Meet the Anti-Union Libertarian Star Trying to Kill the Logan Square Affordable TOD Plan

Bruce Rauner, Illinois Policy Institute CEO John Tillman, and then-IPI attorney and current TOD plan opponent Jacob Huebert, celebrating the anti-union Janus decision on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Image: Chicago Sun-Times
Bruce Rauner, Illinois Policy Institute CEO John Tillman, and then-IPI attorney and current TOD plan opponent Jacob Huebert, celebrating the anti-union Janus decision on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Image: Chicago Sun-Times

Members of Logan Square Neighbors for Responsible Development, a group made up of real estate brokers, landlords, attorneys, architects, and other folks who live near the neighborhood’s Emmett Street parking lot, have cited many reasons for their opposition to current plans for an all-affordable 100-unit transit-oriented development on the the lot, located next to the Logan Square Blue Line station.

They’re argued that the seven-story building would be too tall; that it wouldn’t include enough open space (although a new plaza is planned across the street); that the 20 on-site parking spots will be insufficient (although a parking study found that the lot is typically 70 percent empty); and that there hasn’t been a sufficient opportunity for public input (although the community input process began five years ago.)

Rendering of the proposed Logan Square affordable transit-oriented development.
Rendering of the proposed Logan Square affordable transit-oriented development.

But one astute observer noticed that there’s another reason why at least one LSNRD member may oppose the affordable TOD plan: philosophical opposition to publicly funded housing for low-income and working-class people.

The Logan project is projected to cost about $31 million, and nonprofit developer Bickerdike redevelopment hopes to line up the financing by using subsidies like low-income tax credits and tax-increment financing money. As Twitter user @cholent_lover (and, really, who doesn’t love cholent?) pointed out, one of the opponents who testified against the plan at last Thursday’s packed community meeting is libertarian attorney Jacob Huebert, famous in anti-organized-labor circles for winning a recent anti-union lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Huebert lives on Emmett Street near the lot with his wife, attorney Allison Huebert, an LSNRD leader who also spoke at Thursday’s hearing and did, in fact, refuse to give up the microphone after allotted time ran out.

Nowadays conservative libertarians like Jacob Huebert (more on that in a bit) tend to advocate for minimal government intervention, laissez-faire capitalism, low-taxes, and strong private property rights. All of that would seem to run counter to the idea of using taxpayer money to build 100 units of affordable housing on land that many for-profit developers would love to build on, across the street from private homeowners who don’t want them there.

LSNRD members have repeatedly claimed that they’re not against affordable housing, but by calling for less height, more parking, and more open space on the site, in effect they’re pushing for far fewer units. They’re also advocating for the community input period to be extended by several months, which TOD proponents at the meeting argued could jeopardize the project. (At Thursday’s meeting, multiple LSNRD leaders declined to talk with me and stated or indicated that group members would not do interviews with Streetsblog Chicago in the future.)

Jacob Huebert stands by as his wife Allison voices opposition to the TOD at the community meeting; other residents raise red cards to express disagreement with her talking points. Photo: John Greenfield
Jacob Huebert stands by as his wife Allison voices opposition to the TOD plan at the community meeting; other residents raise red cards to express disagreement with her talking points. Photo: John Greenfield

In fairness, without being a mindreader it’s impossible to know for sure what Jacob Huebert’s true motivations are for opposing current plans for a project that will fight displacement and improve transit access for working people. But it’s interesting to consider this stance in light of his professional history.

Huebert is currently a senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute, a conservative and libertarian think tank based in Phoenix, named after the late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. The Republican senator famously lost the 1964 presidential election to Lyndon B. Johnson in a landslide, four months after Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. He lost the electoral vote in all states except Arizona and the Deep South.

Huebert is also the author of the book Libertarianism Today, and he and his writings have appeared in many national news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and, of course, Fox News.

Previously Huebert worked as director of litigation at the Liberty Justice Center, the “free-market public-interest litigation center” of the right-wing Illinois Policy Institute, which was closely aligned with former Republican Illinois governor Bruce Rauner during his first few years in office, although that relationship eventually deteriorated. Huebert’s successfully litigation of the Janus v. AFSCME anti-union case is his biggest claim to fame.

Huebert talks about the Janus case on C-SPAN.
Huebert talks about the Janus case on C-SPAN.

