Is This Community Input?

This morning the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) approved a $1.25M lease of public land to Target for a Target Express on Sheridan near Devon, contingent on “community input.” Baloney.

This is a done deal and the way it’s been handled is particularly instructive for West Ridge residents because of the proposed new library-senior housing complex to be built at Western & Pratt. Nobody–not the aldermen, the developers, the CHA, the hidden interests that stand to benefit–has been straight with the residents of either ward. Worse, the game of “community input” obscures the fact that powerful people are running roughshod over the powerless. There’s no real input, and the game is over for the community before it even begins.

The Target development is in the 49th Ward. Public land is being taken from a senior housing building, The Caroline Hedger Apartments, In order to build the Target; above it, the CHA will build 111 multigenerational apartments (60% of them subsidized or affordable, the others market rate; the developer suggesting $2,000 for a two-bedroom unit). The property, to be called “The Concord at Sheridan” [beware of buildings with pretentious names], will include underground parking and commercial space. The land to be taken from the Hedger seniors is used for their garden and community room; the garden will be replaced by a rooftop of potted plants to be shared with the new building’s tenants, and a new community room will be built for them in the new building; it will be accessible by elevator; the existing room is at ground level.

Ald. Joe Moore held a community meeting on January 30 at which all interests (CHA, Target,  and Three Corners Development) except those of the Hedger residents were presented to the public. Community opposition was strong. More than 150 Hedger residents have signed a petition opposing the loss of their garden and community room; Moore later claimed in a written statement to the community that  “only about 20 residents” oppose his plans. The lease is for 99 years.

Residents pointed to the numerous vacant storefronts throughout Rogers Park as evidence that additional commercial space is not needed, and many worried about the Target’s effect on the neighborhood’s small businesses.  Neighbors noted that the extremely high rents being charged in existing buildings have led to high vacancy rates in the area surrounding the proposed development. The statement that a two-bedroom unit in the new building would cost $2,000 per month was met with derision. A building less than a block away, The Morgan [what did I just say about pretentious names?}, is said to be one-third empty because of its cost.

The comments on commercial space were especially interesting because the 49th Ward is getting yet another new apartment building at Morse & Wayne. The developer for that building refused to add commercial space on the ground that the existing market did not support the idea, and Moore agreed. When he announced that he approved the developer’s decision, Moore cited all the vacant storefronts in the various commercial areas in Rogers Park, and said that no new storefronts were needed. Since that announcement, Three Corners has built a residential-commercial building a block from Hedger on Devon; its storefronts are vacant, as are most of the apartments.

[Last week it was announced that the two-story Woodruff Arcade Building on the southeast corner of Devon and Sheridan would be razed; it will be replaced by a six-story building which may be a mixed-use development with additional apartments.]

[Moore has been alderman of the 49th Ward for 24 years, and  is chairman of the City Council’s real estate committee. Three Corners Development has contributed to Moore’s political fund.]

CHA today required additional community input on the new building; decided it would not approve the project until it sees the building’s final design; and also insisted that the community have input into that design. But Moore was clear at the January 30 meeting that aldermen have the final say on development in their wards. In other words, when an alderman decides what the community wants, that’s what it gets. “Community” in Chicago sometimes means a community of one.

What does all this have to do with the 50th Ward library-senior housing building?

Well, for one thing, nobody pushing for a new library expected it to be coupled with senior housing. This was one of the Mayor’s bright ideas, and the alderman appeared to be as surprised as the community to learn about it. There’s almost no CHA or affordable housing in West Ridge, and very little support for getting any. There’s also the matter of which seniors would move into the building–seniors on the CHA waiting list or neighborhood residents? What are the politics involved in that decision?

[A proposed 100-unit building in Jefferson Park (45th Ward) recently met with fierce opposition by homeowners; the idea of CHA housing was so contentious before the meeting that it was restricted to people whose IDs proved they lived in the neighborhood. Even statements by Ald. Arena that the apartments would go to people already living in the neighborhood, primarily veterans, didn’t help. This building’s concept changed between its announcement and the community meeting, a worrisome sign.]

