Jefferson Park Library facelift, curb/sidewalk repairs win 45th Ward budget vote
by BRIAN NADIG
The winning capital improvement projects for 45th Ward participatory budget 2018 vote were sidewalk and curb repairs and a facelift for the Jefferson Park Library.
Alderman John Arena (45th) announced the vote totals on Saturday afternoon and said that the 723 ward residents, age 14 and older, who voted represented a 259 percent increase from the last budget vote.
Arena skipped a vote on the ward’s 2017 discretionary budget due to changes in the city’s timetable for filing budget requests and to allow more time to figure out new ways to get more residents to vote. For the first time online voting was allowed, and in the past two weeks voting was held at several locations, including Schurz and Taft high schools.
The vote determines how to spend $1 million of the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds, which must be used for capital projects, such as side-street resurfacing and the planting of trees. The remaining $320,000 is reserved for cost over-runs and emergencies.
Only about 20 percent of the city’s 50 aldermen hold a community vote on their ward budget. On the Northwest Side, Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Gilbert Villegas (36st) also hold votes.
In the 45th Ward, residents were asked to choose what percentage of the $1 million should be spent on side-street resurfacing and to choose up to six of the 15 projects which were on the ballot. The average of those voting was 51 percent, or $510,000, for resurfacing.
The winning projects were sidewalk repairs throughout the ward ($150,000) with 520 votes, Jefferson Park Library improvements ($175,000) with 449 votes and curb repairs throughout the ward ($150,000) with 369 votes.
The first two runners-up was neighborhood greenways with 285 votes and colored LED lights under the viaduct at Milwaukee Avenue and the Kennedy Expressway with 260 votes.
The following is a summary of all of the items on the ballot:
Colored LED lights under the Milwaukee Avenue and Kennedy Expressway viaduct at $140,000 or $240,000, pedestrian bump-out at McVicker and Bryn Mawr avenues at $70,000, lobby lighting and sidewalk repairs at the Jefferson Park Library at $175,000, pedestrian bump-out at Dakin and Lamon avenues at $30,000 and pedestrian bump-out on Avondale Avenue to access the Gladstone Park Metra Station at $70,000.
Also, mid-block bump-out on Higgins Avenues to access Jefferson Memorial Park at $65,000, sidewalk repairs throughout the ward at $150,000, curbs repairs throughout the ward at $150,000, hanging planters in the business corridors at$25,000 and 17 decorative trash cans throughout the ward at $26,000.
Fencing and lighting near the Gladstone Park station at $70,000, outdoor adult exercise equipment at Wilson and Austin-Foster parks at $50,000, new signage for the Knox Industrial Corridor and the Mayfair Metra Station and other improvements at $35,000 and a marquee or decorative sign at Jefferson Memorial Park at $100,000.
Another proposal calls for the installation of neighborhood greenways on Austin Avenue between the Gladstone Park station and Indian Road Park and along Ainslie Street and Leclaire Avenue between the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal and the North Branch Trail in Forest Glen at $90,000. The greenways would serve as designated bike routes, with increased signage and roadway markings and new bike lanes where feasible.
High school students who live in the ward are allowed to vote. Arena has said that the intent is to encourage civic engagement among the area’s youth.