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“Killing Maxwell Street is like taking opera from Milan”, A Maxwell Street Anthology – Dr. Alphonse Diaz, Dr. Steven Balkin, Reverend Ellis May III, editors

A Plea to the Chicago City Council on April 11, 1994: Mayor Daley has his mind set to eliminate the Maxwell Street Market. The vote in the City Council is set for April 13. The Hispanic and Afro-American grassroots communities are very upset about this. People are already asking how can the President and the Vice President talk about Empowerment Zones when their ally Mayor Daley is set to kill one.

The Market works as a de facto enterprise zone and business incubator; it serves the poorest of the poor; and does not cost the government money.

1. Did you know that building contractor/rehabbers from South Shore (those responsible for the “South Shore miracle”) use the Market to buy materials, find people to be partners, and obtain personal loans there through social networks?

2. Did you know that the Women’s Self-Employment Project (a Grameen Bank replication) uses the Market to have its clients try out their business ideas?

3. Did you know that Alex Counts, a senior fellow at the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, comes to Chicago to study Maxwell Street?

4. Did you know that Maria Nowak and Rory O’Sullivan of the World Bank came to visit Chicago to learn about the Maxwell Street Market, and possibly to use it as a model for their work in Eastern Europe?

5. Did you know that Kathy Stearns at Accion International is interested possibly in setting up a micro-loan program for the Market?

6. Did you know that Bob Giloth, Director of Economic Development Programs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is interested in using the Maxwell Street Market as a model for inner city development?

It is easy to defuse the situation in Chicago. All parties to the dispute are willing to compromise but Mayor Daley has told his allies not to compromise.

You know in your heart-of-hearts that President Clinton and Vice President Gore would love Maxwell Street if they visited it. It represents everything they stand for: micro-enterprise, community development, racial harmony, great blues music (the home of Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim, Big Bill Broonzy, Kid Dynamite), training for the “forgotten half – the non-college bound, helping low income people acquire human and money capital, environmental recycling, and poverty alleviation.

What minor externality problems the Market has can be easily solved through vendor self-management and better cooperation from the City. It deserves to exist intact. You can force something to eventually exist on Canal Street but it won’t be a replication of the Maxwell Street Market no matter how many planners you hire.

Professor Alfonso Morales from the U. of Arizona found that 40% of the households that sell at the Market start – formal businesses throughout the Chicago area due to their experience selling at the Market. Research has found that closing the Market will cause a minimum of a 49 million dollar loss on poor and minority residents in Chicago. Maxwell Street works: it is a generator of self-employment for the poor because it involves real-world experience, inter-ethnic networking, and opportunities for mentoring. The poor need the Maxwell Street Market…

View KIlling Maxwell Street Anthology – Full PDF