The LEARN Coalition, which created the petition for the new library and was solely responsible for obtaining more than 2,000 signatures from West Ridge residents in support of a new library, was left out of the process. Even though it has repeatedly told the alderman that it stands ready to work with her and the community on this library-senior housing project, she has not been forthcoming.  Indeed, the alderman has yet to publicly thank the group by name for its work on the issue.

Then there’s the “no information” community meeting held last November, at which we were repeatedly told that “everything’s on the table” and “nothing has been decided.” The drawings and pictures provided to the community at that meeting were only “renderings” of what the building, the apartments, and the library “might” look like. The design competition that was to end December 23 was extended, then three unnamed firms were selected to design the proposed building.  A community meeting in January was abruptly cancelled due to a “scheduling conflict” (Moore’s meeting was held the night before). It has not been rescheduled.

The alderman has consistently failed to update the community on the progress of the proposal via her weekly newsletter. In other words, the community will know nothing until presented with the final choices selected by the alderman and CHA. How can the community offer input if the design is already in place, the uses determined, and space for various activities already allocated?

Given the way the powers that be run things in the 50th Ward, the community had better start calling and writing Ald. Silverstein and telling her this way of doing the people’s business isn’t acceptable.  The building belongs to the community of West Ridge, and residents want to know what’s going on at every stage.

We have a right to be kept informed. She has a duty to see that we are.

 

West Rogers Park Community Watch

The kick-off meeting for the new West Rogers Park Community Watch program is scheduled for Tuesday, February 21, at 7:00 p.m. at Indian Boundary Park. Jacket information will also be available at this meeting. Please alert your neighbors to this opportunity to help our police keep our neighborhood safe.

desktopwrp-community-watch-flyer

 

CAPS neighborhood Watch Program – Part II

Please read the excellent comment to my Wednesday post on this topic. Reader Dan Miller provides an excellent report on an organized protest that disrupted the second half of Monday’s Neighborhood Watch meeting.

I don’t understand protests like this. CAPS called an open meeting, inviting all members of the community to attend and learn about the program. The alderman included the meeting notice in her newsletter. And the community responded: A diverse group of residents showed up. It’s true that the majority appeared to be white, but this was not by design or intent. Neither the neighbors nor CAPS can be held accountable for the failure of other ethnicities to appear in larger numbers.

It would be hard not have a white majority at a community meeting in the 50th Ward. According to the U.S. Census, 62% of Zip Code 60645 is white; Latinos are 17% of this Zip’s population, with black residents just under 15%, and Asians 5.5%; 14% of this area is foreign-born. The numbers for Zip Code 60659 are almost identical. There could be lots of reasons for nonattendance: work, family responsibilities, inability to understand English–as well as simply being unaware of the meeting because of any of the above.

Since the protest appeared to be planned, I suspect it would have gone ahead regardless of which groups were easily identifiable in the audience. There was a similar protest down Devon Avenue late on either Saturday or Sunday afternoon, with loud music and complaints about racism and xenophobia on the handout protestors were distributing. The protest lasted about 20 minutes. Sometimes these protests are more about getting noticed, i.e., about the protestors themselves, rather than anything else. I doubt if we’ve seen the last of them, though.

Many years ago I took part in a similar community watch program in Rogers Park, called Walk Under the Stars. If anyone at that time felt spied on, I never heard about it. If anyone felt that neighbors working with the police to stop criminal activity was a bad thing, they never said so at any community meeting I attended. If anyone now wants to protest such activities by putting put a sign in her window that reads “We DON’T call police,” she’s welcome to do so.

She can call 911 after a crime occurs, rather than blasting Neighborhood Watch for trying to prevent it.

Sheesh.

 

CAPS Neighborhood Watch Program

An overflow crowd attended Monday’s meeting on the new CAPS Neighborhood Watch Program. CAPS Sgt. Shawn Sisk explained the program to attentive, focused residents, stressing that Neighborhood Watch will work only if its volunteers become strong partners with local police officers and the 50th Ward aldermanic office. To do that, volunteers will need the commitment, positive energy, optimism, cooperative attitude, and time necessary to make the program successful.

Sgt. Shawn Sisk of the 24th District CAPS Office at the February 6, 2017, Neighborhood Watch Program organizational meeting.

Sgt. Shawn Sisk of the 24th District CAPS Office at the February 6, 2017, West Ridge Neighborhood Watch Program organizational meeting.

