Friends of the Northtown Library News

The Friends of the Northtown Library will be holding a book sale on October 21 and 22 to benefit our library. The sale begins at 10:00 a.m. on both days, and ends promptly at 4:00 p.m. Hardcovers, paperbacks, CDs, and DVDs will be available. And they’ll cost less than last year!

If you’d like to donate gently-used books, CDs, or DVDs, please do not put them in the book drops outside the Library. Instead, donations can be dropped off at the Front Desk. Be sure to indicate that they’re for the book sale. Materials in Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, Russian, Hebrew, Assyrian, and Spanish are especially sought for our multi-lingual community.

If you’re interested in helping with book sale set-up on October 14-15, please contact FriendsofNorthtown@gmail.com.  We’ll soon have a Facebook page, too!

The Friends will be conducting a brief survey asking for information on how patrons use the Library. No names or addresses will be collected.  The survey will be available in Arabic, Urdu, and Spanish as well as English.

We’d like to see the Friends truly represent West Ridge, so our membership form will also be available in several languages.

A Friends group for our younger patrons is under discussion; such membership would require parental permission but would be a good leadership opportunity for our teens.

Both survey and membership forms will be available at the Northtown Library the second week of October.

 

The Water-Sewer Tax

In this week’s newsletter the alderman says that her vote for the Mayor’s new water-sewer tax was “…necessary to prevent bankruptcy of the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF) and finally put it on a path to solvency.”

What she doesn’t say is that several independent analyses all came to the same conclusion: the City will need another $300 million by 2023 just for this one pension fund. Nor does she say that the bill passed without Council debate in a lopsided 40-10 vote.

The tax kicks in next year, raising the average water and sewer bill to $53 per year. It goes up every year after that: to $115 in 2018, $180 for 2019, and $225 in 2020.

The pension fund would run out of money in 10 years without the tax.  However, after the Council’s Progressive Caucus demanded specifics on the plan, the City finally admitted that the new tax will hold off bankruptcy for only seven years. This is solvency?

This tax will hit the most vulnerable Chicagoans hard. With rents escalating due to the property tax hike, other everyday needs like laundry services will also cost more. For example, residents who use Laundromats can expect to pay about forty cents more per load, according to published reports. And those increases will be in place long before the new tax kicks in as Laundromat owners seek to recoup costs from the property tax hike. Neighbors of mine are moving after being hit with a $700 per month rent increase. Yes, $700 per month–$1,600 for a two-bedroom apartment. Granted, the previous rent was on the low side, but $700?

Chicago is rapidly becoming too expensive for average folks. The cost of corruption is killing us.

 

Silverstein’s Blunder to Benefit Rogers Park

It appears that another ward will profit from the alderman’s wrongheaded refusal to permit a medical marijuana dispensary (MMD) to open in West Ridge, thus depriving the 50th ward of much-needed jobs and sales tax revenues, not to mention a lovely landscaped business gracing Western Avenue.

Remember the Greengate Compassion Center? The MMD had applied last year to build its facility at 6501 North Western Avenue in West Ridge. The alderman immediately announced her opposition, then clarified it twice before finally blocking it in the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). In fact, so sure was she that the MMD would not be approved that she proposed a zoning change ordinance for the site two months before the ZBA’s final decision was announced.

To preserve the illusion of a disinterested ZBA making an independent decision, that ordinance was tabled for a couple of months before the change from commercial to residential became law.

But all is not lost for Greengate. The more progressive 49th Ward may become the MMD’s new site. Ald. Joe Moore  is holding a community meeting on Sept. 28 so residents can hear from Bob Kingsley, the owner, about his proposal to locate the MMD at 1930 West Chase (a Rogers).  The site is different from what was proposed for Western, but every bit as attractive:

To quote from Ald. Moore’s announcement,

“Earlier this year, Mr. Kingsley identified a potential site at 1930 W. Chase, located at the northeast corner of Chase and Rogers. For many years, the site was home to Rogers Pantry, a convenience store that primarily sold packaged liquor. Rogers Pantry went out of business several years ago and the building has been standing empty ever since (see photo below).

Until recently, three licenses to operate home day care centers existed within 1,000 feet of the property. For various reasons, none of the license holders actually operated day care centers out of their homes, but because the licenses were on the State’s registry, Mr. Kingsley could not receive a license to operate a dispensary at the Rogers Pantry location until the licenses expired or were withdrawn.” That has now happened.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28, at the Pottawattomie Park Field House, 7340 North Rogers.

 

This Extraordinary Moment

We are living at an extraordinary moment in American history.

Our country—a work in progress in the best of times—is struggling to define itself. What does America stand for? What does it mean to be an American? How should their government interact with ordinary Americans? Are taxes killing the working and middle classes? Are the rich to blame for all our problems? Is everyone paying a fair share of the burden?  How do we create a more just society? How large a role should citizens play in determining public policy?

It’s a presidential election year, and the candidates are notable as much for their flaws as their achievements. One promises to change an establishment she’s helped lead for more than thirty years. The other promises to change an establishment that wants no part of him. Are the choices really the status quo or chaos?  Or is the excessive media focus on ultimately trivial mistakes and “gotcha” moments warping our perceptions?

At the local level, we find far too many candidates running unopposed, not because they are extraordinary public servants, but because they have access to the obscene amounts of money required to run for public office, money that is too often donated by outside interests that don’t know or care about local issues but do know and care about who’s in position to influence government spending and no-bid contracts.

