Alderman Arena seeks input on how to spend ward’s discretionary funds
by BRIAN NADIG
Alderman John Arena (45th) will hold a series of neighborhood assemblies this month in which feedback will be sought on how the ward’s 2016 discretionary funds for infrastructure improvements should be spent.
Arena is one of eight aldermen who will hold a community vote next May to decide how most their ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds, which are commonly referred to as “aldermanic menu money,” will be spent. The projects that are listed on the ward’s “participatory budget” ballot will result from input at the neighborhood assemblies, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said.
“We want to be as transparent as possible and give constituents a say in how their tax dollars are spent,” Brugh said. The concept of participatory budgeting was first implemented in the city about 5 years ago.
Most aldermen make decisions on use of their discretionary funds internally but oftentimes will rely on recommendations from the city Department of Transportation as to which side streets should be resurfaced. Traditionally resurfacing makes up a significant amount of the discretionary expenditures in each ward, but those funds also can be used for other projects, including improvements to parks and pedestrian crossings.
The winning projects on the 2015 ballot included the installation of bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue between Addison Street and Lawrence Avenue and the creation of pedestrian bumpouts on several streets, including Central Avenue at both Balmoral Avenue and at Leland Avenue. Several of these projects are expected to be implemented next year, Brugh said.
The transportation department is assessing whether rush-hour parking restrictions on Central should be lifted to allow for the bumpouts, which would be located in the parking lane and which are intended to shorten the distance of a crosswalk, Brugh said. The bike lanes would be 3 ½ to 4 feet wide, and in some instances a shared bike/car lane may be created in areas where the roadway narrows, he said.
The assembles will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16, at Branch Community Church, 6125 W. Foster Ave., 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at Hitch School, 5625 N. McVicker Ave., 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at Saint John Episcopal Church, 3857 N. Kostner Ave., 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., and 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at Jefferson Park Library, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave. The after noon assemblies are being held in conjunction with that school’s report card pickup day.
More information about the participatory budget process is available at www.pb45.org. Those who cannot attend one of the assemblies are asked to e-mail recommendations to Brugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.