Volunteers will help to identify questionable activities and situations that put residents and property at risk by walking or riding bikes in teams throughout the neighborhood, noting but not acting on potential problems and issues that are properly dealt with by the police or the ward office. Witnessing a crime in progress, for example, warrants a call to 911, whereas noticing piles of garbage that could house rats would mean a 311 report or call to the ward office.

Sisk also made it clear that volunteers, who must be age 21 or older, would not have any police authority and must not represent themselves as cops. Volunteers themselves must obey the law and may not carry weapons, even if they have concealed carry permits. Volunteers may not use police scanners, take photos or videos, or chase after wrongdoers. They may walk or ride bikes, but vehicles are not permitted. They can bring their dogs along, although the kids are better left at home. Any member of the community is welcome to join the Neighborhood Watch, which does not practice or tolerate any form of discrimination.

Each volunteer will wear a bright yellow jacket emblazoned with the Neighborhood Watch emblem. Jackets will be paid for by the police and the ward office, not the volunteers. Sgt. Sisk is wearing the jacket in the photo above.

I had to leave early so I missed the discussions and audience Q&A led by the beat facilitators representing Beats 2411, 2412, and 2413. For more information or to become part of the Neighborhood Watch, please contact the CAPS office or your Beat Facilitator:

24th District Community Policing Office: 312/744-6321 or caps24.org

Beat 2411 (Kedzie to Ridge, Pratt to Howard)
Beat Faclitator Richard Concaildi – richconcaildi@aol.com

Beat 2412 (Kedzie to Ridge, Pratt to Devon)
Beat Faclitator Avy Meyers- avy@ureach.com

Beat 2413 (Kedzie to Ridge, Devon to Peterson)
Beat Facilitator: beat2413@caps24.org

 

 

 

 

Edgewater Village

Do you know about the World Health Organization’s attempt to ensure a safe, healthy, active aging process for adults aged 60 and over? Do you know that Chicago is a part of this movement?

In the summer of 2012 Mayor Emanuel registered Chicago in WHO’s Age-Friendly Cities organization, and the City conducted a survey of older adults to assess their needs and desires. The vision for Chicago includes a senior village in every ward. However, the organization in formation on the north side currently includes residents of four wards (40, 48, 49, and 50). Though now known as Edgewater Village, it has been suggested the name be changed to be more inclusive; discussions are ongoing.

The Village is being set up and run by older adults (senior citizens, if you will, I personally dislike the term) who meet monthly to plan an organization that meets their needs and includes their interests.

Edgewater Village is concentrating on encouraging north side residents to engage with one another socially, and its Programming Committee is actively seeking members and ideas to accomplish this goal. Other committees in formation include Communications, Employment, Finance, Housing, Social Services, and Volunteers.

Edgewater Village is not an advocacy organization and has no political aims or affiliations.

The next general meeting will be held on February 22 at 1:00 p.m. The group meets at the Broadway Armory, 5917 North Broadway (at Thorndale). Meetings last about two hours.

Worth reading:
A short summary of WHO’s guidebook for age-friendly communities
The guidebook itself
The Executive Summary of Chicago’s survey
Chicago’s final report and program recommendations

The New Year Begins

50th Ward Follies observed its second anniversary on December 31, 2016. Regular readers know that Follies was created to chronicle the 2015 aldermanic race.  I’ll be writing about the preparations for next year’s aldermanic campaign, which has already begun. If you saw the alderman’s final newsletter for 2016, you know what I mean.

This year Follies will be reporting more on the way the ward’s business is conducted, something that might be a tad easier than it’s been in the past, since City law now requires the alderman to stop using her private e-mail account and conduct ward business on the taxpayer-funded account provided to her by the City. It’s important because her private account was not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, while her City account is.

I’ll also be spending more time on news that’s omitted from the alderman’s weekly newsletter, such as the doings of the SSA that controls Devon Avenue, zoning matters, and news you can use, such as business openings and closings and matters like where the bus stops have been moved and whether or not the bus stop signs are in place–cops can’t ticket drivers parked in bus stops if there’s no sign present. You’d think that with all the free parking on Devon—there are no parking meters from Maplewood to Talman—there’d be no need to use clearly-marked bus stops as well. You’d be wrong.