That case was a major financial blow to labor unions, with the Supreme Court ruling that workers can’t be required to pay fees to the unions that represent them in collective bargaining, which Huebert argued was a First Amendment rights issue. Rauner originally filed the suit in early 2015, shortly after taking office, with the goal of watering down the political power of Democratic unions, but a lower court judge ruled that he didn’t have the standing to bring the case. Instead Mark Janus, a state child support specialist, was named as the lead plaintiff against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represented him.

The Supreme Court decided the case in Janus’ favor in June 2018. The deciding vote was cast by Neil Gorsuch, whom Donald Trump appointed to the court after Senate Republicans had refused to hold a hearing or vote on Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland. Ironically, Huebert lauded the Janus decision, which weakened the ability of unions to advocate for working people, as “the biggest victory for workers’ rights in a generation.” Here’s what Trump had to say about the win:

Let’s pan back from Washington, D.C. to Logan Square again. At Thursday’s community meeting Jacob Huebert stated his case, not on an issue of nationwide importance, but one that is taking place almost literally in his backyard.

During the public comment period, Huebert was preceded by his wife Allison. She argued that the proposed affordable development did not reflect what community members said they wanted at the Emmett site during 2014 brainstorming workshops conducted by the Metropolitan Planning Council, which she attended. “We wanted affordable housing that would address displacement for Logan Square residents,” she said. “This housing will not help Logan Square residents. This is going to everyone that will show up.” During Thursday’s hearing Bickerdike CEO Joy Aruguete stated that marketing for the new TOD would be focused in the Logan Square area.

As @cholent_lover mentioned, partway through Allison Huebert’s speech the timer went off and local alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa reached for the microphone to give it to the next speaker, LSNRD member Sarah Maxwell, but Allison Huebert refused to surrender the floor. Supposedly Maxwell gave her time to Huebert, but Maxwell wound up speaking as well.

Allison Huebert refusing to give up the mic. Photo: @cholent_lover
Allison Huebert refusing to give up the mic as Rosa reaches for it and Maxwell blocks him. Photo: @cholent_lover

After Maxwell said her piece, Jacob Huebert took the microphone and spent his time railing against the public input process for the TOD. “Let’s recognize that this is not a real community discussion about what’s best for the community,” he said. “Let’s recognize that this is not a real community discussion about what’s best for this property… This is a farce.”

Funny, that’s exactly how many Chicago workers felt when Jacob Huebert’s anti-union lawsuit was decided by the judge whom Trump had appointed to a stolen Supreme Court seat.

Correction 4/30/19: This piece previously attributed some comments from the meeting to Allison Huebert, which were actually made by another TOD plan opponent. Apologies for the mix-up.

  • Martin

    So now you are proposing political litmus tests for people to be allowed to speak at a public meeting on a community project?

    Libertarians are first on your black list Who else are you proposing should be barred from speaking at public meetings, for failing your political clearance? Republicans? Conservatives? Police officers? Owners of car related businesses? Members of neighborhood associations that you have issues with? People with religious beliefs that run counter to your personal views? Literally anyone else that doesn’t agree with you on 100% of every issue?

  • TRPCLRMNTCST

    Please anyone who was there realizes it was another Rauner dog and pony show. I’m sure that Huebert will get his back slapped at the country club this weekend! Ho, ho fella, nice work keepin funds just for big business and cagin immigrants. Not an honest gerund to be found!

  • lykorian

    If you’re actually a libertarian yourself, you’re absolutely terrible at it, since you seem to have no understanding of free speech. Nowhere in this article does Greenfield suggest that Huebert should have been barred from speaking. He’s simply illuminating Huebert’s political views and background, since they betray the notion that LSNRD is actually in favor of affordable housing as they claim. Ironically, the only one stifling free speech here is mic-stealer Allison Huebert.

  • Allison Huebert

    Your article is inaccurate. You attribute quotes to me
    that I never said – you apparently have mistaken me for the person who went
    before me. Did you watch the video or just rely on Twitter? It is incredibly irresponsible, even malicious, to attribute statements to someone in print that they did not make when you have access to the actual source video.

    My comments at the meeting were directed at why this
    proposal does not attempt to directly address displacement in Logan Square by
    providing a pathway for long-term residents or residents with children in
    community schools to receive priority for these units. This is the
    practice in other major cities with a lack of affordable housing such as
    Portland, SF and NYC. I spoke for approximately sixty seconds at the
    meeting (we were supposed to get ninety but Ald. Rosa cut our time in half as
    he saw those who he perceived as dissenters near the stage). And as you
    noted, the next speaker ceded part of their time to account for the approximately 15
    seconds I took to finish my statement after the buzzer went off.