Citizens are more than disengaged from civic involvement. They are openly alienated and apathetic. No matter what choice is made at the ballot box, the system never changes. Greed and corruption have all but destroyed our political system and our communities. Venal, self-serving politicians and their political gurus have so sliced and diced the electorate into special interest groups that it’s no longer possible to speak of a common good. The values Americans used to share have largely disappeared.

It’s clear that a disgusted citizenry is not merely demanding change, but determined to get it, willing to work for it, beginning to organize to make it a reality. This time, the ordinary people who pay the bills won’t agree to remain silent.

It probably won’t happen with this election cycle, although there will be some changes. The next election—in Chicago, that’s only two years away—will produce more. Citizens are demanding term limits for officeholders, a voice in spending, a shift in our priorities, and massive change in public policies that produce no appreciable benefit for ordinary folks. They want an end to lying politicians who cook the books and draw the maps that keep them in power, all the while looking out for themselves first.

Change is coming. You can sense it. You can feel it. The next time you attend a meeting called by a local officeholder who replies in generalities to precisely-worded questions, look around at the faces of the audience. Where once there was resignation, there is now anger, and just beyond that, an awakening—and a convert—to the cause of citizen empowerment.

Change is scary, but it’s also exciting. We aren’t quite sure what’s coming, but we are certain that what we’ve had is no longer what we want. It will take time, but the costs of doing nothing are no longer acceptable. The people must seize this moment, not wait for the next one. Too much is at stake.

It’s an extraordinary time to be a part of this great American experiment in self-government.

Edison Park Salutes Those in Uniform

What a great idea! The Edison Park Community Council, the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce, State Rep. Michael McAuliffe, and Ald. Anthony Napolitano have joined forces to sponsor a two-day salute to the men and women who protect and defend our neighborhoods and our country.

Over a two-day span (October 1- 2), the Edison Park community will honor the men and women of the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Fire Department, including paramedics, and the United States Armed Forces. Every penny taken in will be donated to one of three organizations that support police officers, fire fighters, and members of our military in difficult times.

Brotherhood of the Fallen (http://brotherhoodforthefallen.org) offers support from Chicago police officers to to the families of officers killed on the job throughout the country by attending funerals and providing financial assistance to families.

Ignite the Spirit (http://www.ignitethespirit.org/about-us) is a nonprofit that helps the families of firefighters and paramedics in need, with benefits ranging from food to financial assistance. It raises money via various events throughout the City.

Salute, Inc. (http://www.saluteinc.org) offers financial help to members of our military services who are returning to civilian life. Many struggle with health issues, some with PTSD, and some with the conflicts of readjusting to family life or being unable to find work. Salute helps make their transition from the military a bit easier.

The Edison Park Salute includes live music, raffles, kids’ activities, and food trucks. On October 1, the event will take place at Oliphant & Olmstead from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. On October 2, festivities will be held at St. Thecla Church, 6725 West Devon, beginning at 10:00 a.m. with Mass followed by a pancake breakfast at St. Thecla’s Scout Hall.  Donations are gratefully accepted.

The Alderman’s Private Email: Comment and Response

I’m always happy to hear from readers, whether they agree or disagree with what I’ve said. It’s that ongoing conversation that makes writing this blog such a rewarding experience.

Yesterday I heard from Chuck, who commented on my post about the alderman’s private email account and Web site. He wrote:

“You sound like a very bitter organization. You also sound like a an organization trying to oust Democratic elected officials. Alderman Silverstein is all over the 50th Ward map attending events, parties, funerals, business openings, business forums, CAPS meetings, etc.. She hosts countless information gatherings for her constituents, and is constantly doing her best to take care of peoples issues within the Ward. Her husband Senator Silverstein also attends most of events as well. From my experience, her office has helped me on multiple issues of which I’m thankful. Alderman Silverstein is an open book regarding her activities because she works tirelessly and is continuously out and about in the 50th Ward. I suggest you stop your baseless fear mongering. It’s tiresome, tedious and provides no value to the 50th Ward. Thank you for allowing my input.”

I appreciate that Chuck took the time to write, and think I understand his POV, but I respectfully disagree. My response follows:

I’m glad you’ve had positive interactions with the alderman. I do think, though, that you rely too much on the weekly photos of her attending events throughout the ward as evidence that she’s doing a good job. I don’t fault you for that. I’ve always said she excels at the ceremonial aspects of being alderman. There’s nobody better at ribbon-cutting, posing with smiling children, or standing behind a lectern introducing guest speakers at seminars that attract only a handful of residents. It’s the more substantive work—leadership—that is clearly beyond her abilities or interest. It can’t be measured by photo ops.

The point of my post is that there is no reason for any alderman to have a private email account or Web site to transact the people’s business. The real issue is transparency: The City-provided systems are subject to FOIA requests, the private systems are not. You may not care how government works as long as you get what you need in city services when you need it. But it’s precisely because people don’t care about the mechanisms of government that our political system is so corrupt.

When those mechanisms are fully accessible to the public, voters get the facts about how the system really works. We can see how elected officials arrive at the decisions that affect our daily lives, something we can’t do when officials use private emails and Web sites that may collect, track, and store our private information without our knowledge or consent.

Overtaxed citizens are already paying for secure email and Web sites via the taxpayer-funded City system. It’s outrageous that we’re also paying through expense account reimbursements for private systems designed to keep the public’s business hidden.

There’s no hope for political reform in Illinois if people remember the pictures but don’t care about the stories behind those photo-ops. Our political system counts on voters to do just that.