My 49th Ward Service Office will be CLOSED for the holidays from Friday, December 21st, at 2:00 p.m. to Wednesday, January 2nd, when we reopen at 9:00 a.m.
This will provide my staff members, who routinely work far more than 40 hours a week, an opportunity to spend time with their families during the holiday week when calls and emails to my office are almost non-existent.
Though the Ward Service Office will be closed, my ward superintendent, Dan Murphy, and his crew will continue to provide 49th Ward residents with garbage pick-up and other routine city services every weekday through the holidays with the exception of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Please note that sanitation crews will be doing their normal Monday garbage pickups on the 24th and 31st of December, and will do their best to pick up at addresses that normally get served on Tuesdays. If your normal garbage and recycling pickup day is Tuesday, please do your best these next two weeks to have your materials ready for pick up on Mondays.
Snow removal and other emergency services always will be provided regardless of the holidays.
2018 in Review
The past year has been challenging for our community, our city and our nation, but we have persevered. As we celebrate the holidays, let’s take a moment to count our blessings. We live in one of the most dynamic and exciting neighborhoods in the country, a community that continues to undergo positive change. I am both honored and humbled to serve as your alderman and look forward to working with you to make 2019 the best year yet for the 49th Ward.
Shooting deaths of Douglas Watts and Eliyahu Moscowitz shock Rogers Park
Twelve weeks ago, our community was shocked by the senseless deaths of Rogers Park resident Douglas Watts and West Ridge resident Eliyahu, both of whom were shot and killed without provocation or apparent motive. Police ballistics tests determined the same gun was used in both killings and hence likely by the same individual.
Though gun violence is not an everyday occurrence in our community, we are not immune to it. In fact, just a few weeks earlier an innocent Northwestern graduate student was shot to death in Rogers Park, caught in the crossfire of a gang dispute.
But these shootings were different. Two people were shot to death in cold blood, not because of a robbery or a gang dispute, but for no apparent reason whatsoever other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As soon as the second killing occurred, I was on the phone with the Mayor, securing the police resources this emergency required, including an unprecedented number of detectives dedicated to finding the killer and bringing him to justice. The next day, I convened a community meeting with top police officials to provide residents with up-to-date information on the suspected killer and the progress of the investigation.
Realizing the understandable fear these shootings created, I worked with area businesses to secure from the ride share company Lyft discounted rides for Rogers Park residents within the community for neighborhood.
I also pressed the Mayor and the Police Department to open a Strategic Deployment Center in the 24th District Police Station and to install high new high definition cameras in our neighborhood. The new cameras are already being installed, and I’m told the strategic deployment center is slated to open in the next few weeks. Staffed by analysts from the University of Chicago Crime Lab and police officers, it will bring to our community the same kind of “smart policing strategy” that has resulted in significant reductions in violent crime in other police districts.
Police detectives developed several promising leads in their search for the perpetrator of these heinous acts, but do not have enough evidence to provide the probable cause necessary to support an arrest. Fortunately, the assailant has not struck again and hopefully the attention brought to these cases has permanently dissuaded him.
More affordable housing slated for Rogers Park
I have continued to use my position as alderman and chairman of the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate to promote affordable balanced development in Rogers Park. We must continue to pursue opportunities that allow all residents of our diverse community to thrive, both by attracting new residents to the ward so our businesses can prosper and providing affordable housing so current residents are not displaced.
Many buildings in Rogers Park have been providing de facto affordable housing in long-neglected units where costs have been kept artificially low by landlords who haven’t raised rents in a decade.
With the economy improving in the past several years, many of these landlords have opted to sell their buildings to new, professional building operators who must spend significant amounts of money to bring the buildings up to code, increasing rents to offset these costs. It is unrealistic to expect that rents will remain below market without some sort of intervention in the form of housing subsidies, tax credits, or other financial support.
I am dedicated to bringing as many resources as possible to Rogers Park to create and preserve affordable housing.
- The Concord at Sheridan, which will bring to our community a new Target store and 111 units of housing, including 65 affordable Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) units housing, is currently accepting applications for the affordable units and will accept applications for the market-rate units in the spring.
- When I learned that the current owners of Levy House, a 56-unit affordable senior citizen building at 1221 W. Sherwin, planned to sell the building to a market rate developer, I convinced the CHA to purchase the property, thereby saving the seniors their homes.
- The new 54-unit affordable housing development at Clark and Estes broke ground in October and residents will be able to apply for those apartments early next year with a target completion date of early 2020.
- I signed this year off on a proposed residential development, which will include in its portfolio affordable housing units created through the Chicago Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO).
- I am currently working with local developers to preserve affordable family-sized units in buildings with low rents in need of significant repair through the new expansion of the City’s Preservation of Existing Affordable Rental (PEAR) program. This program aims to help building owners keep rents affordable when they renovate a building. I look forward to working with more Rogers Park landlords to take advantage of this program.
