Construction Noise

At 6:30 yesterday morning I was awakened by loud crashing, the sounds of metal and wood being tossed around. It seems that neighbors were having a new roof put on their bungalow, and the construction company decided to get an early start. Sleeping neighbors were not a concern. At 7 a.m. the construction began.

 

The crew arrived in an unmarked white van. One crew member climbed onto the roof and began tossing ladders and boards onto the street and sidewalk. The van was initially parked so that it blocked other traffic. When I asked the name of the company, the crew chief opened the van’s door and pulled out a magnetic sign which he slapped on the back of the truck.

No safety precautions for pedestrians were in place, like yellow tape indicating that it would be better to walk on the other side of the street. Plastic sheeting covered the sidewalk, a potential hazard  for those walking.

It is illegal in the City of Chicago for any construction noise to take place before 8 a.m. except for City work (sewers, etc.) and emergency repairs. Construction crews are required by law not to set up for the day’s work before 7 a.m. Construction is permitted over a 12-hour day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Construction company owners, managers, and supervisors are expected to understand and obey the law. Unfortunately, many try to get away with starting earlier and working later, figuring that there’s nothing the neighbors can do.

I talked  to the crew chief, who informed me that his boss told him that they could operate from 7 to 7 and, anyway, it was going to be a hot day. I called the police around 7:25 a.m. but they did not come.

This morning the crew was back early and began running very noisy equipment at 7 a.m. I called the police again and then a second time. Construction suddenly stopped at 7:40, after 40 minutes of shrieking noise. It resumed about 8:15 a.m.

I know the owners of the property and they are wonderful neighbors. I did not see either of them yesterday or today so I’m not sure if they’ve been home during the construction. Having lived through a roof redo in my building, I sincerely hope they found another place to stay for a couple of days. Responsibility for complying with the law belongs to the contractor and his crew.

I may not like construction noise over a 12-hour day, but because it’s legal I don’t complain. But I treasure the quiet early morning hours, before the unrelenting din of Devon’s heavy traffic and the booming “music” from its cars overwhelm the songs of birds and the chirping of squirrels. I like to hear the breeze ruffling the leaves on the trees. In a busy City rife with unnecessary noise, these are rare hours. Nobody should be blasted awake at 6:30 a m.

Maybe instead of holding hearings on national issues so our aldermen can grandstand for the electorate, our City Council might busy itself ensuring that local contractors, property wners, and businesses understand the law and observe it.

 

 

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Andrew Rowlas Challenging Silverstein for Alderman

Andrew Rowlas, a community activist and former educator, has announced his candidacy for alderman of the 50th Ward, challenging two-term incumbent Debra Silverstein.

Rowlas is campaigning on a progressive platform of economic development centered around small businesses, improved educational opportunities for neighborhood students, and civic engagement by neighborhood residents.

His goals are in sharp contrast to Silverstein’s eight years of inertia. The ward still waits for the economic development plan she promised in 2011. Her lack of transparency and refusal to engage with her constituents are near legendary, even for Chicago. She is one of the Mayor’s most dependable stooges, a reliable member of the rubber-stamp brigade in the City Council.

Rowlas has served as president of the West Ridge Community Organization, is a leading member of LEARN–the coalition of community members and organizations that led the charge for a new library– and has worked extensively to foster communication and cooperation between and with all ethnic and religious communities across the ward. He was instrumental in the formation of the Warren Park Advisory Council, which gives local residents a voice in Park activities.

It’s worth noting that, after nearly 8 years in office, Silverstein had never shown any interest in connecting the north side’s largest park with its nearby residents. Rowlas saw the need to do so and rallied other activists to make it happen. Just imagine the great things that could happen in the 50th with a proactive alderman!

Rowlas spent 38 years as a teacher, counselor, and principal. He would be a strong voice for increased quality educational opportunities both in the ward and across Chicago.

Support the Rowlas campaign by volunteering or donating via the campaign Web site, rowlasforward50.com.

Silverstein will not be able to run a Rose Garden campaign this year. I look forward to the coming debates. And so should you.

 

Aldermanic Election Deadlines

If you’re thinking about running for alderman, it’s time to get organized. The election will be held on February 26, 2019.

You’ll need a total of 473 valid signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot. You can begin acquiring those signatures on August 28, 2018.

Notarized nominating petitions are due at the Chicago Board of Elections the week of November 19-26, 2018.

You’ll want to get copies of nominating petitions filed by the other candidates so you can begin to file objections to their petitions. It’s an interesting process, though more complicated than it needs to be, and you’ll need a team of sharp-eyed campaign workers to help you spot things like multiple signatures written in the same hand, or signatures and addresses written in different hands, or signatures using addresses of vacant lots and abandoned buildings. You can object to illegible signatures and also petitions without circulator signatures or with invalid notarizations.

