PB Petition Off the Ballot

The petition for an advisory referendum to bring participatory budgeting to the 50th Ward did not get the required number of signatures to appear on November’s ballot. The Chicago Board of Elections officially ruled the petition off the ballot yesterday.

We will therefore launch a new petition drive in Spring 2017 to ensure that we make the ballot for the 2019 municipal elections.

The alderman’s claims of neutrality on this issue proved false. A ward resident who was clearly acting as aldermanic surrogate challenged the petition; he was represented by the same lawyer who represented the  objectors to Silverstein’s opponents’ signatures in last year’s aldermanic elections. She doesn’t  fool anybody with these shenanigans, but at least it will cost her some money.

We obtained 466 signatures, about 52% of the total we needed (893). The Electoral Board itself would have disqualified the petition for that reason. But the alderman wanted to be sure the petition would die, so two objections were raised: (1) We did not obtain enough signatures; and (2) “in the alternative,” the petition’s question could not be understood because it was ungrammatical and too long. The “alternative” objection–in case the Board was inclined to break its own rules and allow us on the ballot–was just insurance and easily dismissed. But this is what some politicians pay lawyers to do to keep the citizenry from having an ongoing voice in government.

So much that is positive emerged from this petition drive that I hardly know where to begin the good news:

  • A committed core of volunteers coalesced around this issue and is ready to resume work on next year’s campaign
  • The CBOE, by accepting Silverstein’s lawyer’s argument, has made our task easier–it’s clear now that we need 8% of voters in the ward, not in each precinct
  • In just four short weeks, volunteer petition circulators did a tremendous job, pulling in almost 125 signatures per week–working part-time during a hot and humid Chicago summer for a cause in which they believe
  • We now know firsthand how the process works–as well as how it can be stopped
  • PB is an issue that won’t go away, and neither will the activist citizens who are working on this and many other issues throughout the 50th Ward
  • If the alderman continues to refuse to introduce PB to the ward, it will be a major campaign issue in the 2019 aldermanic race

The PB Steering Committee thanks everyone who supported the drive to bring participatory budgeting to our ward.  Special appreciation goes to our organizers and petition circulators. And to those who signed–fully understanding the issue and the question as stated on the petition–thank you!

The alderman apparently thinks her constituents are too stupid to understand what they’re doing in asking for a say in spending the menu money. Rumors were spread in the immigrant community, for example, that the petition was an attack on the alderman. If you’ve lived under a repressive government, you don’t want to do anything to call attention to yourself, so this kind of whispering campaign works–once. Among another group of residents, a refusal to sign was often accompanied by the statement that we shouldn’t take “her” money away, but pressure her to spend it differently. Her money?

Residents of the 50th Ward are mobilizing around a host of issues that they understand and care about. PB is just one of them.

Silverstein can get on board, or be left behind. But she can’t stop the train.

Is It Time to Revive the Taste of the 50th?

I got to thinking about a reader comment on my August 12 post about FunFest volunteers.  Robin wrote to ask why the event organizers didn’t use Warren Park, and referenced the Taste of the 50th. Long-time residents and regulars at former area businesses will remember the Taste, an event organized by Ald. Bernie Stone. Modeled after Taste of Chicago, Taste of the 50th featured food from local restaurants and was held at Warren Park. It attracted both neighborhood residents and visitors from across the City and the suburbs.

Maybe neighborhood groups and local residents could invite the alderman to a meeting to discuss reviving the Taste of the 50th in time for Labor Day 2017.  I think the idea just might generate some excitement and enthusiasm. Successful community events have to be developed and organized with input from as many sources as possible, and would profit from new ideas generated by individuals, block clubs, social media groups, community organizations, LSCs, parish councils, religious or ethnic associations, book clubs, etc. It’s a real opportunity for community-building and getting to know one’s neighbors.

It’s been so long since the last Taste of the 50th that the entire event could be reinvented. Should it run for one day or a full weekend?  Could or should it be combined with a mini–carnival? Or a farmers’ market? Or would it be better as a food event only? Where should it be held? We have several large parks in the Ward–would multiple venues be a good idea? What about activities for kids? I’ve noticed that in many other neighborhoods events are family-oriented during the day and afternoon hours, with nighttime hours reserved more for adults. Would this be a good idea for the 50th?