I’ll also be tracking the alderman’s votes at City Council meetings.

Educating residents about the participatory budgeting process will be an important focus in 2017. See peopleofwestridge.org for more information.

I’ll be discussing the plan to make Devon Avenue even more tourist-oriented, in my opinion to the detriment of the wider community, and examining some of the important demographic changes that are sure to impact next year’s aldermanic race.

The alderman’s failure to address economic development over her six years in office is another topic that needs to be addressed, especially since she’s “hoping” the new library will spur development on Western Avenue, rather than working with the community to develop a sound economic plan. The library’s been scheduled to arrive just in time for the election. No connection between the two, of course.

By the way: The design competition for the new library-senior housing building started at the end of November, and designs were due on December 23. The promised community input? Shouldn’t that have come before the designs were requested? Does that suggest the community’s input isn’t all that important–or wanted? Personally, I’m still waiting for the alderman to publicly thank the LEARN Coalition by name for its hard work in putting together the petition-that-couldn’t-be-ignored.

Should be an interesting year.

Hindi Temple on Devon: A Secret Deal, A Bad Location

Local news media reported over the weekend that Ald. Debra Silverstein and “the community” had approved construction of a Hindu temple on Devon Avenue.

It was a lie.

Silverstein has clearly been taking lessons in arrogance from her mentor the Mayor, issuing major announcements as the weekend starts so that whatever she’s up to becomes old news by Monday morning, thus lessening pushback from a ward used to being told what it wants by Silverstein and the special interests she pacifies and controls to keep herself in power.

Displaying the lack of honesty and integrity that are the hallmark of her second term in office, Silverstein hoodwinked the press with yet another of her secret pacts, appearing before the cameras to announce yet another done deal before the community knew anything about it or had the time to clarify and verify the “facts” presented by the alderman and her supporters. The so-called “community meeting” was devoid of community input except from those who would profit from the temple, absent any concern for its impact on nearby residents, and already set for approval by a complacent Zoning Board of Appeals whose members understand that their job is to rubber-stamp whatever the powerful want.

And the players here are powerful.

There’s the alderman, a woman whose sole goal is to keep herself in power. Every action she takes reveals her basic contempt for the democratic process and the constituents she is supposed to represent. As noted last week, she was present at another “community meeting” that no one knew about, and that meeting assessed certain property owners an extra 1.5% in taxes to support the businesses of the same people backing the Hindu temple.  Her energies are devoted to ensuring outcomes that benefit special interests. The deceits employed in support of the temple proposal included inviting to the “community meeting” only people whose support was already guaranteed, and pretending that the dozen alleged community members present at the “community” meeting represent  our neighborhood of 73,000 souls, most of whom had no idea  that such a venture had been proposed. But that’s Silverstein:  The decision’s been made, the ZBA has its marching orders. Too bad for the community.

Then there are the business interests behind this project. The primary reason for building this temple is commercial rather than spiritual. The Ganesh Temple of Chicago, located at 2545 West Devon in the one-story building that used to house the Republic National Bank, is owned by the Shewakramani family, which owns several businesses on Devon, including Regal Jewels and Sari Sapne, as well as several buildings along the street. One Shewakramani family member said of the temple that it was expected to help struggling businesses on Devon by drawing tourists and outsiders who’ll want to see the beautiful building. Exactly. It’s meant to be a tourist attraction.

Other families with multiple businesses on the street also stand to profit from the temple’s presence.

Rushing this project (building is set to start in Spring) without real community input and impact studies is insulting to residents, who have been entirely shut out of the process. Again. What exactly are the alderman and the temple’s proponents afraid of? Is it that impact studies would reveal what a bad idea a temple is in this location? And it is a bad idea: it would increase traffic, fail to provide adequate parking, remove yet another commercial building from the property tax rolls, and impose serious environmental damage on both residential and commercial buildings in the area.  It won’t do much for the quality of life of nearby residents, either. The temple’s owners don’t care about any of that. Neither does Silverstein. There will be no discussion.

There’s also the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), whose current five-member Board is appointed by the Mayor and owes allegiance to political sponsors with a vested interest in keeping the City’s power structure happy and intact. Silverstein is one of Emanuel’s most reliable votes, so the ZBA will approve this temple because she wants it. There will be no impact studies because uncomfortable questions might be raised and it’s not the ZBA’s purpose to consider zoning changes in the context of anything except what Silverstein wants. The ZBA is there to help Debra win the 2019 election, and the temple is but one step in her campaign.