The last day to file objections to petitions is December 3, 2018.

You’ll need a lawyer to help you defend yourself should your petitions be challenged. That lawyer will attend  a session at CBOE  with you  where CBOE employees will rule  on the validity of  the signatures  in question. Should challenges remain after this session,  you  will be required to obtain a signed and notarized affidavit from each person whose signature is challenged; the sworn affidavit affirms that the signature is valid. There isn’t a lot of time to get this accomplished because the candidate lists must be finalized and ballots printed in January 2019. You will need to organize and train teams of volunteers to get those affidavits.

Don’t be surprised or intimidated if another candidate files a thousand or more signatures. This is a tactic used by experienced politicians to frighten neophytes. Make your challenges anyway.

In the meantime, you’ll need to be raising lots of money. Former Alderman Dick Simpson notes in his campaign handbook that a candidate for alderman should have at least $250,000 in the bank. This is important if you are seeking endorsements, since established politicians will not support a candidate without enough money already banked to win the election. The press, too, is not inclined to cover candidates who lack money for publicity.

Ald. Silverstein has already raised more than $93,000 for the race.

At this writing there are no declared candidates in the 50th Ward. But if you’re thinking about running for alderman, now is the time to start recruiting and training petition circulators, volunteers, and paid campaign staff.

Go to the CBOE website for a helpful guide that goes into great detail about what to do and how to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Economic Development Community Meeting at Northtown Library

Every year the Chicago Community Trust invites City residents to participate in discussions of topics of public interest and public policy. The program, known as “Open Table,”  organizes these citywide discuussions neighborhood by neighborhood.

This year, the West Ridge Community Organization and the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce are co – sponsoring the OpenTable program that will take place on Thursday, May 10th, at the Northtown Library, 6435 North California, from 6 to 8 p.m.  The selected topic is economic planning and development in West Ridge.

Discussions will begin with a presentation by Abraham Lentner, city planning instructor att the University of Illinois at Chicago. After his presentation, the audience will break into small discussion groups to share ideas about potential eonomic dvelopment improvements for our neighborhood. The audience will then reconvene to share each group’s ideas, concerns, and recommendations.

The event is free. If you have any questions please contact the West Ridge Community Organization or the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

A Tough Year So Far

Yes, I’m still here.

It’s been a tough year so far, beginning with the death of Mr. Cat, my feline companion for more than 18 years. He was wonderfully intelligent, fearless, and the real boss of our household, lording it over a succession of dogs and humans. Tough but benevolent, Mr. Cat ruled his kingdom via a combination of charming sweetness and a ruthless indifference to anyone else’s needs. He was one of a kind, and the dogs and I miss him every day.

Then I had eye surgery, and serious complications from which I am still recovering.

And then came the March election,, with yet another carpetbagger from the Indo-American Democratic Organization moving into the state senatorial district barely a year before the election, and running a divisive campaign centered around slinging mud at an already-disgraced incumbent. He was aided in this by various special interests, and will no doubt be a reliable vote for those interests in Springfield. His campaign suggests that he will lower the ethical level in Springfield yet another notch.

You can bet he’ll have his own candidate for alderman, and probably, when the time comes, for committeeman as well.  Deals are being discussed as you read this, and deals cost money, and money is being raised, lots of it. Google Illinois Sunshine database and check out who’s giving–and who gave and expects to be rewarded.

The aldermanic race begins later this year, officially. In actuality, serious candidates have been talking to potential donors since last year. Who will run? Debra has been raising money, and Ira’s loss of both his leadership position and his senate seat suggests that she’ll want to keep her job, which pays $120,000 per year. Nobody has openly declared but I hear there are at least three potential candidates exploring the possibility of running.

It’s going to be an interesting summer, and I’m feeling better already.

I just love a good fight.

 

 

Devon’s “Branding Campaign”

The alderman’s newsletter today asks for comments from the community on a branding campaign that it’s hoped will bring business to Devon Avenue. A project of the Special Services Area #43 (SSA #43), the Rogers Park Business Alliance, which administers the SSA, and the alderman, you can go to a meeting or take the online survey to give your opinion. I used the online survey. I don’t know that the community’s opinions will matter much, if at all.

It’s clear that lots of time, money, and effort have gone into the branding concept and its expression. But I believe a branding campaign is the wrong approach at this point. Shabby stores, so-so merchandise, vacancies and boarded-up buildings, too many grocery stores and cell phone stores, the absence of true diversity and real choices–these need to be remedied before we start promoting Devon as an international marketplace. The relentless campaigns of the past few years branding Devon as Little India have deprived the merchants east of Western and west of California of recognition and thus real opportunities to build their businesses; they have no representation on the SSA, and the proposed branding campaign doesn’t recognize them either.

