Selfish Drivers, Helpless Bus Riders

There were so many vehicles parked in the bus lane at Rockwell and Devon on Saturday afternoon that a CTA bus lacked enough room to safely approach the stop. When the driver finally pulled in, he found that all the curbside clutter left him with no place to lower a ramp so a passenger in a wheelchair could board, and had to ask that a line of shopping carts (parked curbside for the convenience of the illegal parkers) be removed so the ramp could be lowered for the passenger. The driver was disgusted and the passenger furious. It’s happened before to both of them, they said.

Drivers on Devon are known for their selfishness. They block bus stops. They park in crosswalks.  They cut in front of the bus (I’ve seen this–it’s scary.)

I’ve been on buses that let passengers on and off in the middle of Devon–seniors, including some with canes and walkers, women with strollers and toddlers trailing along–all getting off in the middle of the street because these arrogant shoppers have no respect for neighborhood residents. Many of the license plates and city stickers clearly show that the drivers are from out of state or the suburbs. Would they behave like this where they live?

Last week I was on the Devon bus when a van pulled in front of it into the bus stop, lights flashing; the woman who exited the vehicle indicated that she’d just be a minute in the store. Imagine! The bus, trapped between her vehicle and a construction cone on the street, could not move until the van did. And neither could any of the traffic behind the bus.

This stop needs larger signage, at eye level for drivers, making it clear that the bus lane runs west from the corner. The parking ban should be photo-enforced. If ever there was a place for a City surveillance camera, this is it. It needs to be made clear to shoppers that disrespect for bus passengers will not be tolerated.

Do we need a permanent police presence at Rockwell & Devon to ensure that bus passengers may safely access the bus and the sidewalk, and that drivers obey the law?

Or will we wait for a senseless tragedy that is entirely preventable?





Memorial Day

While researching my family tree, I discovered that family members have served in every one of our country’s wars except one–the Revolutionary War, and that’s because we weren’t here yet.

I learned that my Irish ancestors arrived in New York in time to fight for the Union in the Civil War. I located copies of the 1917 Army registrations for my grandfather and his brother; my great-uncle served during World War I.

My father and uncles were in the Army during World War II. My father’s brother served in the China-India-Burma theater, and was wounded and afflicted with malaria. He earned a Purple Heart.

One of my brothers served in the Air Force during the Vietnam Era.

Cousins served in the Coast Guard, and in the first Gulf War.

Freedom is precious, and I’m proud of my family members who fought to preserve it. Memorial Day is the time I remember those I knew, those I didn’t, and the men and women who fought and died alongside them to keep America strong and the world free.

A blessed Memorial Day to all.

Who Left This Mess?

This morning while walking the dog we found this mess at the trashcan on Devon and Washtenaw.Devon & Washtenaw, May 26. Looks like somebody cleaned out a car after the trash pick-up. It looks as if someone dumped this from a car, missed the can, and just drove away.

The can was empty, so the City crews had already removed the trash from inside the can. I’ve never seen a City crew fail to pick up a mess like this, so whoever dumped this did it after the City’s pick-up.

I went home for a plastic glove and my camera, and found that under the broken bags there was lots of open food, including soggy bread and fast-food fries. That we have such pigs either living her or driving through makes me furious.

No wonder we have rats.


Simpson Report on Chicago City Council

Former alderman Dick Simpson and his team at UIC’s Department of Political Science have released a new report on the more independent relationship between the City Council and the Mayor. Entitled “A More Active City Council, Chicago City Council Report #8, June 17, 2015 – April 13, 2016,” the report examines 32 divided Council votes during that timeframe.

Not surprisingly, 28% of the alderman supported the Mayor 90-100% of the time, with another nine supporting him 80-90% of the time. Ald. Silverstein ranks in the next tier, supporting the Mayor 75% of the time. This is a big change from Simpson’s previous City Council study, which reported that, from June 2011 to November 15, 2014, Silverstein voted for the Mayor’s initiatives 98% of the time.  [See “Rahm Emanuel’s Rubber Stamp City Council, Chicago City Council Report #7, June 8, 2011 – November 15, 2014.”]

The report concludes that, “the city council is still a rubber stamp, but a weaker, less reliable rubber stamp” than it had been. That’s mixed news for the voters, but a sure sign that Emanuel is permanently weakened by various scandals and citywide violence.

And the aldermen know it.




Participatory Budgeting Meeting

There will be a meeting to discuss bringing participatory budgeting to the 50th Ward. It’s scheduled for Tuesday, June 7, from, 6:15 – 7:30 at the Northtown Library. The featured speaker is Tom Desmond, a member of the 49th Ward’s PB Leadership Team.

At that meeting, POWR (People of West Ridge) NFP, will present its petition for a nonbinding referendum to make the 50th Ward the ninth Ward in the City to include residents in decisions about the spending of menu money.

The referendum would be added to the November election ballot only in the 50th ward. Details can be found here.

Hope to see you at the meeting!

New City Ordinance: Untested Financial Arrangements

Ald. Scott Wauguespack (32nd Ward) announced in his newsletter this week that a new ordinance has been passed creating aldermanic oversight of financial instruments like the debt swaps that have all but bankrupted the City. To quote from his newsletter:
“The Chicago City Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a major regulatory ordinance, sponsored by members of the Progressive Reform Caucus, designed to create oversight and transparency for untested financial arrangements like the so-called “toxic” interest rate swap deals that have plagued the City in recent years. The ordinance, which passed unanimously, will require an unprecedented level of transparency and disclosure on the part of the City. Under the ordinance, no long-term debt transactions or novel transactions that bear interest at a non-fixed rate for any part of its life, may be entered into by the City until several new criteria are met.
The ordinance will require a heightened level of scrutiny on debt transactions, an extended period for public notice and hearings, as well as two additional hearings regarding financial transactions covered by the ordinance: one before the Committee on Finance and one dedicated to addressing concerns of the public.
We believe this ordinance is another important step in allowing taxpayers to see how their dollars are used especially in this complex financial process. You can read the ordinance here.
Alderman John Arena and I also discussed this new ordinance in an op-ed here.
This news didn’t make Silverstein’s newsletter, but I think it’s an important development that 50th Ward residents should know about.

