Jefferson Park group discusses police issues, pet adoption


A new police superintendent, pet rescue services and a freedom of information request were discussed at the March 30 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association.

“I think it’s a good choice,” 16th District police commander William Looney said of Eddie Johnson, whom Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced as his choice for superintendent. Looney was one of several speakers at the association’s 90-minute meeting.

Johnson, a 27-year Chicago police veteran, was chosen even though he did not apply for the position. Emanuel rejected the three finalists which the Chicago Police Board recommended for the position.

The city’s previous two superintendents, Garry McCarthy and Jody Weis, were not from Chicago. “I always think it’s good to have someone who’s familiar with the area,” Looney said.

Johnson has said that he did not apply because his boss, former interim superintendent John Escalante, was applying for the position. Johnson was Escalante’s chief of patrol.

Emanuel has asked the police board to re-open the application process, and Johnson is expected to apply.

Also at the meeting, Looney reported that the district has a community action car assigned to address issues involving homeless people and panhandling. The district has been working with social agencies to help those individuals, he said.

“We’re seeing if we can connect them with the services they need before the summer when we get very busy,” Looney said.

During the winter the district held an outdoor roll call at the Jefferson Park CTA terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., due to problems involving the homeless there, and the district will hold additional roll calls to give residents the opportunity to meet officers, Looney said.

“One of the complaints I’ve heard, and I’ve been an officer for 27 years, is we don’t see the officers,” Looney said.

The district’s next outdoor roll calls will be held at 11 p.m. Friday, April 8, at Indian Road Park, 6010 W. Matson Ave., and at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, April 14, Schorsch Village Hall, 6940 W. Belmont Ave.

Looney also reported that the district will offer free microchips for pets at a workshop that will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at the police station, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave. The chips will be available for the first 200 pets, and animals showing signs of respiratory illness will not be serviced.

The district has a scanner that can read the chips, making it easier for police to reunite a found dog with its owner. The district routinely deals with calls about lost or found dogs, Looney said.

Association members also heard presentations by representatives of two animal rescue agencies, Greyhounds Only and Chipawgo.

Greyhounds Only volunteer Karel Munao said that the former racing dogs bark significantly less than other dogs. Greyhounds can run 40 miles per hour, and are considered to be “in flight” most of the time they are ruining, similar to a cheetah, Munao said.

Pet adoption representatives usually are available to answer questions at the Jefferson Park “Sunday Market” events, which are held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Sunday of each month from June to October at Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave.

Chipawgo volunteer Heather Friedman said that many of the dogs rescued by her group are from Southern Illinois and Kentucky, where large numbers of dogs are found running wild because pet owners lack the resources for spaying or neutering their pets.

The association announced that it filed a freedom of information request with the office of Alderman John Arena (45th). The request asks for the names of Arena’s zoning advisory board members, meeting notes and a list of campaign donors who have sought a zoning change in the ward.

Association officials have called for the advisory meetings to be open to the public. However, an aide to the alderman has said that keeping the meetings private allows an open flow of discussion among the architects, planners and others who serve on the committee and that the meetings do not have to be open because they are advisory and ad hoc in nature.

In the 41st Ward, Alderman Anthony Napolitano holds his zoning advisory committee meetings in public.

“Last time I checked this is America, and meetings should be open,” association board member Elizabeth Jurkacek said.

Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that the offices of aldermen are not subject to freedom of information requests and that he sent the association information on how it can request information from the appropriate government body. Some of the requested items are exempt under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act because they are considered personal information about an individual, Brugh said.

The association’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St.