I think the first priority is building a business district worth a marketing campaign.

This will be a problem given the alderman’s lack of interest in economic development and the fact that the SSA is run by and for the benefit of Indian business owners. I’ve been tracking the businesses on Devon since 2014, and in that time have found that buildings and storefronts remain vacant for months–even years–before yet another sari shop, cell phone store, or grocery opens. When I check the building ownership for these properties, I find that they are Indian-owned. It’s no accident that only Indian businesses are permitted to rent storefronts on that stretch of Devon.

Devon used to be known all over the City and suburbs for its magnificent retailing. The neighborhood had everything–dress shops, toy shops, restaurants, men’s clothing stores, shoe stores, kids clothing shops, a hobby shop, linen, barber, and beauty shops, Crawford’s Department Store, a stock brokerage, bakeries and cigar stores, among other retailing offerings. In 1974, when Patel Bros. opened its first grocery store on Devon, it was welcomed to the mix. But as Indo-Americans bought the properties along Devon, , only Indian businesses were permitted to rent the storefronts. Do the Indian owners discriminate against non-Indian tenants? Yes, they do. It’s clear, and it’s illegal. I’ve tracked it for too long to believe otherwise. And I’ve talked with at least one non-Indian prospective business owner who wasn’t able to rent.

Maybe the RPBA, the SSA, and the alderman can work on that.

Here’s another hint:

An international marketplace sells quality goods from around the world. Diversity is in the merchandise, not in the merchants.

Devon includes store owners from around the world, but their businesses–which could thrive and become successful–are doomed to failure because they do not get the support and assistance they need. Many  are woefully under-capitalized and need access to funding as well as basic marketing, merchandise display, advertising, and retailing skills.  Devon is not a road in some dusty village where a single store sells everything from milk to suitcases. It’s a middle-class neighborhood in Chicago, and middle class people do not patronize stores with dusty bags of rice in the windows, or sun-faded boxes. If the alderman, the RPBA, or the SSA really want to build a business district rather than promote Little India, they would contact the SBA, the City’s business development office, and the State of Illinois for assistance in creating such training and making such resources available to merchants in the entire SSA area  (Leavitt to Kedzie on Devon, Arthur to Granville on Western).

Creating a “branding campaign” for the current dreary array of vacancies and shabby little shops selling so-so merchandise is a mistake. Mislead people once and you won’t get a second chance.

Build a business district that’s truly remarkable and it will sell itself.

Deb & Ira, Talk to Us

The lesson of Watergate is that “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” The sexual harassment scandal involving Ira Silverstein cannot be covered up–the lady provided proof of her allegations. Unfortunately, the Silversteins have chosen to ignore the charges, which will make the expected outcome–his resignations as senator and Democratic committeeman–seem even worse. And it may well haunt her own re-election campaign.

The alderman began her Friday newsletter by reporting that her thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by last week’s terror attack in New York. Nowhere did she mention the same week’s accusations against her husband. Ira hasn’t issued any statements to his constituents either, even after the proofs of his behavior cost him his post as majority whip. What is he waiting for?

A public official accused of sexual harassment must respond with more than a bland statement that he is sorry if anything he did made a woman “uncomfortable” and that he awaits the Ethics Committee report on the propriety of his behavior. It’s simply astounding that he doesn’t understand the nature of his offenses. Once the proofs were provided (audio of phone calls, hundreds of Facebook posts), I think he became obliged to issue a statement to his constituents admitting that the accusations can be substantiated, that he is considering his options, and that he plans to remain in office pending the Ethics Committee decision. Both of his political jobs (senator, Democratic committeeman) are on the line, and it’s difficult to see how he can continue to serve in either position regardless of what the Ethics Committee does.  But he needs to communicate with the voters before that happens.

The alderman’s lack of rapport with the people she serves is well-known. She is difficult to approach, and visibly uncomfortable with constituent contact. I think she is simply unable to relate to her constituents well enough to acknowledge that allegations were made against her husband, that she supports him whether the charges are sustained or not, and that she, her husband, and their family would appreciate our prayers at this difficult time. That’s the standard PR line all politicians facing self-created scandals use. A few words could mean a lot. She has her own political future to consider.

