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could not receive a license to operate a dispensary at the Rogers Pantry location until the licenses expired or were withdrawn.”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.

 

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Will Silverstein Support Downtown MMDs?

Next month the City Council will vote on a proposal to change zoning so that medical marijuana dispensaries could operate in Chicago’s Loop. Right now, all proposed sites are too near day care centers or schools so the zoning change is required. The proposal is backed by Finance Committee Chairman Ald. Ed Burke.

Silverstein blocked the zoning change required for the proposed dispensary in the 50th Ward, claiming that rules applying to the proximity of dispensaries and schools should also apply to dispensaries and parks. Officially she was neutral, which is the kiss of death for anything she opposes.

It will be interesting to see how Silverstein votes.  A “no” vote is likely because a “yes” vote would mean she’s a hypocrite.  Besides, voting against would carry no political consequences since there’s reportedly enough support to pass the ordinance without her involvement.  It’s just like her vote against the Mayor’s budget.

The Loop will get the benefit of jobs and taxes from such sites, and the 50th Ward will continue to observe rather than participate in opportunities for economic improvement.

 

Does This Resolution Make Sense?

Last December Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals denied the appeal of its decision not to permit Green Gate Compassion Center to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the 50th Ward. The alderman did not want the MMD although she was officially neutral.

In a comedy of doublespeak, the ZBA explains in its denial of the appeal that it was all Green Gate’s fault for presenting its information to the ZBA when the Board had only four members instead of five. One position was vacant for several months.

Read the ZBA decision here.

Then laugh or cry as you see fit. It’s your government at work.

Proposed Dispensary Site to Become Private Housing

As regular readers know, the alderman was adamantly opposed to the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary at 6501 North Western Avenue. Unable to give a reason, she fumbled around for several weeks before finally claiming that her opposition was based solely on her belief that such dispensaries should not be located near parks “…where children play.”

The real reason appears to be quite different. It seems that the alderman already had other plans for the site.

Tomorrow, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m., the City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards will meet to approve a zoning change requested by the alderman for the site where the dispensary might have stood. Zoning will change from C2-2 Motor Vehicle Commercial District to RS2 Residential Single Unit (Detached House).

The zoning request was referred to the Zoning Committee on October 14, 2015. The dispensary’s application was still on appeal at that point, and the final decision not to hear the appeal was not made until December 18, 2015.

A medical marijuana dispensary that would have employed neighborhood residents, primarily veterans of the U.S. Armed Services and the disabled, was blocked by the alderman in favor of building one or more private houses that will no doubt be beyond the financial reach of most neighborhood residents.

Current ownership of the lot could not be verified because the Assessor’s Web site could not be accessed. It will be interesting to see who buys the property (now officially “Off Market,” per Loop Net), who develops it, and who buys the house(s).  Lot size is reportedly 10,000 sq. ft. so it’s possible that more than one house will be built.

Whether or how the existence of private housing immediately next to Warren Park will affect future events in the park is unknown.

You can bet there’ll be donations to the right political coffers. In a ward whose alderman operates with such a complete lack of transparency, and whose behind-the-scenes maneuverings are so well-known, it’s always best to follow the money.

This farce is another example of the alderman’s version of economic development:  If it works for the few and the moneyed, it’s a good thing.

Chicago Municipal Code zoning regulations can be found here.

 

2015 Year in Review – Part II

This is the second part of the month-by-month listing of events omitted from the alderman’s 2015 year-end mailer and newsletters. Events from January through June were published on January 13.

July
2906-10 West Devon Lawsuit

  • Ccourt hearing cancelled
  • Defendant-Owner not yet served
  • Two more defendants added to suit (KJS Properties LLC and Centrue Bank)

Devon Community Market

  • Off to strong start, with superb performances from the dancers of Performing Arts Limited and Music House Academy of Music and Dance
  • Good selection of vendors

Town Hall Meeting

  • Alderman hosts annual meeting with constituents
  • Speakers from City government and local CAPS office address residents’ concerns about rats, flooding, crime, and other problems
  • Alderman introduces speakers. but contributes little to discussion
  • Some of ward’s most affluent residents express dismay over presence of homeless people walking on streets and blocking access to parking garage driveways as well as having cell phones (i.e., folks living under a bridge in Lincolnwood not quite poor enough); police action requested
    • Stunning lack of compassion for fellow human beings leads to involvement of social workers, who relocate homeless people to shelters, out of sight of offended well-to-do residents

