PLEASE be sure to attend the community meeting the alderman has arranged for Monday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Warren Park. CHA and CPL officials will be there to get community input on the new library-senior building to be constructed at Pratt and Western.
My guess is that the designs may be unveiled as well. On the other hand, the alderman shares almost nothing of value with her constituents in advance, so it’s possible the designs will be released after the meeting, with the community giving “input” on designs that can’t be changed.
She’s set up an advisory board, but has yet to tell the community who they are. Maybe they’ll be introduced on Monday. Are they a representative cross-section of the neighborhood? Does every area of the ward have some representation? Are all ages, both sexes, all races, religions, and ethnic groups equally represented? Who represents the non-English speaking? How were the advisory board members selected? Were they recommended by interests friendly to the alderman? Frankly, I think it would have been better had she called for volunteers and then selected names at random. At least the community might have had a fairer chance of adequate representation. Will a board hand-picked by the alderman oppose her on anything?
And what about the senior housing? How were the seniors on her board chosen? Were they recommended by groups seeing to their own interests? Or are they active adults who can advocate for older folks who aren’t interested in a bingo room? Let’s not get carried away by talk of a coffee shop in the library for the old folks or invading the seniors’ spaces for shared craft activities. Aging in America has changed, and the senior spaces need to reflect that. Special programming that encourages dependency is to be avoided.
Speaking of the senior housing, perhaps we can learn how the residents for these apartments will be selected, and who will do the choosing. There are seniors on CHA lists who’ve waited for years for a decent apartment. Will we do the fair thing and choose them? Or is this building going to be reserved for seniors from the neighborhood? You know, people like us? Will social justice lose out to political influence? The new affordable housing to be built in Jefferson Park is to be allocated only to people already living in the neighborhood. Because CHA tenants carry a bad reputation, homeowners’ groups there are fighting the project. Will West Ridge open its new senior housing to seniors on CHA wait lists? There’s a case to be made for taking care of your own, but what about those who’ve been waiting? Just asking.
I encourage as many people as possible to attend the meeting and be prepared to raise questions and concerns. We have to get the building right, and the library should be the primary focus. Get the word out. Tell your friends.
The only way to be heard is to speak up.
And keep talking until someone listens.