The real news is breaking about a controversial affordable housing development in my (un)fair city. The backstory is that the city brought in a "pretty picture" consultant to come up with an idea for a City Center development. The retail is set close to the street - a long bleak wall of brick and spandrel glass, as the doors all face inward to the parking lot. Most of the space that was built is empty. There are some nice condominiums across from the new library. If only they would sell. The library itself is nice, but like the commercial space, it has its back to the main arterial. Beyond that are more condominiums and some upscale rentals. As the recession began and looked to continue, the developer sought to modify the plan to allow him to build affordable rental units - about the only thing that might work with the existing market.City staff and elected officials were inclined to allow the change. Public furor ensued.
The city approved a 180-unit project, but "Immediately afterward, and over the next several weeks, city officials received numerous emails, calls, and other communications from residents of New Berlin, the large majority of whom voiced opposition to the ... project. Some of the opposition was based in part on fear that the prospective tenants would be African American or minority. The Mayor, Aldermen, Plan Commissioners, and staff at DCD were aware that community opposition was based in part on race," according to the complaint.
"The communications they received over several weeks contained express and implied racial terms that were derogatory and based on stereotypes of African American residents. These communications referenced 'niggers,' 'white flight,' 'crime,' 'drugs,' 'gangs,' 'families with 10 or 15 kids,' of needing 'to get a gun,' of 'slums,' of not wanting New Berlin to turn into 'Milwaukee,' of moving to New Berlin 'to get away from the poor people,' of not wanting to provide housing to people 'who work but do not live here.'"
New Berlin Mayor Jack Chiovatero initially supported the project, but was worn down by being called a "nigger lover," having his property vandalized and a failed recall effort against him. The pressures upon Chiovatero were revealed in an email he sent to a friend, indicating that he condemned racism, but found himself surrounded by it.
According to the complaint, Chiovatero wrote: "I am a prisoner in my own home. I have spent several hours a day last week listening and replying to concerned citizens. ... I was asked NOT to attend two functions this weekend for fear it would distract and cause havoc by my presence. Our City is filled with prejudice and bigoted people who with very few facts are making this project into something evil and degrading. ... New Berlin is not ready, nor may never be, for a project like this. Unfortunately, I will be doing whatever is in my power to end this project, it will result in lawsuits and making New Berlin a community of bigots."