    I would ask that you watch the video you attempt to “report” on and fix the inaccuracies in your article. Better yet, post the video so people can see what a sham the “community driven zoning” process is in the 35th ward.

  • Guy Ross

    Pointing out the background of those supporting or opposing public policy decisions is not a litmus test. John never once suggested any of those he researched in this piece be barred from participation. You are not the victim, stop it.

  • Guy Ross

    Is this video available? I was unable to attend.

  • Frank Kotter

    April snows melt, rivers run to the ocean, lawyers make veiled threats to opponents:

    “It is incredibly irresponsible, even malicious, to attribute statements to someone in print.”

  • Jeremy

    Have you noticed that those who proselytize about “tort reform” also support lawsuits which are meant to silence critics?

  • ChicagoCyclist

    All “processes” related to “public input” are imperfect. Not EVERYONE in a “community” (which itself is not possible to objectively define) speaks / is present / has a voice. That said, some processes are better than others. This 2-5 year process was , it would appear, decent-to-good. All development projects like this, and in fact all policies related to housing, transportation, the environment, economic development, etc. — indeed all political decisions — involve “trade offs,” and balancing competing views/ideas/ideals, and therefore winners and losers. Who wins and who looses — in addition to the effects of political maneuvering, clout, and outright power — is a function of ideology and of the geographic scale and the time horizon that one is looking at. More conservative (“selfish”) outlooks tend to be tighter in geographic scope (NIMBY, my block) and shorter in terms of timeframe (short-term, “my lifetime”). More liberal, progressive outlooks tend to be wider in geographic scope (whole neighborhood, city, region, even global) and longer in terms of timeframe (long-term, several or many generations out). Capitalism in the US — which, btw, is loosing ground to competition such as China — is an ideology that leads to some (usually wealthier) folks not liking/respecting/caring for low-income folks. Libertarians are concerned with “too much government; too much regulation” — except of course when it benefits them. Libertarians should consider for a moment — or more than a moment — what a place without government or with little government is actually like. Think Somalia. As knowledge, science, experience, and awareness of the interconnectedness and interdependence of members of a society and of the world (as opposed to “rugged individualism” and individual “nation-states”) increases and grows, the world will need more and broader “regulation” and larger and larger and larger units of government. And that is, in fact, exactly what we see throughout human history. Back to the Logan Sqare issue: to really and effectively stop “displacement,” we need major ideological and policy changes that don’t make a home ownership (and real estate generally) the primary vehicle or “asset” by which families grow their wealth. That situation leads to “cashing in,” to NIMBY-ism, to land grabs — and to these pathetic sorts of squabbles!

  • Allison Huebert

    “…that they did not make, when you have access to the actual source video.”

    Thanks for the correction but the person before me who you previously quoted was not Jeri Youngberg either (who, btw, is a flight attendant and not a “affluent architect” or whatever). I do not know who that woman was, and not everyone who spoke about their issues with the proposal is affiliated with or members of LSNRD. Can you please try and report facts, especially when they are easily verifiable?

    Also, not sure why the incorrectly attributed comment was news but when you reviewed my actual comment at the meeting (about my support for affordable housing that addresses displacement in Logan Square) you declined to print it because it doesn’t fit your narrative.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Sorry, no malice intended, just an honest mistake, since I was working from an audio recording and Jeri Youngberg, the person who made the comments, didn’t state her name. I’ve made a correction; apologies for the mix-up.

    I wasn’t aware that a video of the meeting was available but, good idea, if I can get ahold of it I’ll try to share in a post or on social media so that folks who weren’t able to attend can hear view the presentations and testimony.

  • Buena Park

    “Back to the Logan Sqare issue: to really and effectively stop “displacement,” we need major ideological and policy changes that don’t make a home ownership (and real estate generally) the primary vehicle or “asset” by which families grow their wealth. That situation leads to “cashing in,” to NIMBY-ism, to land grabs — and to these pathetic sorts of squabbles!”

    Home ownership is the principal means by which most of the middle class accumulates and grows their wealth. That is not going to be replaced with bitcoins or Facebook likes.

  • Jeremy

    Pensions used to be a significant, if not the primary, vehicle for wealth accumulation.

