Updates given on Feb. 6-24 community vote on 41st Ward budget
by BRIAN NADIG
Lighting upgrades for commercial districts and community gardens are among the items expected to make the 41st Ward participatory budget ballot, while a proposal for pool renovations at Taft High School may not.
About 15 people attended a Jan. 9 community meeting that Alderman Anthony Napolitano held on the budget process. The meeting featured a lengthy discussion on a request to install speed humps in North Edgebrook.
Napolitano will hold a community vote Feb. 6 to 24 to determine how to spend most of the ward’s 2017 allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds, which must be used for infrastructure projects. Ward residents age 16 and older can vote at the ward office, 7442 N. Harlem Ave., and at satellite locations that have not been determined.
Napolitano is joining about half a dozen other aldermen who use the participatory budget process. Side-street resurfacing is the primary use of the funds citywide.
Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio said that when feasible ballot items will be grouped by category, such as lighting improvements and beautification projects. "We don’t want it to be a competition against neighborhoods," Vittorio said. "We don’t want it to be a fight between Norwood Park and Edgebrook."
The ward office receive recommendations for pedestrian safety improvements, but in some instances those projects, such as re-painting a crosswalk, can be done without the use of discretionary funds, Vittorio said. Another suggestion calls for parkway and sidewalk improvements on Northwest Highway in Edison Park.
The city is implementing new spending rules this year which could make it more difficult use discretionary funds for higher-priced projects that may take extra time to coordinate and complete, Vittorio said. "They need it to be allocated and put in place for the calendar year," he said "You can’t pool the money and use it 5 years down the road."
One of the larger projects recommended by residents calls for converting the Taft swimming pool to regulation size to help the school’s swim team prepare for competition. "We have really good swimmers who are losing to schools with larger lanes," a Taft parent said at the meeting.
The parent said that while Taft is in the 41st Ward, she hopes that other Northwest Side aldermen also would contribute discretionary funds toward the pool project since Taft’s attendance area covers several wards.
Vittorio said that a preliminary estimate for the project is about $3 million and that additional funding options may have to be explored. He said that Napolitano would be willing to testify at a Chicago Board of Education hearing in support of the project.
A resident at the meeting asked about the possibility of having speed humps installed in the 7100 block of North Mankato Avenue.
Napolitano said that his office received a petition in favor of the speed humps signed by most of the affected home owners but that he later received a petition against the project signed by 30 percent of the home owners. He said that other residents expressed concerns to him about installing speed humps but did not want their names on a petition.
Napolitano said that he may hold a community meeting on the issue and that while speed humps can be an effective way to slow traffic, there must be strong support from residents of on the block before he would have the traffic-calming devices installed.
One concern about speed humps is that they can divert traffic to other streets, and some residents have said that they lower property values, according Napolitano.
Vittorio said that an ordinance is being introduced to have stop signs installed at the intersection of Mankato and Sioux Avenue to slow traffic on Mankato, which is a popular cut-through street between Touhy Avenue and Lehigh Avenue. He said that the city’s sign division will investigate installing "children playing" and other signs that may encourage drivers to slow down.
Funding for speed humps does not have to be a ballot item due to their low cost, estimated at about $3,000 for some blocks, Vittorio said. Several residents at the Jan. 9 meeting recommended that police conduct traffic missions in North Edgebrook in an effort to slow traffic.
Former 41st Ward alderman Brian Doherty also dealt with the issue in the mid-2000s.
Speed humps were installed on Ionia Avenue, but they have been removed to accommodate resurfacing and water main projects, according to an area resident. Doherty requested funding for the speed humps after he conducted a mail-in survey of households on Ionia.