August
2906-10 West Devon

  • Court hearing cancelled
  • Defendant-Owner served August 27, after hearing date

Devon Community Market

  • Annual slide into irrelevance begins as customers and vendors fail to show up

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

  • Alderman hosts community meeting with Bob Kingsley, owner of Green Gate Compassion Center, who outlines plans for MMD and engages residents in discussion
  • Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) votes 2-1 to grant tentative approval to Green Gate Compassion Center
  • Board member Sheila O’Grady, former chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley, absent; will vote later

India Day

  • Organizers set up performance area six feet from residential housing; hours of loud, screeching entertainment force nearby residents from homes
  • Organizers once again fail to meet City requirements for public performance events
    • fail to notify nearby residents in advance of proposed concert
      • residents denied opportunity to object to rock concert-level loudness of musical performances
    • fail to notify residents of street closures
      • street signs not installed until late afternoon
      • street signs not properly placed, permitting traffic to enter Washtenaw at Arthur but not to exit except through east-west alleys
    • fail to obtain permit to exceed City’s noise regulations

 LEARN Coalition

  • Coalition launched to begin process of fundraising and site selection for new Northtown library
    • Founding groups include West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, North Boundary Home Owners League, Rogers Park Business Alliance, West Rogers Park Community Organization, and Jewish Community Council
    • Official name is Library Enhancement and Renovation of Northtown (LEARN)

September
Friends of the Northtown Library

  • Group organized by Pete Sifnotis to raise funds to support library programs
  • First meeting plans two-day book sale to benefit library

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

  • ZBA Board member Sheila O’Grady votes against MMD; zoning change denied
  • ZBA not at full strength; one position unfilled; 2-2 tie vote appealed by Green Gate lawyer
  • Pot bust in Warren Park at 4 p.m., when and where children play; three adults, two teenagers, several pipes, and bag of drugs taken into police custody
    • Police at park because of report of man with handgun

Economic Development News

  • Building leveled at Pratt & Western
  • Alderman announces she knows nothing about site plans

October
2906-10 West Devon

  • Various affidavits and summonses issued
  • Case returned to management call

Devon Community Market

  • Market Manager holds community meeting to discuss reorganization
  • Six residents attend

 Devon Streetscape

  • Phase 3 of streetscape (Western to Rockwell) completed without fanfare
    • No ribbon-cutting, cameras, or aldermanic presence marks occasion
    • Alderman schedules no appearance by or pictures with Mayor enmeshed in Laquan McDonald scandal

Devon Arts Festival

  • Collaborative Palette Project organized by Richard Trumbo, owner of Music House, as part of Chicago Artists Month
  • Residents enjoy collaborative art projects and musical entertainment
  • Arts celebration expected to become annual community event

November
In Re Estate of McDonald

  • Alderman announces she “watched in disbelief the video of the shooting death of Laquan McDonald….”
  • Now believes “…there needs to be a more detailed investigation…”
  • Now agrees “…that the U.S. Justice Department [should] intervene”
  • Does not refer to nor explain her April vote to pay McDonald family hush money to make matter go away

Devon Community Market

  • Market Manager tells me market must remain on Devon (within SSA district), retain current name, and remain in current parking lot location
    • Who made boneheaded decision not stated

2906-10 West Devon

  • All parties finally served
  • Lawyer for defendants files appearances
  • Court hearings to be determined

Friends of the Northtown Library

  • Friends group hosts successful two-day book sale
  • Raises more than $1,000 to support library programming

 Ward Committeeman Election

  • Important unpaid position responsible for overseeing integrity of elections
  • George Milkowski is Green Party candidate for committeeman
  • Pete Sifnotis is Republican candidate for committeeman
  • Alderman’s husband to run as Democratic candidate again; re-election guaranteed; family’s hold on power to continue
    • After February election, Silverstein family pettiness ensured precinct assistants disappear from some precincts that did not support alderman
    • Election judges in those precincts denied traditional largesse of morning coffee, lunch, and end-of-day candy as thank-you gift for long day
    • Bernie Stone’s example of grace in power lost on raptor-like Silversteins

December
Medical Marijuana Dispensary

  • Final rejection of 50th Ward MMD when newest commissioner, Jenner & Block attorney and Preckwinkle ally Blake Sercye, votes against economic development opportunity for 50th Ward
    • Alderman’s behind-the-scenes role unclear

Ward Committeeman Election

  • Silverstein in-law challenges Sifnotis nominating petitions
  • Sifnotis knocked off ballot

Economic Development News

  • Another dreary holiday season on Devon marked by absence of holiday decorations and seasonal joy
    • Sparse strings of lights wound around bare light poles from Maplewood to Rockwell and Mozart to Sacramento provide clue that holidays occurring
    • Lack of interest in acknowledging other people’s holidays continues to negatively affect sales performance of former premiere shopping district
    • Residents leave ward for holiday shopping and nonresidents shop elsewhere
  • Streetscape fails to attract shoppers

Goodbye to all that.