Let’s work together to plan a Taste of the 50th for 2017!

 

FunFest in Need of Volunteers

I hear that FunFest, sponsored by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, the Silversteins, SSA #43, and a few businesses and community organizations, needs volunteers who can help support the event, scheduled for the Republic Bank parking lot on August 28.

This is the same crowd that made such a mess of the Devon Community Market. They never learn from their mistakes. The neighborhood has never shown any support for non-events like this, so organizers have combined it with a sidewalk sale. If you need suitcases, phone cards, hookahs, cheap trinkets, or fruits and vegetables, this sale’s for you. If you’re looking for the “international shopping” the promoters are claiming, go somewhere else. Buying cucumbers and lottery tickets from vendors from different cultures does not quality as international shopping, but getting the powers-that-be to understand this is impossible.

There’s no better example of the poor thinking and lack of imagination of this event’s organizers than in the decision to once again use the Republic Bank parking lot as an illegal entertainment venue. Let’s set aside for a moment the blatant disregard for nearby residents or the arrogance on display in ignoring both the law and common decency. After all, the Silversteins’ co-sponsorship makes the law what they say it is; the fact that they and their neighbors wouldn’t tolerate this disrespect for a second just adds insult to injury.

Instead, let’s look at this from a practical standpoint: using this lot for entertainment prevents it from being used for parking. This is so typical of the way this group thinks–plan an event to attract hundreds of shoppers, then close the second-largest parking facility in the area so it can be used for face-painting. The sheer stupidity of it is mind-boggling.

If you’d like to volunteer, please contact the Chamber. It needs all the help it can get.

 

 

 

North Side Meeting on Police Reform

I attended last night’s listening tour on the proposed reforms for  the Chicago Police Department. Chaired by Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who heads the City Council Subcommittee, the meeting was also attended by three other north side aldermen: Tom Tunney (44th), James Cappelman (46th), and Harry Osterman (48th), as well as Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd).

The aldermen and the police in attendance were respectful toward those members of the crowd who chose to address them, although the comments were overwhelmingly negative and some bordered on the irrational. The majority of the crowd seemed to support the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), which would put the entire Chicago Police Department under the control of an elected civilian board representing each police district in the City.

An excellent overview of the meeting can be found in today’s DNA Info.

I think the hearing was dominated by anti-police activists who hold the entire police force accountable for the actions of a few officers. Worse, they blame the Chicago Police Department for all the social ills that afflict our communities. Complaints aired at the meeting and aimed at the police included anger about TIFs, the closing of mental health facilities and public schools, and the lack of trust in Rahm Emanuel.

Some speakers advocated cutting the number of police so that funding would be available for mental health facilities and CPS, one person saying that “[having] too many police officers [drains] money from schools.” A teacher, who was angry that the police account for 40% of the City budget, said the only way to stop police corruption was to stop funding the Department. Another speaker demanded that individual officers carry liability insurance, and said that any officer whose body cam wasn’t on should be immediately fired. No hearing, no excuses like faulty equipment, and clearly no constitutional rights for police officers.

Moving testimony came from Mark Clements, a John Burge torture victim who was freed from prison after serving 28 years of a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. He raised one of the most important questions of the night, asking why no one in CPD thought to call the Department of Children & Family Services when children under age 17 were being interrogated. There was undeniable pain in his voice when he said that his youth had been stolen, and asked how he could get it back.

Some of those with the harshest comments also claimed to be police torture victims, without giving specifics. One woman claimed the St. Louis police department colluded with the Chicago police to torture her by repeatedly ticketing her truck. A young man complained about police stings aimed at men soliciting prostitutes, terming it  “harassment” of sex workers and claiming it served no purpose

One particularly angry woman (Morgan of the DNA report) shouted that “…cops and anyone who stands with them should just wear a sheet,” noting that “it’s all black and white to me” and “I will be policing you, ok?” before giving the cops the finger. If this is an example of her behavior with cops in general, it’s not surprising that she’s as unable to see them as human beings as she claims they are to see her.

Others alluded to the fact that 702 people have been shot by the police in Chicago in the past 15 years, and 215 of them have died. Yet police shootings account for less than 5% of all shootings in Chicago in those years, while the vast majority of the dead have been killed in senseless street violence.

