Friday, December 16, 2016 || Rev. Dr. Regi Ratliff || OPINION || @maywoodnews
By now, most of you are aware that the Aldi grocery store in Maywood will close its doors for good. The thought that my hometown will become a food dessert is painful. It is perplexing to believe that a western suburb of Chicago will not have a grocery store.
Aldi’s reason for deciding to no longer conduct business in the Village of Maywood is really irrelevant. Rumors of lower than expected sales is a smokescreen. The rationale that other Aldi stores exists in Broadview, Bellwood and Melrose Park is also a smokescreen. Those stores have existed for a long time.
Anything related to tax incentives as another reason is senseless, considering they’ve received tax incentives from the beginning of their existence in Maywood and will do so until the end of this year, according to Maywood Assistant Village Manager David Myers.
I cannot resist the thought of gentrification taking place in the village. This typically happens when a community is reduced to little or no resources, opening an opportunity for a different group to move in and rebuild a community with very little investments needed.
Whatever the true reason for Aldi’s closure, the actions set forth state they are no longer interested in conducting business in the community. The bottom line is that the public will never know the true reason for Aldi’s departure.
It is my belief that the public is never made aware of the true underlying factors that cause a business establishment to move out of a communities like Maywood. What I do know is that a community of Maywood’s size should not operate without a grocery store. Our seniors deserve an opportunity to frequent their own grocery store and parents deserve the right to purchase healthy food for their children at their neighborhood grocery store.
In economic terms, the closure of Aldi translates into money departing the village going to neighboring grocery stores in Forest Park, Melrose Park, Westchester, Bellwood, Oak Park/River Forest and Broadview.
If you want to place blame on why the Maywood continues to face one economic challenge after another, there is plenty to go around.
Let’s make one thing clear, current Mayor Edwenna Perkins did not cause this debacle. This runaway train was inherited by her office. One could review as far back as the early 1990’s, when companies such as Canada Dry, Jewel’s, The American Can Company, TP Foods, A & P and White Way Foods all closed but were never replaced. Mayor Perkins was not the mayor during this time.
Furthermore, Mayor Perkins was not in office when Maywood Proviso Bank and First Federal Bank closed their doors. Was Mayor Perkins in office when Flash Car Wash, Horseman’s Club, the Volkswagen car dealership and the Maywood Branch Library on 17th Avenue all closed their doors? No, she wasn’t, so let us keep things in perspective. If you want to point the finger, look at the administrations dating back to the early 1990’s.
I am not the greatest fan of Mayor Perkins. She is a wonderful woman and is passionate about Maywood; however, it is no secret that she has not received the support nor respect she deserves to effectively lead her town as mayor.
Let us be fair in our judgment of leadership. Every single elected board member, in addition to Village Manager William Norfleet, is culpable. With the exception of Trustee Rogers and Norfleet, I have been associated with every single board member for no fewer than 20 years.
Trustee Brandon was one of my first public speaking students at Canaan AME Church when he was a very young man. I’ve seen Trustee Toni Doris at most of my family’s barbeques and Trustee Ron Rivers was instrumental in the success of my non- profit youth organization, Eternal Light Community Service. After 19 years, we are still bringing quality programs to our youth in the village.
My relationships goes across the board on a personal level and I love them all unconditionally, but their inability to move Maywood forward is a cause for concern. Instead of placing the blame solely on this administration, intelligent citizens need to accept the fact that Maywood has been in an economic depression for greater than two decades.
This pending closure is a much deeper economic issue. The arguments that have taken place amongst board members over the years are boring. I am reminded of outside firms, who made these glamorous presentations of how their 20-year economic development plan was going to increase business in the village exponentially.
Every generation of politicians who claimed their seat at the Village Hall made a promise to turn Maywood around, yet there is nothing to show for it. Whether or not Aldi decides to continue conducting business in Maywood is not the real issue.
Our elected officials must realize that the community is on edge. We must recognize the best approach is to not wait until an establishment decides to close its doors before responding. The best approach is to take a proactive approach and renew incentives no later than within three years of an expiration date.
It is my prayer that Maywood will avoid becoming a food desert and leadership will use this experience to work together and build a stronger village. VFP
Reverend Dr. Regi Ratliff is the founder and executive director of Eternal Light Community Services. Eternal Light provides the following programs:public speaking, financial literacy, health and wellness, and entrepreneurship classes to youth, ages 5-18.
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