  • Gin Kilgore

    The folks who had their time shortened included proponents, including me, some Bickerdike residents, and some LSNA reps. Given the huge turnout (which was in part galvanized by your organizing, which is not a bad thing at all. . .many voices should be heard), I believe the meeting was handled well and I appreciated the compromise. Please keep in mind that keeping a meeting going longer has an impact on those responsible for getting the room back in order and closing up the school.
    Also–re: this idea of taking someone else’s donated time was shocking to me, seeing as no one had done that previously. Not every speaker took their full time (yes, most did, but not all). But imagine if that had been the norm. People not wanting to finish, the person behind them “granting” them extra time, then trying to manage how much time they had left on the clock. And it’s disingenuous to imply that opponents were intentionally boxed out at the end. It was a matter of how the line formed and there were opponents who did get 90 seconds. Perhaps it felt that way simply because most of the people who spoke were in favor.

    Speaking of misrepresentations, I have been staggered by some of the things that have been stated and insinuated about Bickerdike.

  • Gin Kilgore

    Also, Joy tried to address the question about who will live in the units. I believe she cited fair housing laws which restrict screening based on address, but that they have learned that the way you market a project can have a big impact in terms of who expresses interest in the units. It’s a puzzle for sure and something all are aware of.

  • Allison Huebert

    Frank – you forgot to finish that sentence… “that they did not make when you have access to the actual source video.”

  • Allison Huebert

    According to the representative from LSP who typically runs these meetings, not a single zoning meeting has ever been cut short so that everyone who wants to comment could not have a chance to do it even if they go over time. The meeting was artificially cut off so that people would not have a chance to speak. And yes, ceding time is a proper procedure, although was not actually necessary here because just like everyone else who got buzzed mid-sentence, I literally spent less than 15 seconds finishing and handed over the mike, and no one “got between” me and the Alderman, and I did not “refuse” to give up the mike. But yes, let’s print whatever an anonymous troll on Twitter says as if it is a fact.

  • Gin Kilgore

    From my 2nd row seat, it did appear that you would not give up the mic. It seemed in contrast to the rest of us. And I am not saying ceding is some out of the blue practice, but as it hadn’t been invoked in the meeting earlier, I was perturbed. But that’s water under the bridge. Have the other meetings you reference been as large and had so many people lined up to speak? Been in a school? I ask earnestly, not defensively. As someone who has worked in schools, the issue of wrapping up for the sake of closing the building was top of my mind, but I will acknowledge that was an assumption on my part.

  • Joshua Heffernan

    Why don’t you and your union-busting husband move back to Wheaton where you belong?

  • Greg Stehlbeg

    This plan will get as far as Rosa’s absurd attempt to down-zone all of Milwaukee avenue. He has no choice though he won re-election by about 1000 votes and he’ll lose at least that many constituents in the next four years at the current rate. Only way for him to keep his job is to move in his voters as the newer residents of the area know he is completely dishonest and disingenuous.

  • Michael

    …he won by 1,500 votes and trounced his opponent with a 19% margin

  • Michael

    Can you link to the source video? From what me and everyone I know saw, you literally ran away from Rosa trying to take the mic while several other people w/ less time to speak gave it up immediately even when they only made it halfway through their prepared comments.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Let’s keep the discussion civil please. Future comments along these lines will be deleted.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    From our writeup of the meeting: https://chi.streetsblog.org/2019/04/25/vast-majority-of-logan-residents-at-last-nights-hearing-support-affordable-tod-plan/

    Aruguete responded [to the TOD plan opponent who argued that the development will not help current Logan Square residents] that Bickerdike will comply with fair marketing laws. “But we also know from many years of experience, 51, that how we market these units makes a huge difference,” she said. “We will be focusing our marketing for the Emmett Street project in the Logan Square area.” She invited the woman to help out with spreading the word about the housing opportunity to local residents.

  • Joshua Heffernan

    You’re right, it was made in frustration. I’ll delete myself.

  • AJ LaTrace

    John I have nothing but love and respect for you and Streetsblog but this was not an instructive nor necessary piece, especially considering the overwhelming support this plan received and with Ald. Rosa already producing the results of the vote by community members.

  • Bhaskar Manda

    Why lie? He cut the time to 60 s because the meeting ran over the scheduled end time, and everyone voted for extra time, which he evenly divided among those present. There were just as many opponents before the the scheduled time ended vs before, so it wasn’t like it was stacked either way.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Yes, you are indeed right. The question is: Is this good — i.e. is home ownership the best vehicle or means (in our day and age) for upper low-income, middle and, to a lesser degree, upper middle income folks “to accumulate and grow their wealth.” It doesn’t seem to be working that well any more. Until the 30-yr mortgage (a government lending/insurance policy/program) really took off in the early 50s, most people rented. It is still like that in most other parts of the world, even in places where there is a thriving middle class. But really, my main point is not to critique the system but just to point out that their are trade-offs: with our system of strong private property rights, little social safety net, very uneven wealth distribution (access to capital), free-rein, and even encouragement, of real estate “speculation” (without regulation), very weak housing laws and policies, we should in fact expect “displacement.” Displacement is simply (one of) the “negative externalities” of so-called free-market capitalism in the realm of real estate, just like air pollution and lots of paved, impermeable surfaces, long travel times, obesity, fatal and serious crashes, and congestion are (some of) the negative externalities related to high levels of driving, to automobile-centric development and life-styles.

