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I started this blog during the 2015 aldermanic campaign because I wanted to see some positive economic change in the 50th Ward. Such change remains a goal that clearly will have to be accomplished without any help from the current alderman. Healthy, diverse, sustainable business districts aren’t built on sales of phone cards, bottled water, cucumbers, and lottery tickets, and she just doesn’t get it. The neighborhood needs

  • Better businesses, instead of the glut of cell phone, convenience, grocery, and general merchandise stores that are struggling in a market over-saturated with such businesses
  • More diversity in dining options
  • Clothing stores that have wide appeal to a variety of residents
  • Clean streets, clean stores, clean store windows, and attention to details, like attractive window displays

Like other neighborhoods, we need some cultural attractions. West Ridge lacks a central cultural arts center, performing arts space, and an arts district. Yes, there are cultural offerings at Indian Boundary Park, but we are a neighborhood without a single art gallery or theater.

Our commercial districts are plagued by vacant and poorly-maintained storefronts. Very few storeowners or commercial property owners seem to care about maintenance or merchandising, and the overall impression is one of dirt and decay.  The economic downslide won’t end until there’s an alderman committed to working with existing businesses to meet the needs of residents, bringing in new businesses, and creating jobs.

I believe it’s wrong for business and political powers to ignore the needs and interests of residents when decisions are made about commercial development and other issues impacting the community’s general quality of life as well as property values.  I believe that neighborhood residents need to have a seat at the table and a voice in the discussions. We are invested in this ward, too.

But this blog is about more than politics. It will highlight the people, places, and neighborhood organizations that make our community such a good place to live despite the political malarkey–the residents, the artists, and the business owners who contribute so much to this neighborhood.

50th Ward Follies will introduce readers to residents who are working for positive change, and spotlight businesses that reflect our diversity and deserve our support. It will also highlight the activities of community organizations working hard to educate and inform residents on various issues in different areas of the ward. Read our Events page for a schedule of important community events, meetings, and cultural activities.

I hope you’ll enjoy your visits and the information you’ll find here. Feel free to leave a comment or two. I have very strong opinions, and I’d like to hear yours, too.

One last thing: Because I believe that “Corruption begins when things are not called by their proper names,” the proper names will always be used here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Home

  1. Hi. Just happened to stumble upon you after googling the new Rohinga Center. The first line of your Home Page is music to my ears: positive economic development! Having grown up in West Rogers Park, I returned almost 4 years ago as a home owner. Sometimes I’m heartbroken by, for ex., Touhy Ave. where as a kid I could walk to find…just about everything. I wish our leadership would see that we too, could have some of the amenities of an Andersonville or Lincoln Square.

    Anyway, I’d love to talk about what else is going on. Is your readership active? Are you?

    Best,
    Sara

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  2. p.s. And other things… Highlighting our incredible diversity! Getting neighbors outside! Cleaning up (as you highlight). Dare I say, “participatory budgeting”?

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  3. What about the new West Ridge Library and senior housing at Pratt and Western? How involved has the larger community been?

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    • The location of the new library was announced October 21, 2016; the first community meeting was held November 23, 2016. There was a large turnout but no answers to questions except “that hasn’t been decided yet” or “that’s still on the table.” Worse, the handouts consisted of four pictures, which community members were cautioned were not representations of what the actual building and apartments would look like. The second community meeting was held March 20, 2017; a good-sized crowd but again no answers. In the four months between community meetings, the alderman did not approach the community for input, nor did she advise the community that a library needs/wants survey was available through the LEARN Coalition. On the Friday before the last community meeting, the alderman produced her own community survey asking residents to choose building and library programming that is important to them. The next day, the Mayor released the building design. It was printed in the Tribune on Sunday, March 19, but residents at the March 20 meeting were told the building may not look like the design and to continue to give input. Another community meeting has been promised but not scheduled. The alderman also announced that she has created an advisory committee, but has not told the community who’s on it or why they were chosen; all members were selected by her. LEARN had nearly 400 responses to its survey; the number of responses to the alderman is unknown at present. Whether the community will have actual input is unknown. It could be that this is all window-dressing and that all the decisions have been made downtown. It’s highly unlikely that the mayor would call the press to tout the designs for the three complexes to be built, which he did, only to give in to community pressure for something else. It’s been nearly six months since the library was announced, yet there’s still no sign in the vacant lot that it will become the new Northtown Library-senior housing complex. I think the community wants input but the alderman seems determined to operate without any transparency, her standard MO. Remember, the building is scheduled to be completed in December 2018, and both the mayor and the alderman are up for re-election six weeks later. We won’t know the details on anything until they can be used as part of a re-election campaign, when we’ll no doubt receive daily bulletins about every nail being driven and every pipe being fitted. This is looking less like a community project and more like a re-election stunt every day.

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    • You are correct that I support economic development. The problem I have with Indian business owners is that they have turned their backs on their immediate market–the 90%+ of residents who are not Indian–and have chosen to serve only their own ethnic group. This business model is not sustainable, as we see from the number of businesses that go under every year. When the first Indian store arrived in 1973, it was welcomed as a part of what was then described as the “International Marketplace” on Devon. But the Indian merchants didn’t want to be part of the street, they wanted the whole thing for themselves, believing that the lack of shopping for non-Indians would drive existing residents out of the neighborhood, and the ready availability of Indian goods would attract Indians to the area, thus producing an Indian-majority ward that would serve as the base for Indian businesses and investors to acquire political power in Chicago. The Indian merchants have shown time and time again that their interests are not the same as the neighborhood’s, and that they are more than willing to ignore the rights of nearby residents. This behavior is always wrong, and no amount of ethnic pride can make it right.

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    • Yes, I want economic development. Among the problems created by relying on tourists instead of serving the neighborhood market (more than 95% of the area is non-Indian) include: (1) neighborhood residents mus spend their money in some other area, thus further depressing economic development in the 50th Ward; (2) traffic jams are so horrible on Devon that drivers use the nearby east-west alleys and north-south streets to avoid Devon, thus putting a heavy burden on residential areas; most of the out-of-towners come to buy groceries only, and park in bus lanes, crosswalks, and even on the sidewalks while waiting for family members in the grocery stores, and absolutely refuse to move their vehicles even for handicapped passengers attempting to board or exit buses, thus forcing bus passengers to exit in the middle of the street; shoppers have no connection to the neighborhood and thus don’t feel obliged to properly dispose of their trash or return shopping carts to stores, leaving them instead on residential property and in alleys; Indian festivals and other events are held without proper City permits and without notifying residents, in full violation of City law. I’ve said before that the first Indian store that opened in 1973 was welcomed; the street was at that time advertised as “The International Marketplace.” Today it holds only Indian businesses, because the Indian merchants did not want to be part of the community, they wanted to CHANGE the community to majority-Indian. They figured that once residents could no longer shop on the neighborhood’s main street they would move and be replaced by Indian residents. In other words, they don’t care about the existing community at all. This is wrong, and no amount of ethnic pride can excuse it.

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