Just for fun, let’s consider the temple’s impact on parking and traffic. It doesn’t make a difference what we think, anyway, since the alderman and the Shewakramani family have already made their deal.

The temple’s proponents claim that only about 150 people per day (1,050 per week) will use the temple, although they did not offer specific on how they know this. They estimate that one-third of worshippers will walk to the temple, while the remaining 100 users will share a dozen parking spaces behind the temple and 30 reserved spaces in the Rockwell Street parking garage. Temple proponents did not say how many of the 12 spaces would be reserved for temple staff. Let’s assume that seven of the spaces behind the building will be for worshippers, plus the 30 spaces at the Rockwell garage. That still leaves 63 vehicles per day (or 441 per week) without parking. Where will they go? Their drivers won’t pay for parking, that’s for sure, so they’ll park on residential streets or in crosswalks or bus stops, as they do now. Silverstein and the temple owners don’t care. And if lots of tourists come? Good for business. Never mind the residents. Imagine another 100 vehicles per day on Devon.

The impact on traffic will also be ignored. The streetscape has so narrowed Devon that traffic jams are worse than ever, sending vehicles into the east-west alleys, especially during rush hours. Because of the indifference Indian shoppers display toward neighborhood residents and bus riders, it is common for traffic to be held up because shoppers are parked in bus stops and bus passengers—including those in wheelchairs and the elderly struggling with canes and walkers– must board and exit buses in the middle of the street. Shoppers also double-park to load their vehicles and don’t care who’s inconvenienced or how long the street is blocked. The last thing residents living close to Devon need is for an additional 100 vehicles to be clogging the streets and alleys looking for free parking.

Unlike the community at large, the attorney for the temple was invited to the announcement and said of West Ridge, “This is one of the great neighborhoods in Chicago in that it is probably one of the most multi-cultural neighborhoods that we have in the city, and we want to make sure everyone in the community is represented.”

You’d think she and her clients would know that the sham of a meeting they held as well as the exclusionary retailing they practice pretty much exclude “everyone.”  Oops! Of course they know. They don’t care any more than the alderman does.

As most residents are aware, but outsiders to the community are not, Devon used to be the main business artery of a thriving, multiethnic community, but the retailing takeover from Western to California by Indian merchants has left 80% of the neighborhood with no reason to shop there. Except for its many small groceries and large supermarkets, Devon offers only Indian goods for Indian customers (and tourists) and has caused the neighborhood to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in retail sales annually as residents buy clothing, shoes, toys, household, and other items in other neighborhoods.

The temple is merely the latest in a series of gimmicks designed to bring business to Devon Avenue. As a business draw, it, too, will fail. The business model is not sustainable. There simply aren’t enough Indian customers in the area–Indians are barely 20% of the ward–to support the overabundance of Indian businesses, and tourists have too many other choices –beautiful modern malls and suburban shopping areas—to come to Devon. Years ago, it was the place to shop for everything Indian, but that was before the Internet, before the Indian community began to disperse to the suburbs, and before other Indian shopping areas were developed. Market saturation has killed the available market.

It’s pointless to try to explain to the Indian business owners that what would revitalize Devon is a variety of stores and restaurants reflecting the neighborhood’s many ethnicities, which, taken together, vastly outnumber the Indian population. They don’t want to hear it. They want the eight blocks from Western west to California exclusively for themselves and are prepared to turn the neighborhood into a freak show if it will bring in tourists. Look—a woman in a burka! Over there—an African woman in a turban! That man’s wearing a sarong! There’ s a sign for camel milk –I gotta get a picture!

I saw lots of people take pictures in front of the camel milk sign, but I never saw any one of those people actually shopping. Unless you’re in the market for suitcases, saris, cell phones, or cucumbers, there’s nothing to buy.  Tourists may look at the gold jewelry and high-end bridal finery, but it’s too ethno-specific for the wider market. They may photograph it, but they don’t buy it.

