Photo adds to controversy surrounding Alderman Arena’s use of police lot near Wrigley
by BRIAN NADIG and KEVIN GROSS and
A Facebook photograph shows that Alderman John Arena (45th) attended a May 11 Cubs game with other elected officials, contradicting his statement to reporters that he parked at the 19th (Town Hall) Police District Station near Wrigley Field so that his 75-year-old mother would not have to walk too far.
District commander Marc Buslik on May 16 issued new procedures on guest parking at the station, 850 W. Addison St. The station is about two blocks from the ballpark.
"I cannot believe that something as simple as parking could turn into the absurdity that it has become," Buslik wrote in a memo to district officers.
The photo shows Arena sitting with several individuals, including state Representative Robert Martwick (D-19) and Norwood Park Township Democratic committeeman Frank Avino Jr.
Martwick said on May 23 that he did not recall seeing Arena’s mother at the game and that he was not with Arena when he parked at the police station. "I took a bus. I met (Arena) at the park," Martwick said.
Arena made the remark about his mother while attending a May 22 ceremony with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in which the city announced plans to renovate additional Blue Line stations, including a $25 million project for the Jefferson Park Transit Center, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The reporters were asking about his use of the police parking facility on May 11. The Chicago Sun-Times published an online story on May 21 in which a Chicago Police Department spokesman said that the garage should only be used for on-duty officers and those off-duty officers who are leaving their weapon in their vehicle since fans cannot bring guns into the ballpark.
However, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said on May 23 that the alderman was actually referring to a May 14 game that his mother attended, which was a makeup game for a postponed game from earlier in the season. Brugh said that Arena was at the May 11 game with the other officials.
"There appears to be some confusion (regarding the date)," Brugh said.
Arena told the group of reporters that he would no longer use the police parking lot when attending Cubs games and said that years ago the police department invited him to use the police garage. Arena made his remarks .
Arena said that initial reports that he refused to take "no" for answer when an officer told him the lot was full are not true and that he will now take public transportation to the ballpark.
"It’s really overstated. Whatever the narrative that is put out there is not what transpired. I did park there. I have parked there before. I was invited by the police department years ago … I won’t be doing it anymore. I will be taking the CTA," Arena told reporters.
Arena added, "I was with my 75-year-old mother, didn’t want to have her walk too far. I asked for that space. The garage had space in it, so there was no confrontation."
In recent months Arena has been at odds with the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7. The union has threatened to sue him over his efforts to have dozens of city workers disciplined for their online comments against a mixed-income housing proposal in his ward.