Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities Closing Statement

May 18,2006

Media Release

Eve B. Lee, Board Member, Leadership Council   847-223-2666
Connie Lindsey, Board Chairperson, Leadership Council   312-444-3578
John Lukehart, Acting Executive Director, Leadership Council   312-341-5678 x246
Mary Fran Riley, Communications Director, Leadership Council   312-341-5678 x247

We’re going to make this an open city, because it’s right.  We’re going to make it an open city because it’s practical.  We’re going to make it an open city because it’s sound economics.  We’re going to make it an open city because we’re tired of being humiliated.
 - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Those were Dr. King’s words 40 years ago when the Chicago Freedom Movement campaigned for open housing, resulting in the establishment of the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities.  In 1966, discrimination was overt and blunt and there were defined color lines that when breached often resulted in violence.

It is with sadness that we report that one of the oldest and largest fair housing organizations in the country, the Leadership Council will close operations after 40 years effective June 2, 2006.

At the May board meeting the Board of Directors of the Leadership Council voted to cease operations.  Connie Lindsey, Board Chairperson of the Leadership Council said “all options were thoroughly explored, it was a very difficult decision for the whole board. Also, the current funding environment made it difficult to raise the necessary funds to continue important fair housing, mobility, advocacy and legal programs.”

Today more choices are available to minorities in Chicago and the region (although, income tends to be a factor in that equation).  However, discrimination still exists.  In 2006, discrimination is subtle and sophisticated.  Discrimination occurs through racial steering to various communities and mortgage products, omission of information, linguistic profiling, and other invisible means.

Yet, there has been progress.  Much of that progress directly ties to the programs of the Leadership Council.  The 40-year legacy of the Council includes landmark lawsuits, advocacy for affirmative public policies, an engagement with the housing industry, and the nationally recognized Gautreaux mobility program together these actions actively increased integration and housing choice in the region. 

Despite the successes of the Leadership Council, there is still much to accomplish – much progress yet to make.  While the Council and others have had victories in defending the rights of individuals facing discrimination, segregation persists.  Indeed, it exists in even more subtle and divisive ways today than it did in 1966 by including not only race but also income.

Today’s segregation is a segregation of opportunity.  Minorities and low to moderate-income persons especially those of color are largely housed in neighborhoods and communities that have few employment opportunities, poor schools, crumbling infrastructures, shrinking tax bases due in large measure to the disinvestments associated with the racial composition of the community and limited transportation networks.  Meanwhile, whites and middle and upper-income persons enjoy plentiful job growth, good schools, steady investment, and more abundant transportation choices.

The Civic Committee’s 1997 report that led to the formation of Metropolis 2020 specifically identified racial and economic segregation as major impediments to the regions future economic development.

Although the Leadership Council is closing its doors their work as fair housing advocates is not finished. 

Dr. King’s mission, left to us, has yet to be completed. We still need to make this an open region because it’s right, it’s practical, and it’s sound economics.  We still need to ensure that no one is humiliated or disadvantaged through limitations based upon their race or income.

The Leadership Council was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leading civil rights, civic, and religious leaders, as a product of the Chicago Freedom Movement campaign for open housing. For 40 years, the agency has provided leadership and developed innovative programs to advance fair housing and access to equal opportunities in the Chicago region and across the country.

The Leadership Council’s achievements include assisting over 10,000 families to make affirmative moves to communities of opportunity, trained over 30,000 housing industry professionals on Fair Housing issues, created the Illinois Housing Roundtable with Business and Professional People in the Public Interest (BPI), co-created the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA), published dozens of notable research reports and articles, and fought and won dozens of landmark Fair Housing lawsuits.