One family member who acted as spokesperson for the temple said that ”… something [is] missing in this community that really needs to bring people together.” Well, yes. People who shop together get to know one another, become friends, and build community. Their money remains in and flows throughout the neighborhood in what’s known as the “multiplier.” What that means is that some of the money spent on goods and services is paid to business employees who spend some of their income on lunches, goods, and services from other neighborhood stores, thus creating profits and jobs in the community. It’s a simple economic truth: the longer a dollar stays in the neighborhood, the more economic good it does.

But the Indian way of doing business drains the community’s wealth. There’s the fact that more than 50% of all businesses on Devon have fewer than 2 employees, and most of those have only one; there’s the fact that many of these family businesses do not put spouses, sons and daughters, or cousins on the payroll when they watch the store for a few hours a few times a week, thus costing the City, State, and Federal governments payroll and income taxes. Some businesses appear to be little more than tax dodges, rarely open for business, apparently meant to offset income from other jobs and investments. Many businesses are unlicensed. Few are profitable, turnover is high, and business failure rampant.

Indian businesses were welcomed as part of the neighborhood when the first Indian store opened more than forty years ago, but Indian business interests did not want merely to be represented in the mix of ethnicities that is West Ridge. They wanted the whole street and drove out all non-Indian businesses from Western to California. Further, Indian business interests now own most of the buildings in that area. I’ve always found it interesting that storefronts and buildings remain vacant for months—even years—until Indian businesses move in. If some other ethnic group owned all the properties in a given area, and no Indian business ever opened, you can bet the issue of ethnic bias or preference or outright discrimination would be raised. Why isn’t that the case here? The situation is ripe for investigation.

There are plenty of reasons not to rush this temple project. Business development cannot proceed in isolation from residential concerns. An alderman sensitive to her constituents would understand this. Not Silverstein. She understands power and how to use it to benefit other powerful people.

At the private announcement, Silverstein boasted about her “pride” in Devon’s “diversity.” That’s the same word employed by the Shewakramani family and its lawyer.

Ah, diversity. That’s why all of Devon—not to mention the entire neighborhood—has come to be known as Little India.

Try this: tell someone you’re from West Ridge. After they ask, “New Jersey?” tell them you mean West Rogers Park. Count how many people ask some variation of “Isn’t that Little India?”

So what does it all mean?

Powerful business interests will be permitted to remove a commercial building from the property tax rolls and replace it with a tourist attraction masquerading as a religious institution. This will force residents to pay more when the next property tax increase rolls around. And it’s coming sooner than many think: Rahm’s been busy on secret projects, too.

No other site will be considered for the temple because its purpose is to attract customers to Devon’s businesses.

The alderman orchestrated a fraudulent “community meeting” to legitimize a deal reached in secrecy with special interests. She’s done this before. She’s good at spin and knows how to get her message to the media before the whole picture emerges and the other side can be heard.

So far, she’s shut the community out of discussions on the new library and held a sham community meeting at which generic “renderings” of possible rooms were presented and every question was answered with “that’s still on the table” or some variant thereof. Despite her promises that the community will have input, the RFP for the new building was released at close of business on December 9. All proposals are due by 11 a.m. December 23. Silverstein hasn’t announced that yet. Don’t wait for her to do so. It’s a secret.

There’s lots of interest in the old library site, but the alderman has nothing to say yet. It’s a City building, and could be used for a long-awaited cultural arts center for West Ridge. You can bet plans are already being formulated by Silverstein and the right power interests. You can expect that those interests will not include input from the community at large.

The bogus park with no playground. The library-senior citizen complex on the fast-track for completion in 18 months, right in time for municipal elections. The gift of a Hindi temple, consequences be damned.

A little something for everybody.

The 2019 aldermanic campaign has begun.

SSA #43 Tax Levy — and a Two-Minute Meeting

SSA #43, the Special Services Area taxing district that adds an extra 1.5% property tax levy to real estate on Devon from Kedzie to Damen and on Western from Granville to Arthur, received City Council approval for its 2017 levy on November 15, 2016.

By law, there was to be a public meeting about the increase before the budget was approved, but I was unable to uncover any evidence of either the notice or the meeting so I e-mailed the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce for the meeting date and the name of the paper(s) where the notice was published. I have yet to receive a response, the Chamber no doubt busy planning its next business-building children’s event.