National Police Week

May 15-21 is National Police Week. Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) has launched a campaign to help his ward’s residents show their support for local police. His GoBlue initiative will provide blue balloons, blue ribbons, or blue porch lights to ward residents to display in honor of neighborhood cops.

Ald. Silverstein didn’t mention the week-long event in her newsletter, but 50th Ward residents could follow Ald. Napolitano’s example to show their support for our own 24th District police officers.

It’s Your Park Day

The Chicago Parks Foundation is hosting “It’s Your Park Day” on Saturday, June 18, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.  Volunteers will help clean local parks by mulching trees, replacing fiber on playgrounds, and cleaning green spaces. More than 300 volunteers helped get 15 parks ready for summer in 2015.

As of today, Indian Boundary Park is the only 50th Ward park registered to take part in the clean-up.

Tools and supplies will be provided by Home Depot. Volunteers will receive It’s Your Park Day T-shirts, KIND snacks, and water as well as the satisfaction of taking care of our community’s green spaces.

According to the Foundation, only the park manager or park advisory council can register a park for the event, so if your park isn’t registered please contact the appropriate people and recruit community members to the cause.

Community members who want to volunteer can register here:


RogersEdge “On the Table”

The Chicago Community Trust sponsored a series of discussions across the City yesterday. The Trust’s “On the Table” sessions bring together small groups of residents, business owners, and nonprofit leadership to discuss local issues and community improvement while sharing a meal.

I chose to attend the discussion in Rogers Park because discussions would revolve around the partnership known as the RogersEdge Business Improvement Initiative, spearheaded by the aldermen from the 48th and 49th Wards, Harry Osterman and Joe Moore, and including Loyola University’s Lake Shore Community Partners, The Rogers Park Business Alliance, and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce.

The purpose of RogersEdge is, in the words of Jennifer Clark, the University’s Associate VP for Community and Campus Planning, “to provide more focused support and strategic planning opportunities for businesses and commercial areas within the boundary of Granville Avenue from Kenmore to Broadway, Broadway Avenue from Granville to Devon, Devon from the viaduct east of Broadway to Glenwood, and Sheridan from Devon to North Shore.”

More than 50 people took part in the discussions, which were frank and opinionated. Participants at our table discussed the positives and negatives of the area, the current business mix, and dreams for the future. It’s so energizing to reimagine neighborhood spaces with an eye toward building a vibrant, commercially viable, and resident-friendly community. At discussion’s end, we each allotted our RogersEdge cash ($1,000 apiece) to those suggestions we’d like to see funded.

A report from Lake Shore Community Partners is forthcoming. It will present all the ideas and cash allocations. To quote Jennifer again, “Based on your input and feedback, the report will help us plan and prioritize the next year of RogersEdge initiatives.”  The follow-up includes a walking assessment of the RogersEdge business district next week.  I’m looking forward to taking part.

It seems to me that the area in question is not just the gateway to Rogers Park, but to West Ridge as well. It is vitally important to the commercial health of West Ridge that such an initiative be undertaken here. We already look awfully shabby when compared to other nearby neighborhoods, all of which are recovering from the 2006 economic downturn. It helps that they have activist aldermen.

I was also scheduled to take part in one of the West Ridge discussions but the bad weather and other hindrances kept me from getting there. I arrived just as the meeting ended. The group recommends creating community gardens.


2016 Devon Community Market Cancelled

The Devon Community Market has been canceled for this summer. The official reason is that construction of the Devon streetscape prevents access to the parking lot the Market has called home since its inception. The short-sighted thinking reflected in that reasoning is the primary reason for the Market’s failure.

It also reflects a lack of imagination. Far be it from the organizers to consider moving the market to another location, or changing its name, or responding to the community by changing the farmer-vendor ratio. Put simply, I think the organizers wanted it gone as much as the residents did.

No public announcement was made that the Market would not continue; I confirmed it  once I noticed that the Market did not appear in any listings of the Ciy’s summer market offerings. The City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) always included independent markets in its listings. In one of the first of its ongoing disastrous decisions, organizers of the Devon Community Market separated it from DCASE during its first summer, thereby refusing the expertise and support the City would have gladly provided to make the market successful.

It was clear from the first Market that the concept and execution were wrong. The Market lacked support from the merchants it was supposed to showcase and from neighborhood residents, who wanted a true farmers’ market but were ignored. Even when the Market go off to a good start, as it did the last two years, it failed to capture residents’ interest. Vendors drifted away because they couldn’t make any money. Market managers attempted to attract attention with solid entertainment offerings, but the name, location, and reputation of the Market doomed all efforts at improvement.

It is now too late to line up vendors for a 2016 summer market in West Ridge. While it’s possible to create a successful farmers’ market for 2017, I think that it, too, is doomed  unless it is developed and guided by a representative cross-section of West Ridge residents–a true grassroots operation.

I’m advised that a market requires about a year of planning. If the community wants a 2017 farmers’ market in West Ridge, the time to start working on it is now.