During the first week of March, prominent Chicago media outlets, namely the Tribune and Sun-Times, published negative news stories, columns, editorials, and political cartoons about Luis Gutierrez and his family. These reports focused on a range of issues, including Gutierrez’s place of residence, the FBI’s questioning of him, the role he played in securing his daughter’s employment in a state position, and his daughter’s participation in a 26th Ward affordable housing program.
One set of commentaries pertains to Gutierrez’s residence outside of his Congressional District. While Gutierrez, like many other members of Congress, lives outside of the Congressional District he represents, his commitment to the 4th District is unwavering. Gutierrez was raised in this District, and he resided within its boundaries for nearly fifty years. Moreover, Gutierrez’s constant community outreach efforts make him a strongly felt presence and continually heighten his awareness of his constituents’ needs and concerns.
Another story focuses on the FBI’s questioning of Gutierrez about his relationship with a real estate developer. Since all of Gutierrez’s dealings with this developer were entirely legal, the most interesting thing to note about this story is that it includes a quotation from Elida Cruz. Some readers of La Voz might recognize this as the name of a contributor to the campaign against the Puerto Rican Cultural Center spearheaded by the FBI and the creators of the libelous newspaper, El Pito. It is no coincidence that Elida Cruz would be linked to both of these stories. The FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) has a long history of attempting to defame Gutierrez, and the current story about Gutierrez’s squarely legal relationship with a real estate developer should be understood as a part of this history.
The two stories about Gutierrez’s daughter, Omaira Figueroa, highlight her job with the state and her participation in a 26th Ward affordable housing program. Figueroa’s previous job experiences as a legislative aid and as an assistant sergeant-at-arms for the City Council justly earned her a position with Illinois Commerce Commission. In terms of the 26th Ward affordable housing program through which Figueroa purchased a condo in 2008, the income for her family of three allowed her to qualify alongside other participants in a program that former Alderman Billy Ocasio created to provide working families in the Humboldt Park area with the opportunity to purchase condos that they might not otherwise be able to afford. Rather than criticize a family that fairly participated in this program, we should celebrate the presence of a young professional family in a neighborhood that too often loses its longstanding residents. What these negative stories ignore is the remarkable number of affordable housing initiatives spearheaded by Billy Ocasio to keep longstanding residents in the Humboldt Park community. These include the La Estancia Apartments built by Bickerdike, the Teresa Roldán Apartments built by Hispanic Housing, the Single Mothers Housing created by LUCHA, as well as the creation of affordable townhouses for families. Each of these programs took shape under the leadership of former Alderman Billy Ocasio. No other alderman in Chicago has as strong a record of providing affordable housing initiatives.
Together, these reports should be viewed as part of a larger, longstanding effort to discredit Luis Gutierrez. Remember that in 1995 the Chicago Sun-Times, in conjunction with the FBI, destroyed one of the most successful Chicago school reform efforts in history at Roberto Clemente high school. Their false reports about Clemente in 1995 waged countless malicious attacks against many of the same figures targeted in the recent stories described above, namely Billy Ocasio and Luis Gutierrez. For more than fifteen years the FBI has conspired with the Chicago Sun-Times to vilify Gutierrez for his strong positions on controversial issues, such as Puerto Rico’s political status and immigration reform.
Gutierrez has lived outside of his district for more than two years, the FBI questioning primarily took place two years ago, his daughter entered her state job more than five years ago, and that same daughter purchased a condo through an affordable housing program nearly two years ago. None of this is current news, so why would these newspapers publish a barrage of negative stories about Gutierrez now? These stories are running just as Gutierrez has become an increasingly prominent critic of Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation and immigration reform advocate. The juxtaposition of Gutierrez’s outspoken advocacy for immigrants’ rights with the Tribune’s and Sun-Times’ slanderous, anachronistic stories about him, suggests that these media outlets are more interested in furthering a particular political agenda than disseminating important news to their readers. Instead expending so much energy in their attempts to undermine Gutierrez’s credibility, these newspapers should have worked to provide more coverage of the May 1 immigrants’ rights demonstration in which thousands of Chicagoans exercised their collective democratic voice to demand the reform of a failed, discriminatory policy.
by Jonathan Rosa