A few years ago my husband and I were driving through Morton Grove. He was a Mexican Indian, very dark-skinned, while I’m very fair. He suddenly tensed, and pointed to a police car that had moved parallel to us; the officer was obviously checking the license plate number. I didn’t understand. He said, “He can’t imagine a Mexican with a nice van like this, and thinks you’ve been carjacked.” I replied that the officer was just doing his job; how, I asked him, would you feel if it were true? The license plate checked out, and the officer waved as he drove off. To me, the wave meant, just doing my job. To my husband, it said, you got away this time. We were never able to reconcile our differing reactions.

I thought about that a lot last night. I have no answers.

 

 

NIMBY – And I Don’t Care WHO Says It’s OK

Yesterday the Republic Bank on Devon held its first recycling event. Bank Manager Robert Taylor described it as “something nice for the neighborhood,” but that depends on where you live and how you spend your Sunday mornings. In my opinion, waking up to recycling trucks is not the best way to start the day, especially when the trucks are located directly alongside residential housing. It’s yet another example of the Bank’s utter disregard for its closest neighbors. The fact that Taylor is this year’s president of the Chamber of Commerce only makes it worse.

Devon Bank holds these recycling events several times a year in its parking lot on Western. It, too, has residential housing directly across the alley, but Devon Bank’s executives take care to locate the noisy trucks closer to Western than to housing, leaving plenty of room for vehicles to move in and out. Devon Bank’s courtesy toward its neighbors is not shared by Republic Bank.

When I asked Taylor why the trucks were located at the north end of the Republic lot—closest to housing—he replied, “I didn’t think it would be a problem.”  Really??When I asked if he’d stand for having these trucks alongside his home, he raised his arm and pointed to his watch. “It’s 9 ‘clock,” he said, and then added “Is there anything we can do to please you?” This was a reference to my past complaints about the number of noisy events held in what neighbors were assured was “just a parking lot” when it was built in 2012.

The Bank miscalculated when it built the lot, tearing down that part of its building that housed rent-paying tenants, like medical, accounting, and real estate offices while hoping to cash in on the street scape. Grateful shoppers show their resentment at paying for parking by cheating the Bank in every possible way, including breaking the gates so they don’t have to pay. Transforming the space into an unlicensed play lot won’t save it.

It’s been home to the Devon Community Market, with its live and canned music blasting from huge speakers, and several live concerts sponsored by the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA).  There is only one properly-licensed venue on Devon for this kind of event, but the Chamber and the other groups won’t use it. Instead, all of these events have been staged without proper permits or licensing directly across the alley from residences.

I realize that the Bank would like to increase its presence in the community as a way to increase its business. Nothing wrong with that, but using its parking lot as an entertainment center while ignoring the laws that govern such things is simply wrong. It could choose to perform other services for the community, like sponsoring kid’s sports teams. It’s not going to increase business by annoying people.

The parking lot is not zoned for performances of any kind. This presupposes, of course, that one of the alderman’s patented stealth zoning changes has not already occurred. I am still searching the City’s zoning records to be certain, and so far have not found any changes. I can say with certainty that no warning of an impending zoning change has ever been issued to nearby residents, but this reflects only the standard lack of transparency about these things in this Ward and does not relate to whether any such changes are planned or pending.

Most of my neighbors have given up trying to be heard in the councils of power that decide how we all live with this lot. Others have made accommodations—they put up with the noise without complaint in exchange for some benefit that only the powers-that-be can grant. Some even believe that it’s better not to complain to avoid the retribution that so often accompanies standing up for one’s rights. Unfortunately, when enough people choose silence in the face of abuse by the powerful, the abuse gets worse.

No person or group that sponsored any musical or “special” event in the Republic Bank parking lot in the past three years has applied for the City’s Special Events Permit. That’s because City law requires sponsoring groups to submit a written plan in advance advising the City on the sponsor’s plans for bus reroutes, garbage disposal, general clean-up, street closures, food service, and other aspects of the event. Other applications and licenses may also be needed, depending on the event’s specific activities. These groups simply act as if they have all the authority they need. Many assert that the alderman is fully aware of their event and approves of it.

Why would anybody think the alderman can approve breaking the law? Or that her knowledge of an illegal event implies consent?

