Jeff Park Forward has elections, extends boundaries, reports online voting for 45th Ward PB


The Jefferson Park Forward community group held its first-ever board elections at its Sept. 21 meeting and heard plans for the implementation of online voting for participatory budgeting in the 45th Ward.

Initial planning for the group’s formation began in the November of 2015, but the organization was not incorporated until March of 2016, with bylaws in place by July of that year. The initial board consisted mostly of the group’s founders, with some being appointed to one-year terms and others receiving two-year terms.

The group’s founders split off from the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association over several differences.

The association generally opposes up-zoning and has criticized Alderman John Arena (45th) for not allowing the public to attend the ward’s advisory committee meetings. Arena takes input from the committee on zoning and other issues.

Jefferson Park Forward does not take stances on specific zoning projects but has a general policy calling for increased density around the Jefferson Park Transit Center in an effort to help revitalize the struggling commercial district.

At the Sept. 21 meeting, two incoming officers, vice president Rolando Rodriguez and secretary Marie MacDonald, and incoming director Doug Grom, were elected to 2-year terms. Also elected were Sam Wertime and Ozden Esme, who will each be serving their first 2-year term as a director.

Retiring from the board are directors Susanna Ernst and Jenny Conlon. President Ryan Richter, treasurer Robb Van Hook and directors Heidi Osterhout and Dennis Davis have a year left on their terms.

Jefferson Park Forward members also voted to amend the group’s bylaws, extending its western membership boundaries four blocks from Austin Avenue to Nagle Avenue. The other boundaries are Montrose Avenue on the south, the North Branch of the Chicago River on the north and Cicero Avenue, Elston Avenue and Milwaukee District North Line railroad tracks on the east.

The western boundary change takes in Dunham Park and increases Forward’s membership area to all of Gladstone Park, overlapping with the boundaries of the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association.

Jefferson Park Forward has been experiencing membership growth from Dunham and Gladstone, and the change allows members from those neighborhoods to become voting members of the organization, Richter said. Residents living outside the group’s membership boundaries can join the organization but lack voting privileges, he said.

Meanwhile, Ernst reported that online voting will be allowed for the ward’s 2018 participatory budget vote in late October. She said that online voting is being implemented to help get more residents involved in the process, which determines how to spend most of the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million of discretionary funds.

“Basically, people will need to spend us proof of ward residency, and we will e-mail them back a unique, one-use-only URL where they can vote. The 49th Ward did this last year, and it worked well,” Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said after the meeting.

The list of project proposals for the ballot is being finalized, Brugh said. In recent years, the ward’s discretionary funds have been used for side-street resurfacing, playground and athletic field improvements, pigeon abatement and bike lanes.

In other news, Richter reported that about 100 people stopped by the organization’s Park(ing) Day display in three metered parking spaces in the business district on Friday, Sept. 22. It was part of a global event to encourage small gathering plazas and other pedestrian uses.

There is some discussion about creating a permanent plaza in the business district, Richter said.

The organization also is planning to hold a members-only homebrew beer competition next month.