 

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2015 Year in Review

While reading the alderman’s 2015 year-end review as well as her recent newsletter recap, I noticed that a few items were left out. I thought I’d add them here.

January
Aldermanic Campaign

  • Ballot finally decided in late January: Three candidates on ballot; two write-in candidates
  • Alderman refuses to appear at candidate forums that include write-in candidates
  • Tiny fraction of ward’s voters attend debates
  • Alderman wages campaign via mailing pieces; spends more money on glossy mailers than her four opponents put together have raised
  • Zehra Quadri’s workers told her campaign literature may not be left at the mailboxes in Winston Towers, although such literature for all other candidates, including  alderman, permitted
  • Alderman and her husband (ward committeeman responsible for enforcing election rules) visit early voting site at Warren Park in clear violation of election laws, greeting and being seen by voters and chatting with field house employees; no election judge asks them to leave

February
The Election

  • Alderman appears (against only one opponent, write-in candidates not being invited) at debate before business community that is closed to general public (unless they want to spend $40 on ticket)
  • Voters in some precincts told there are no write-in candidates; election judges seem confused about the proper procedure for write-in votes
  • Alderman re-elected by 20% of ward’s registered voters (or 9% of ward residents); promises four more years of same dreariness and inaction that marked her first term

March
Lincoln-McCormick Redevelopment

  • Owners of Cineplex Theater at Lincoln & McCormick begin campaign to sell site; call for community meeting to discuss fate of “eyesore” they deem a magnet for criminals; alderman says she will go along with what community decides
  • At community meeting strong case made for unnamed business that community  assured is only possible business for site; alternative suggestion of cultural center not deemed acceptable by current owners
  • Emerges late in meeting that only acceptable business is storage facility, that approach to/from such business already made/accepted; suspicion arises that this is done deal no matter what community wants
  • Water Reclamation District to rip out parking lot and create green space for community if storage space approved; not clear who will be responsible for maintenance of green space
  • Alderman continues to claim neutrality
  • Residents to meet again for vote; matter so urgent no time for community to discuss other options

April
Mayoral Election

  • Voters in some precincts urged to vote for Rahm Emmanuel rather than Chuy Garcia.
  • Alderman, her husband (ward committeeman responsible for enforcing election rules) , and their daughter visit precincts throughout the ward to “check” on voter turnout, a clear violation of election laws
  • Alderman sworn in for her second term

50thWard Test Kitchen

  • In one of first official actions of her new term, alderman refuses to grant zoning change to allow Zehra Quadri to open taxpayer-funded test kitchen that would permit local entrepreneurs to develop recipes and start small food industry businesses in the 50th Ward
  • Funding for test kitchen secured under former Ald. Bernie Stone; not clear if alderman’s action is payback for election challenge by Quadri or final insult to Stone (who died in December 2014)
  • Commercial kitchen paid for by taxpayers unused to this day, a lasting reminder of alderman’s pettiness and indifference to both wasting taxypayer money and denying opportunities for business development and job creation in  50th Ward

In Re Estate of McDonald

  • Alderman votes to pay family of Laquan McDonald five million dollars in hush money to prevent release of video of McDonald’s 2014 shooting by Chicago police officer
  • No doubt as to what vote’s all about, as matter clearly presented to City Council before vote called

Lincol-McCormick Redevelopment

  • Community meets to vote on proposed sale to storage facility
  • Meeting packed with residents who will benefit directly from sale
  • Lopsided vote guarantees another storage facility for West Ridge

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

  • Application to open medical marijuana dispensary on Western Avenue announced
  • Owner would invest nearly $500,000 in site improvements and hire residents, especially U.S. Armed Forces veterans and the disabled
  • Zoning change needed
  • Alderman announces her opposition; no reason given 
  • Alderman announces her opposition based on fears MMD would become magnet for crime

May
Medical Marijuana Dispensary

  • Alderman announces opposition to MMD really based on belief that state law prohibiting MMDs from being located near schools should also apply to parks “…where hundreds of children play;” ignores fact that illegal drugs including pot currently available in parks where children play throughout 50th Ward
  • Online petition created in support of MMD
  • Zoning Board of Appeals hearing scheduled for August