I attended a January workshop held by the City’s Licensing Department to learn what licensing is required to sponsor a public entertainment event. I learned that, BEFORE applying for the DCASE application, one must first ensure that the chosen venue is appropriately licensed by the City. Furthermore, aldermen may not interfere with the licensing process, in other words, they may not intervene in favor of an applicant nor waive the licensing requirements.

This is the biggest hurdle for sponsors and organizers: musical events can be staged only at venues that hold a Public Place of Amusement (PPA) license. The Bank parking lot doesn’t have one and cannot get one because such a venue requires a distance of at least 125 feet from residential housing. The only place on Devon with a PPA license is Bombay Hall, below street level at the site of the old Hillman’s. Not surprisingly, organizers want their events at street level, in hopes of attracting crowds. If this means trampling on residents’ rights, they don’t care.

These events tend to be staged at night and on weekends, when City offices regulating noise control and licensing are closed. Complainers are referred to the alderman, who isn’t available nights or weekends, although you can leave a message and she’ll get back to you when the event is over. This presents a problem for law enforcement, which cannot shut down these illegal events because (a) complainants are accused of racism; and (b) the event organizers claim they have the alderman’s permission. Any cop who even tried to stop one of these illegal events would no doubt find himself walking a beat in Englewood within the hour.

I talked with one man supervising the concert who told me that they didn’t have to apply for any permits because “…the City takes care of everything.” Howdoes it do that when it’s not aware the event is scheduled? Well, Washtenaw Avenue was suddenly closed in mid-afternoon, after the concert started, when drivers learned that the parking lot was closed to traffic. They were permitted to enter Washtenaw at Arthur, but did not learn they couldn’t exit until informed by  a sign hastily posted at the east-west alley,  Event organizers didn’t care.

These concerts, by the way, are set up beginning at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Huge tractor-trailers block our alley while barrels of supplies roll down metal ramps, men shout instructions at one another, tents are erected, the stage constructed, food tables and audience chairs are set up, speakers tested—all of this occurring ten feet from sleeping residents. Most of my neighbors are not about to tangle with a couple dozen arrogant, physically-powerful men hauling barrels and heavy equipment around a parking lot at that hour of the morning. Isn’t physical intimidation a form of bullying?

Neither this year’s Indian Independence Day concert nor the extensively-publicized FunFest sponsored by the alderman and West Ridge Chamber of Commerce—both scheduled over the next three weeks—have applied for any special use permits from the City. Neither has met the statutory requirement of notifying nearby neighbors 30 days before the event that it has been scheduled. Using FOIA, I asked the City’s Department of Special Events and Cultural Affairs (DCASE) for copies of any and all applications for special use permits for events to be held in the Republic Bank Parking Lot. As of August 5, none have been located.

FunFest is an especially interesting case study of what’s wrong with the Chamber of Commerce and its approach to economic development. And it’s yet another event that lacks the proper permits yet enjoys the alderman’s sponsorship.

It all begins with a little-known taxing district that is the subject of tomorrow’s post.

 

North Side Police Accountability Reform Meeting

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) has announced that the City Council’s North Side Police Accountability Subcommittee that he chairs is holding its only North Side meeting next Tuesday, August 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Senn High School, 5900 North Glenwood (at Thorndale).

To quote from Moore’s announcement:

“This is one of five public hearings to be held across the City of Chicago in August to gather public input regarding proposals to replace the Independent Police Review Authority with a new civilian investigative agency and create a Public Safety Auditor to audit the Police Department and investigate allegations of misconduct within the Department.  Both reforms were recommended by the Police Accountability Task Force. For a copy of  the task force report and a list of the Task Force’s recommendations, click here.”

“These community hearings follow a series of hearings held at City Hall and are intended to solicit input from community residents who are unable to attend daytime hearings at City Hall. I urge you to attend this hearing, as the input offered at this and the other four community hearings will inform the City Council’s decisions on the important goals of reforming the police accountability process and assuring the public that any instance of police misconduct will be thoroughly and independently investigated.”

“A separate engagement community engagement process, led by neighborhood-based community organizations, will soon be held on a proposal to establish a Community Safety Oversight Board. This is another reform recommended by the Police Accountability Task Force and would be designed to give community residents a role in overseeing law enforcement.”