- I am committed to requiring any developer in the 49th Ward who triggers the ARO to provide the legally required affordable housing on site. I recognize that important housing programs rely on the “in lieu” fees collected when developers buy out this affordable requirement. The Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund, which provides needed housing to very low income families, is one such program. I am dedicated to continuing to work with the City’s new Department of Housing to leverage those scarce funds to expand that critical program.
A recent study published by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) calls for affordable housing to be equally distributed in all Chicago neighborhoods. Many neighborhoods take on more than their “fair share” of affordable housing, leaving other, primarily affluent white neighborhoods, totally out of reach for those searching for affordable housing. MPC suggests that the bare minimum of affordable rental units in each neighborhood should be 10%. I am committed to far exceed that goal.
The one area with an abundance of subsidized housing is Rogers Park north of Howard Street. This year saw the first new privately-financed, market rate housing development in decades on Howard Street: the Howard Rogers Lofts broke ground in May, 2018 and likely will begin taking applications for units in summer 2019.
As the results of the recent non-binding referendum on rent control demonstrates, affordable housing is a critical concern in Rogers Park. For some, this concern is based on a philosophical belief that all families have the right to safe, decent housing in the neighborhood of their choice, regardless of income. For others, their concerns are driven by witnessing their own rents creeping higher and higher.
Currently, the state law prohibits Illinois cities and towns from implementing rent control laws. I supported the referendum lifting the Illinois ban because I believe we should have the ability to fashion housing strategies that work best for our community without interference from Springfield.
49th Ward office responds to housing emergencies
My office has also taken a leadership role in addressing several housing emergencies in Rogers Park.
Some, like the tragic fire at 1745 W. Touhy, were high profile events. My staff assistants coordinated care for the displaced residents in this building, including securing permanent housing for families; organizing a fundraising effort to help offset the financial burden of those families; connecting the families with counseling services, helping them secure documents and legal help, and working with the City’s Department of Buildings when it was discovered that the remaining residents of the property were left without utilities for days after the fire.
Other cases don’t ever make the front page of the news, but our help means the world to the residents effected.
I send my staff to building court to make sure troubled buildings come into compliance and abide by court-ordered steps to improve their operating practices. We work with building owners and condo associations to address instances where residents who hoard create an unsafe living situation for themselves and their neighbors. We provide counseling on a daily basis for people with questions about their tenants’ rights, condo issues, and neighbor disputes, often finding common ground before the situation escalates.
We help people find lost pets, convince private landlords to provide adequate recycling for their tenants, and have assisted hundreds of low-income residents appeal their property taxes or apply for affordable housing so they can remain in the neighborhood.
When the CHA announced it would be opening the waiting list for their buildings, my housing specialist worked with residents to walk them through the process step-by-step so they could apply for those units. We received calls from all over the city and suburbs because the 49th Ward provided expertise above and beyond those of other wards. A case worker from the CHA even forwarded my email blast on applying for the Concord building to one of their own clients!
Rogers Park schools see ratings rise and infrastructure improved
This past year saw great improvements in all our schools.
Each one of our neighborhood schools achieved one of the three highest quality ratings in the from the Chicago Public Schools’ annual comprehensive school quality ratings . Five out of our eight local schools received a Level 1 rating or better and none of our schools received a rating of less than 2+. Four of our schools saw their ratings increase over last year. The remaining schools maintained their ratings from last year.
I was pleased to help the Gale School community raise the money they needed to construct a health and wellness clinic for this academic year. As a result of my long working relationship with Loyola University, I was able to convince the university to provide the Gale with a $25,000 grant to complete the project. This grant represented the largest one-time cash donation the University has ever provided to any organization or cause.
When Chicago Public Schools failed to commit to much-needed roof and façade repairs for Kilmer School, I enlisted the Mayor’s help in getting CPS to make a firm commitment to begin the work this summer.
Participatory Budgeting inspires community engagement, new projects
Our 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting (PB) process continues to engage thousands of ward residents in the important decisions on how we spend our tax dollars to improve the neighborhood.
After months of volunteer work collecting ideas, developing proposals, and campaigning for their favorite projects, 2,378 ballots were cast in September’s 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting election. This election marked the third consecutive cycle we had more than 2,000 residents vote, which is more than all other Chicago wards combined and the highest per-capita PB vote of any jurisdiction in the United States.
We made important infrastructure investments to better serve our community into the future. This year, four blocks of residential streets and seven blocks of alleys were resurfaced.
Our community voted to spend additional dollars in 2019 to resurface two alleys using a greener technology that helps with flooding. In just the past four years, Participatory Budgeting has identified and funded 108 blocks of residential streets for resurfacing.