However, on Monday, November 28, Chamber personnel posted the “Minutes” of a purported “Community Meeting Regarding the Budget Levy Increase” allegedly held on October 27.  According to these “Minutes,” “Meeting was called to order at 6:10 p.m. No community members attended and no questions were presented. Meeting was adjourned at 6:12 p.m.”  The alderman is listed as present.

Interestingly, the Minutes of the SSA’s October 27 regular meeting were also posted on November 28. That meeting was also “called to order at 6:10 p.m.” but not adjourned until 6:56 p.m. So it appear that the two meetings were held simultaneously. I’m sure this will be corrected. The devil is always in the details.

Still no word on where the legally-required notices for the legally-required meeting  were published. This sure seems like  yet another example of the contempt the powers-that-be have for neighborhood residents and the concept of transparency in government.

The meeting was also attended by Mike Parella, who was otherwise unidentified and whose presence was unexplained.There is a Project Coordinator with the City’s Department of Planning & Development by the same name. Maybe he was there to witness the neighborhood’s indifference to the alderman’s way of doing business. Maybe the lack of community presence was taken as confidence in her vision.  Or maybe the dismal state of the neighborhood’s main shopping district has been noticed by City honchos who are finally helping the alderman with her six-years-in-the-making-and-yet-to-be-released “spirited economic development plan.” Let’s hope so. Residents have been unable to connect with her on the issue.

The SSA’s budget is stated in the ordinance (SO2016-7364), which can be found by searching the City Clerk’s Web site. It’s a lengthy document, and contains two separate applications and budgets, one for the Chamber and the other for the new “sole service provider,” the Rogers Park Business Alliance. The ordinance was amended to make the Business Alliance rather than the Chamber the service provider.

Note how the monies are budgeted.

Most of it (more than $270,000) goes to “Public Way Aesthetics,” the primary job apparently being cleaning-up after the litterers, spitters, and food-tossers who shop on Devon and don’t care about dirtying the neighborhood.

Rice Computer Services is to be paid $4,000 for repair and maintenance of the Big Belly trashcans.

“Customer attraction” is budgeted at $54,000; less than half that sum ($25,000) is earmarked for “Safety Programs,” and only $12,000 will be invested in business development. Mixed-up priorities?

“Sustainability and Public Places” gets $8,000. Perhaps that will result in an investment in signage, such as “No Spitting” or “No Parking in Bus Lanes” or “Parking in Crosswalks Prohibited.”  Perhaps the presence of uniformed police or Revenue Department personnel writing tickets would also be effective deterrents.

No 50th Ward businesses landed service contracts. Instead, two of the six subcontractors listed by the Business Alliance are from outside Chicago, and one is in Maryland. Three are from other neighborhoods. Why hire a $16,000 accountant from Skokie when there are many accountants in the Ward? No local businesses can make street banners (to be provided by a company in Blue Island at a cost of $10,000) or provide landscaping and holiday decorations ($25,000 to a business in Rockville, Maryland)?

Of course, there has to be a consultant, paid $30,000; at least the business is in the City, as is the $20,000 snow shoveler and the $4,000 auditor; the latter is located in Edgewater.

All fees are estimated.

Stealth taxes. Secret, two-minute meetings. Services from vendors outside the Ward.

The Silverstein way.

 

Resident Service Fair To Be Held in West Ridge

West Ridge will be hosting one of three 2017 Resident Service Fairs sponsored by the City of Chicago. The event is scheduled for January 26, 2017, at West Ridge Elementary School, 6700 North Whipple, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. It is the only Fair scheduled for the Far North Side.

The 2016-17 Fairs include four workshops:

  • Introduction to the Home Buying Process and Home Buyer Assistance Program
  • Jump Starting Your Job Search
  • Community Policing
  • Mentoring Opportunities

These Fairs are a great way for the City to showcase how it uses taxpayer dollars. I attended one of last Spring’s Resident Fairs and found lots of information available about City programs for residents of all ages and incomes. City employees were available to discuss concerns and answer questions, and their follow-up was excellent

As you can see from the flyer (link above), the schedule includes a December 3, 2016, Fair at Orr High School, 730 North Pulaski Road, as well as two Fairs scheduled for the South Side. One other event has already been held.