The other hearings will be held at the following times and locations:

  • Thursday, August 11, 6:30 p.m., Little Village Lawndale High School, 3120 S. Kostner
  • Tuesday, August 16, 6:30 p.m., Westinghouse College Prep, 3223 W. Franklin
  • Monday, August 22, 6:30 p.m., North Grand High School, 4338 W. Wabansia

Moore notes that several North Side aldermen are expected to attend, including Ald. Harry Osterman (48th); the meeting is being held in Osterman’s ward. No word on whether Ald. Silverstein will be there. The event was not mentioned in her newsletter today, although she had room for three pictures of herself at Ward events. Her attendance is unlikely unless she cancels her property tax seminar scheduled for the same night for property owners North of Devon.

Sign the Petition(s) at National Night Out!

Tonight is National Night Out, an event designed to bring neighbors and police officers together to build community, fight crime, and have some fun. There will be events for the kids, prizes, food, and a chance to meet and get to know your neighbors..

Petitions in support of participatory budgeting will be available at three of the 50th Ward’s four events: at Green Briar, Indian Boundary, and Warren Parks. Some petition circulators will also have petitions in support of LEARN, the citizen initiative to build a new library in West Ridge.

Support your community and your police officers, sign the petitions, and enjoy a good night out with friends and family!

 

PB, the New Library, & More….

This week’s edition of dna info West Ridge gives prominence to the petition drive to bring participatory budgeting (PB) to the 50th Ward. Under the banner headline “Residents Want Say on 50th Ward Budget,” Linze Rice details our story. If you missed the print edition, you can read the story here.

PB is democracy in action, not an attack on the alderman, not an attempt to usurp her statutory authority, not a comment on her leadership. It is a positive action designed to involve residents in ward decision-making. It has been successful in eight other wards, where citizens chose a variety of projects to fund, from community gardens to street lighting to improved access to public buildings for the disabled. Yes, we need to have the potholes filled, and, as part of the PB process, residents can choose to continue to spend all or part of the Ward’s menu money doing just that.

But the community may choose other options. For example, to date there has been no funding available for a feasibility study for the new library that West Ridge so desperately needs. But the amount is so small in relation to the menu money–about $30,000–that it could easily be appropriated through the PB process–and we’d be one step closer to making that new library a reality!

Have you signed the petition yet? If not, there are still several ways to do so.

Contact us at Ladymurphy1@yahoo.com. We are working throughout the neighborhood, and chances are we have a petition circulator near you or a volunteer who can stop by a your convenience.

You can attend National Night Out on Tuesday, August 2. Petition circulators will attend the events at Green Briar and Warren Parks.

You can come to the Northtown Library this week. On Monday and Wednesday, we’ll be inside from 10 a.m. until Noon. On Tuesday and Thursday, we’ll be inside from Non until 2 p.m. We’ll be stationed at Computer #2 all four days (that’s the large-screen computer facing the Circulation Desk). On Saturday, August 6, we will be in the library’s meeting room between 9 a.m. and Noon. Sunday, August 7, is the last day to sign; please contact us via email, Ladymurphy1@yahoo.com to sign the petition then.

The signed and notarized petitions are due at the Chicago Board of Elections on Monday, August 8. After that, petition signatures can be challenged by PB opponents, and then we’ll have an opportunity to respond to those challenges.

We’ll keep you posted on what happens.

 

 

Two More Weeks!

We have two more weeks to achieve our goal!

Volunteers have been working hard to secure enough signatures to add our referendum to November’s ballot. These last two weeks are critical – remember, we need signatures from 8% of the registered voters in each precinct to qualify for the ballot.  All signed and notarized petitions are due at the Chicago Board of Elections on August 8.

Have we missed you? Are you ready to sign? Are you able to work a few hours to help with the final push? Can you knock on a few doors in your building or on your block? Would you be able to pick up a few signatures at worship services this weekend? Let us know by e-mailing Ladymurphy1@yahoo.com. We can get one or more petitions to you fast.

Petition circulators will be at the Northtown Library from 9-11 a.m. this Saturday, July 23, and at the Jewel on Howard this Sunday from 1-5 p.m. as well as in various precincts, so le us know if you’ll be home and ready to add your name to the petition.

Help make participatory budgeting a reality in the 50th Ward!

And thanks.