As part of the 2017 Year of Public Art program, 49th Ward residents supported the funding of Davis McCarty’s “Quantum Dee” sculpture. This iconic artwork was installed just this month and serves a striking landmark in Chicago’s northernmost park, Juneway Beach Park.
Another fruit from the Participatory Budgeting tree that ripened in 2018 was the construction of the 49th Ward Greenway. This series of pedestrian and bicycle improvements along Glenwood and Greenview provide cyclists with a safe and logical north-south route through the neighborhood and simultaneously significantly improve pedestrian crossings throughout the corridor.
The project was made possible because I was able to leverage allocated PB funds to secure a federal matching grant.
Divvy Bikeshare expands in Rogers Park
Complementing our efforts to make Rogers Park the most bike-friendly neighborhood in the City, I successfully advocated for the installation of a new Divvy station at Sheridan and Columbia to better serve the thriving Sheridan and Pratt commercial area, where parking is at a premium. With this addition, the 49th ward is the best-served neighborhood outside the Loop for access to bike share.
This valuable service helps improve residents’ lives and reduces the stresses of parking when enjoying the neighborhood. Divvy is affordable, and can be as inexpensive as $5 per year through the Divvy for Everyone program.
New businesses flow into Rogers Park
A number of new businesses opened their doors in Rogers Park this year. We toasted the following as Follow Me on Friday destinations: Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Argo Tea Cafe, Salerno’s Pizza, El Campeon, Anto Pizza Chicago, Redwood Literacy, and Le Piano. Other notable new businesses include Yamon Jerk Grill, Gifted Children’s Academy, Flowers Beauty Salon and Boutique, Vain Boutique, and I’m Soul Hungry, on Howard; Ayo Fashion, El Pecado, El Sabor Poblano, Mado’s African Braiding on Clark; Handsome Bastard Barber Shoppe and Electric Jungle, off Clark on Greenleaf; Pho Spicier Thai Cuisine on Devon; and Onward Chicago and Icy-Licious on Sheridan.
Ward office responds to thousands of City service requests
On the city services front, my hard working 49th Ward staff and our ward superintendent, Dan Murphy, continue to respond to each and every request for service. Since January 1st, my office, together with the City’s 311 system, fielded over 15,000 requests for city services. Graffiti removal, tree-related calls, rodent baiting and potholes were the top four most common services requested. This is the bread and butter work of an alderman and no aldermanic staff does it better. Keep those calls coming!
Meetings and events fill our calendars
My staff and I also sponsored 70 public meetings and events last year, including meetings on zoning proposals, construction projects, public art, and plans for our commercial areas. They also included workshops on issues such as how to appeal your property tax assessment, knowing your rights as an immigrant, and a how to expunge your criminal record so you can start life with a clean slate.
And of course no year would be complete without our favorite annual 49th Ward events, such as the Valentines Day Family Movie Extravaganza, the Spring Clean-up, the Job Fair, multiple CityKey ID events, the Satellite Service Offices, the 49th Ward Pet Day, Paper Shredding, a Lakefront Safety Demonstration, the Trash to Treasure Swap, and the most popular annual event of all – the 49th Ward Back to School Picnic.
I don’t yet know how many community events and meetings I will host in 2019, but I hope you attend as many as you can to meet your neighbors, learn about community issues and lend a helping hand to make the 49th Ward even better.
Rogers Park remains true to its values
Finally, I want to recognize the many good things happening in our community on a daily basis that escape the news media’s attention. From the person who shovels the walk of a next door neighbor and the social service providers who help people facing personal crises to our city workers who make Chicago run and the businesses that provide us with jobs and needed goods and services, we all make contributions to our neighborhood.
A recent New York Times article article featured stories of Rohingya refugees making a life for themselves here in Rogers Park. They join numerous other groups in our community escaping conflict from around the world. Though strangers in a new land, their transition is made much easier through the countless efforts of Rogers Park residents, faith-based organizations, refugee support organizations, social service agencies, ethnic mutual aid organizations, elected officials and ad-hoc groups, all working together to make our neighborhood a place where they comfortable and at home.
Unfortunately, not every community is so welcoming. Forces in our country are actively working to make our nation less hospitable to those who come looking for a better life. We continue to resist in the name of humanity.
This past year has been difficult for many of us, and 2019 poses challenges in the 49th Ward and around the world. I truly believe we are better off when we work together and recognize the good in each of us. We may have our disagreements, but we often have far more in common than what divides us and can accomplish as neighbors. I hope the year ahead is filled with hope, health and happiness for you and your family.
On behalf of myself, my family and my tireless and dedicated staff–Kevin O’Neil, Michael Land, Wayne Frazier, Ann Hinterman, Cecilia Salinas, Bob Fuller, and Dan Murphy–I wish you a blessed holiday season and a wonderful and prosperous New Year!