  • Dub Nosnibor

    Devin Nunes rings a bell.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I was present at the meeting and my impression was that you moved away from Rosa when then timer went off, and Maxwell tried to prevent Rosa from taking the mic back, and the photograph of the incident published above seems to confirm that. But please feel free to share any video you have of the incident.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I’ve been told that the full meeting video is posted at the Logan Square Community Page Facebook discussion group. I’m asking for permission to access it.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Keep the discussion civil please.

  • MinnieMaus

    40% of the neighborhood basically voted for a paper bag against Rosa.

  • Saul Kneeling

    This article is laughable. What ever happened to unbiased reporting?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “Streetsblog Chicago is the region’s sustainable transportation news and advocacy website.” We don’t pretend to do so-called “fair and balanced” journalism.

  • Carter O’Brien

    You might want to ask John Kass that question. As long as the vast majority of mainstream media opinion pieces are written from people who view driving as a constitutionally protected right, there will be a need for opinion pieces from the other end of the transportation spectrum.

  • FlamingoFresh

    Why should someone be forced to pay into a Union if they don’t want to? Especially if only 17% of that money went to representing the people that pay for them (workers). The greediness of these unions by backing corrupt politicians that promised them the world when it was unsustainable is the reason why Illinois and Chicago are in this mess. They were more concerned about the guaranteed benefits than the actual payment into the retirement system, guaranteeing an unfavorable future for all taxpayers in the state. So yeah, why would someone be forced to pay into a group that doesn’t have their best interests for them and their family?

    https://www.illinoispolicy.org/afscme-council-31-spent-just-17-of-funds-representing-workers-in-2018/

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Conversely, why should someone benefit from the collective bargaining efforts of a union if they’re not paying their fair share to help keep the union afloat?

    It does seems like would be fair to let people opt out of union dues and work for less pay, benefits, etc. than what the union has negotiated.

  • rohmen

    I’m not going to defend in large part how Unions spend their money, as I think (like a lot of non-profits) they’ve become way too bloated and self-interested in many cases.

    But, not including “political contribution” in a column of money spent to “represent” workers’ interests is something I’d wager the Unions themselves would strongly disagree with. The Firefighters’ Union’s recent response to Trump after endorsing Biden is a good example of the position Unions would take on political action.

    I’d be curious what the number gets up to with that included, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was still under 65%.

  • FlamingoFresh

    I’m not saying that they should be able to benefit if they choose to opt out but my problem lies with how astray union leadership has become (looking only at Illinois). I don’t have a problem with the idea of unions and what they stand for (everyone should make a living wage) but they grew in the corruptness concurrently as the politics here.and wanting more, more, more isn’t in the best interest of whom they represent. It’s on the politicians and the one’s who kept on voting them into office.

    How are we supposed to maintain and expand our infrastructure and all the services when 25% of taxes go to pension liability?

  • Pam

    After 5 years I decided to leave my previous occupation which transformed my lifestyle… I initiated working on a special job via the internet, for organization I discovered online, for a number of hrs every day, and I generate definitely more than I have done on my old occupation… Previous check I got was Nine thousand dollars… Marvelous thing regarding this is the fact I have more time for my family members. See, what it’s all about… https://stnr.me/SfIXMe

  • I Love Libertarians

    Libertarians are the creators and champions of the concept of the union and worker co-op, and so are against far left-regulated union monopolies as we see today that impoverish the worker. While Huebert has written on Libertarianism, there is no evidence he is a formal libertarian and Libertarians see issues with the SCOTUS decision. He probably qualifies as a libertarian fan or user.

    The OP needs to get his facts straight.

  • I Love Libertarians

    Libertarians have led separation of democratic Somaliland from Somalia, and with local liberals are fighting the totalitarian socialist government there. So, no.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Right, there’s no evidence that Jacob Huebert is a libertarian lawyer, except for the fact that his Twitter bio says “libertarian lawyer.”
    https://twitter.com/jhhuebert

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