Aldermen discuss Edgebrook issues at group meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
Aldermen Samantha Nugent (39th) and Anthony Napolitano (41st) said they have a good working relationship and that having Edgebrook split into two wards is not a hindrance to getting things done in the community.
The aldermen were the guest speakers at the Sept. 17 meeting of the Edgebrook Community Association at Edgebrook School, 6525 N. Hiawatha Ave. ECA treasurer Jeffrey Singer asked the aldermen resident-submitted questions.
"My (colleague) and I have a good rapport," Nugent said. "It’s an honor to represent all of Edgebrook. I don’t look at it as a boundary line."
Napolitano said that the bigger obstacle is that aldermen lack some of the authority they once had, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot had directed city departments to no longer require letters of support from them on a variety of matters.
"It’s not the position it used to be. Aldermanic prerogative has disappeared so much," Napolitano said.
Over the objections of the aldermen, the city Department of Transportation recently denied a permit application to close Devon Avenue for a summer street festival due to traffic concerns.
In the past an alderman might have been able to make a few phone calls to City Hall and get the street closed, Napolitano said. "It’s not 1990 anymore. That is gone," he said.
Napolitano recommended that a permit application to close Devon be submitted earlier next year and that hopefully the department’s concerns can be addressed. "There’s no reason you shouldn’t have one," Napolitano said. "We did a letter of support for (the street festival)."
Nugent said that she also supported efforts to have the street festival and that she was going to be a sponsor of the event.
One of the questions that was asked at the meeting was about the economic vitality of the Central-Devon commercial district.
Napolitano said that he plans to conduct a survey of his four main business areas of his ward as part of an effort to create a revitalization plan.
"We’re going to survey the entire Edgebrook community, (and) we’re going to stick to what the community wants … to the best of our ability," Napolitano said.
Napolitano said that in the past, development proposals have sparked an array of concerns from residents. "A lot of people don’t want to see (dense) development," he said.
Nugent told the association that attracting more stores to the area is a priority but that brick-and-mortar retailers face many obstacles in today’s retail climate. "We all know the shopping mall isn’t what it once was," she said.
More than ever independent retailers take a risk when they open a new store, and local residents must support small businesses, even if it means paying a little more than online or at a big-box retailer, Nugent said.
"It’s a commitment from (the store owner), and a commitment from us, too," Nugent said. "It may not last in this Amazon world."
Also at the meeting, Nugent said that she is planning to create a zoning task force and that she would be launching a participatory budget process for the first time in the ward. It will include a community vote on how to spend $500,000 of the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds for infrastructure improvements. She said that most of the funds are earmarked for side-street resurfacing and roadway repairs.
Also, Napolitano addressed the issue of Works Progress Administration streets which were installed as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression. It can be difficult to come up with a consensus on whether to rebuild one of these streets so that they have curbs, sidewalks and a drainage system, he said.
About half of the residents on a block will say, "This is the ‘look’ we bought" in reference to the rural atmosphere which the unimproved street helps create, Napolitano said.
To reach the 39th Ward service office, call 773-736-5594.
To reach the 41st Ward service office, call 773-631-2241.