June
2906-10 West Devon Lawsuit

  • Alderman asks City to sue owner of commercial building at 2906-10 West Devon, calling building “an eyesore” (there’s that word again!) and demanding that owner rent storefronts or sell building
  • Lawsuit is duly filed; attempts to serve owner begin

[July through December to appear tomorrow)

 

 

 

Pot Goes the Weasel

According to 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano, a medical marijuana dispensary was approved in his ward despite his opposition because Mayor Emanuel wanted to get back at him for his “no” vote on the property tax increase.

Napolitano is quoted in DNA Info as saying that he is “furious” that the dispensary was approved, especially since ownership of it changed just before the three-hour hearing commenced.

The only “no” vote on the Zoning Board of Appeals came from Commissioner Sheila O’Grady, who also killed the proposed Green Gate Compassion Center in West Ridge. Is it good public policy for a zoning board commissioner to be so close-minded about a specific type of business?

Too bad Emanuel doesn’t want to punish the 50th Ward’s alderman, Debra Silverstein, who also voted against the property tax increase. But Silverstein supported the mayor 98% of the time, according to a recent study from UIC, whereas Napolitano defeated another Rahm 98% supporter, Mary O’Connor.

Maybe that’s the real reason behind the ZBA decision.

 

Another Rejection for West Ridge MMD

The Green Gate Compassion Center, a licensed medical marijuana dispensary that would have been located on Western Avenue next to Warren Park, has been denied  reconsideration of its application by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

According to DNA Info, this time the vote was 5-0 against, instead of the 2-2 tie that blocked its original application. The online newspaper also reports that Alderman Silverstein opposed reconsideration.

The fifth vote against Green Gate was cast by the newest member of the Board, Blake Sercye, an attorney with Jenner & Block. He ran for Cook County Board Commissioner in 2014 and lost, although he had the backing of both the Mayor and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Widespread community support, jobs for residents, nearly $500,000 to be invested in property improvements, and relief of pain and suffering for patients authorized to receive medical marijuana were all meaningless to the ZBA, swept aside by the alderman’s insistence on misapplying the law and the well-rehearsed testimony of a child.

The denial of the request for reconsideration is yet another example of the alderman’s indifference to building economic opportunity in the 50th Ward as well as her practice of overruling community input and doing what she wants regardless of the community’s wishes.

Read the full article here.

Marijuana in Warren Park

As you know, the alderman successfully blocked the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary that would have invested nearly $500,000 in real estate improvements and brought jobs to the community. She was aided by a group of children whose spokesman invoked the specter of  medical marijuana patients ambushing him in Warren Park and forcing him to smoke their prescriptions.

This week’s News-Star reports that at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 23–a day and time when many children could be expected to be playing in the park–police arrested three adults (two aged 20 and one age 27) and two 16-year-olds in Warren Park for smoking pot. All five were “gathered around a park bench smoking from a pipe.” The paper reports that one man tried to toss “the pipe and a bag of drugs in the bushes,” and that “one of the men was carrying 12 bags of pot packaged for sale, while each of the men had either an individual bag of pot, a glass or metal pipe, or both in their pockets.”  At the time, police were responding to reports that a man with a handgun was in the park.

We all know that drugs are bought, sold, and used in Warren Park.

But at least the park is safe from medical marijuana patients.

MMD Denied for 50th Ward

The Zoning Board of Appeals on Friday denied a permit to the Green Gate Compassion Center to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the 50th Ward.  Because of an existing vacancy on the five-member board, the vote deadlocked at 2-2, with Shelia O’Grady casting the second vote against.  O’Grady was appointed to the Board in 2013, and formerly served as Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Members of the Board are appointed by the Mayor. It’s not clear how business can be conducted without a full Board. The term of the fifth member of the ZBA, Catherine Budzinski, an architect, expired in May 2015. The Mayor has not yet named a replacement.

This is a stunningly stupid decision. Although the alderman did not declare herself against the clinic at the ZBA hearing, she had voiced her opposition to it for several months. She and her supporters carried the day, despite the fact that hundreds of residents who supported the clinic signed a petition and appeared at the hearing.

It should be clear now that economic development in the 50th Ward will not occur under this alderman. A business that would have invested nearly half a million dollars in property improvements and hired residents could not open because of the alderman’s opposition.

It’s an indefensible shame.