Ald. Graham Scrutinized In Tribune Expose
A business woman wanted to open a liquor and convenience store on Madison St in Austin – a block where residents had voted to impose a moratorium on new liquor licenses ten years prior. Although the store was one block away from two other liquor stores “Ald. Deborah Graham, 29th, then pushed through a special ordinance lifting the moratorium, saying she wanted to help an African-American businesswoman with stellar credentials.” According to award winning journalists David Jackson and Gary Marx of the Chicago Tribune the store was backed and opened by convicted drug dealer and gang member Frederick “Juicy” Sims. But wait, there’s more: the city gave the store, “Convenience for You“, $105,000 in tax increment financing (TIF) grants from the district’s Small Business Improvement Fund. Today that store has its beer signs up and doors are open for business.
In the TIF funding application Sims wrote he was planning to obtain 60% of his sales from liquor, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. To increase profits “he would nearly triple the price of basic groceries and goods.” On the same application Sims indicated he was not a convicted felon.
The article goes on to say “In February 2012, the store donated $1,950 to Graham’s 29th Ward political fund. It was among the largest single donations she received that year.” The contribution had no affect on her decision according to Graham. The alderman also denies having any knowledge of the drug dealer’s involvement in the project.
The article also mentions several TIF backed projects in the Austin area which were poor investments. Additionally Austin, the largest and most populous community area in the city, has been largely forgotten when the Chicago doles out development dollars.
The Galewood EZPawn/Easy Cash Solutions at 6406 W. North Avenue is another store which Ald. Graham supported by the community opposed. In that incident Reyes Kurson, EZPawn’s local lobbying firm, donated $2,100 to Ald. Graham’s ward organization.
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