in the heart of Uptown Chicago and their fantastic employees in the aftermath of an awful crime that was committed on their premises Nov. 2nd. We reject the statements of Alderman Cappleman of the 46th Ward that Starbucks is responsible, that Starbucks allows narcotic sales in their establishment. We reject Ald. Cappleman’s stated intention to have Starbucks business license revoked.”
The petition further states that Starbucks and its employees were victims of the traumatic event, and that “they need our love and support, not harassment from a city official with baseless accusations and characterizations.”
The petition has already gathered close to 900 signatures in just three days.
Starbucks told the media that they were not the central location to the crime of an alleged drug deal as the alderman states.
Tressa Freher, Cappleman’s chief of staff, said Starbucks has not been participating in regular business public-safety meetings and were slow to make changes when there were serious criminal activity going on inside of their store.
“However, they are now wanting to participate and be more proactive,” Feher wrote in an email to Chicago News, adding that they have no intention to close Starbucks.
A Starbucks less than a mile west on Montrose in Uptown closed recently because of high crime and poor sales.
Uptown is a bustling part of the city on the lake where immigrants, young professionals, and wealthy homeowners mix with drug addicts, homeless and gang bangers.
Cappleman got elected by a part of the Uptown vote for law and order. They claimed the previous alderwoman Helen Shiller shielded the drug dealing and gang banging. I remember myself coming out of our favorite Thai Uptown on Broadway just north of Wilson and suddenly surrounded by two gangs wielding metal clubs and threatening each other. A drive-by around the corner on Sheridan last year killed an elderly female Streetwise vendor.
Cappleman’s tactics since he won election in 2011 have been to invite developers into gentrifying the area where buildings that once housed the mentally ill and indigent are being turned into half-million-dollar condos, and to call for added police protection whenever a shooting occurs.
Andy Thayer, who started the online petition and is one the city’s top activists, lives in Uptown. He said it is foolish to blame the venue where the crime took place because there is no proof that drugs were sold in the café and threaten the livelihood of the people who work at Starbucks.
He said the real problem is how polarized Uptown has become under Cappleman’s watch, with the non-wealthy being squeezed by the tough-on-crime policies that merely want to stamp out blighted areas.
“If there were good paying jobs for youth, plenty of affordable housing alternatives, etc. for young people, would so many choose to embark on dangerous occupations such as deal drugs?” Thayer wrote in an email to Chicago News. “Cappleman didn’t create these problems, but so many of his policies have accentuated the existing economic problems already facing poorer youth, esp. youth of color, that his rush to assign blame for the shooting should be seen as the scapegoating that it is.”
The “get tough on crime” and hyper policing policies in Chicago has conveniently ignored the problem that the city has an out-sized violence problem despite being one of the most heavily-policed cities in the country, Thayer said. (FBI states Chicago has the third highest police officer to civilian ratio of any city of over 50,000 people in the US).
“Adding more cops, or instituting ‘positive loitering’ programs (such as Cappleman has done) simply pushes the problems elsewhere,” Thayer said. “We need more than NIMBY (not in my backyard) solutions. The money spent on cops ($140k per year on each one to start) means that libraries get limited hours, schools get deprived of music, sports, arts and other programs that make cities livable for our young residents. Instead we have 40 percent of our city’s operating budget spent on cops, and the poorest sections of the South and West sides empty of people because of lack of investment and its attendant ills that have made them unlivable.”
“But instead of going to the heart of how we can at least mitigate violence, Cappleman gives us clickbait answers, designed mainly to divert attention from his own systemic failure to address the root causes of violence. That it potentially slanders other people and puts their jobs at risk just makes it that much more reprehensible.”