The people of the 50th Ward and the residents of the 8th Senatorial District have a right to know Ira’s side of the story, including an explanation of the audio recordings and Facebook posts. We also have a right to know what will happen if Ira resigns as state senator and Democratic ward committeeman. The 50th Ward is not known for political activism or participation, and must guard against new candidates with the same old ideas. But we should have some information on what to expect and when, and that needs to be communicated now.

I wonder how much of a role the hubris arising from the Silversteins’ absolute political control of the 50th Ward played in all this: alderman, committeeman, state senator, de facto bosses of the Regular Democratic Organization. Every bit of power is theirs, and the stories of the way that power has been used are told in whispers. They destroy all rivals and take no prisoners. It’s easy to see how two political figures driven by power rather than service would find it unnecessary to acknowledge what happened last week. That doesn’t make it acceptable.

They had both better say something, and soon.

The Alderqueen Strikes Again

Like many of you, I received the alderqueen’s newsletter on Wednesday of this week. As usual, it displayed a couple of pictures of Herself enjoying her favorite job activity–having her picture taken.

Like many of you, I missed the community invitation to the official ribbon-cutting of the new Bernie Stone Park at Devon & McCormick. At least Bernie’s family was invited. But Rahm and the alderqueen share a disdain for ordinary folks (you know who you are) and neither of them missed any of us. Rahm clearly doesn’t like to spend any more time in the 50th than he has to. He was in and out of the official groundbreaking for the park so fast that the few people in attendance didn’t know the “event” was over til he rushed away. And Queenie hates mixing with her constituents. Watch for the ribbon-cutting picture to surface in next year’s election campaign.

The newsletter also pictures the alderqueen with the principal of Decatur School. Regular readers will remember that West Ridge nearly lost the school to Rogers Park just last year, and Queenie didn’t lift a finger to help save it. But, in preparation for re-election, she’s suddenly the school’s biggest cheerleader.  That picture, too, will no doubt be used in the campaign to show her support for education.

Here’s what the newsletter didn’t tell you: The owner of the new Hindu temple on Devon managed to get a family member, Jayesh Shewakaramani,  appointed as a Commissioner in Special Services Area #43 (SSA #43), otherwise known as Devon Avenue. This is a special taxing body that assesses a 1.5% extra property tax on all property owners on Devon from Kedzie to Damen and on Western from Granville to Arthur. The temple, now officially declared a religious institution by the Zoning Board of Appeals (only in Chicago!), is exempt from the tax because the temple pays no property taxes. This is true even though the temple’s owner has admitted that the temple is intended to boost the other businesses he owns on Devon.

The appointment was presented to the City Council for approval at last week’s meeting. Interesting, because the SSA’s January 2017 minutes list him as a commissioner already. His status was changed to “Commissioner Applicant” for subsequent meetings. You see how well things are planned in advance? Approach the alderman for support; announce that you are bringing the community together by creating a religious temple that will boost your commercial interests; get a relative on the SSA; abuse residents with “religious” performances next to residential housing, have this abuse enforced by police protection ordered by the alderman.

Only in the 50th Ward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Ridge #3 in Rat Complaints in Chicago

According to today’s DNA Info, West Ridge ranks third in rat complaints in the City of Chicago. Of the 46,879 resident complaints about rats in 2016, 1,529 came from West Ridge. The 2017 City total is already 1,500 complaints higher than 2016.

The article notes that the areas with the greatest number of complaints also have the highest-density population, the greatest number of restaurants, and the largest amount of trash. Construction also plays a role. To be fair, West Ridge includes parts of the 40th and 48th Wards as well as the 50th.

But doesn’t Devon Avenue immediately come to mind?

 

 

 

 

“Securitization Structure”???

Since Ald. Silverstein does not report to the community about City business, I read the newsletters produced by several other aldermen who aren’t afraid to tell their constituents about issues pending in their wards and before the City Council. This week, thanks to  Ald. Scott Waguespack’s newsletter, I learned that the Council will vote in October on a proposed refinancing of City bonds using sales tax revenue held in a “securitization structure” created for that purpose. Let me quote Ald. Waguespack’s report to residents of his 32nd Ward:

“I also want to provide you with this presentation on a new financing scheme we are voting on in October. This scheme would appropriate all Chicago sales tax revenue to this new “corporation” or special entity to refinance about $3 Billion in bonds.  Since there were no known downsides provided during our briefing, we’re reviewing the scheme and welcome any input.”

The words “no known downsides” should strike terror into the heart of every Chicago taxpayer. There are unpleasant surprises lurking, you can bet, and most of them won’t surface until the plan is approved.

Read the plan for yourself. And if you have any questions or suggestions, don’t bother Ald. Silverstein. She doesn’t like constituent input.

Contact Ald. Waguespack: 773/248-1330  OR  ward32@city of Chicago.org