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Dear editor:

I would like to add a clarification to "Fighting Spin With Spin," an otherwise fine article written by Martha Bayne that appeared in the Our Town section on June 10.

The article credits the Chicago Sun-Times with conducting an investigation of the connections between contractors working with the Chicago Housing Authority and its CEO, Terry Peterson.

In fact, the investigation, called "A Questionable Connection," was conducted by Residents' Journal, a nine-year-old, award-winning, bimonthly magazine written for and by public housing tenants and the Better Government Association, the civic watchdog group.

To make sure that the article reached the largest possible audience, we decided to release "A Questionable Connection" to the Sun-Times, WMAQ TV, and WBEZ FM public radio on the same day that we started distributing the issue of Residents' Journal, which is delivered free of charge and door-to-door to 35,000 low-income households around the city. Like the other mainstream media news outlets which covered "A Questionable Connection," the Sun-Times credited our work in their front-page story that day.

I make this point not just to ensure the credit goes to whom it is due, but also to underscore the role that residents are playing in the struggle to hold CHA accountable for its promises under the current effort to redevelop Chicago's notorious public housing buildings.

The centerpiece of "A Questionable Connection" was the work of Mary C. Johns, editor in chief of Residents' Journal and herself a public housing tenant. Mary focused on Legum & Norman, a Virginia-based company that has a contract to manage the Bridgeport Homes development, among other properties.

Mary interviewed Bridgeport Homes residents, who had a litany of complaints about Legum & Norman's management. Mary also interviewed Marvin Price, executive vice president of Legum & Norman, who explained why his company made their only political contribution in Illinois to the 17th Ward Democratic organization, an entity linked closely to CHA CEO Peterson: "We were asked to make a contribution and so we did," Price said. "I'm sure it was somebody from the ward or from CHA. I can't imagine who else would have called us. It was a request. I can assure you of that. Because other than that, we wouldn't have known about (the 17th Ward) at all to begin with."

For decades residents have complained about substandard service from city officials and CHA contractors--companies that are supposed to provide security, fix elevators, and clean lobbies, among other tasks. But the general public, abetted by mainstream media reports, have subscribed to the stereotype that the bad conditions in CHA buildings are the fault of the residents.

Since Residents' Journal was launched in 1996, we have challenged these misconceptions with investigative reports and community news written by the residents themselves. "A Questionable Connection" was only one among our many reports which have changed the policies and practices of city departments while prompting follow-up coverage in the mainstream media. Readers can check out "A Questionable Connection" and our other work at www.wethepeoplemedia.org.

Ethan Michaeli

Publisher

Residents' Journal

Martha Bayne replies:

I credited the Sun-Times with reporting that CHA contractors had contributed money; I didn't mean to imply that it had done an investigation.

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