Rule changes eyed in ward budget vote
by BRIAN NADIG
The 45th Ward’s participatory budget process will undergo rule changes as an advisory committee recently began researching the infrastructure improvements which residents recommended at a series of neighborhood assemblies held last fall.
Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that same group or project will not be eligible to receive discretionary dollars two years in a row in an effort to ensure that one area of the ward does not "monopolize" the limited amount of funds that the ward receives each year.
Arena is one of four aldermen who hold a community vote to decide how to spend most of the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds. The funds must be used for infrastructure improvements, and last year’s 45th Ward projects included pigeon abatement and lighting enhancements at some viaducts, side street resurfacing and an artificial playing surface at Beaubien School.
Another recently announced change is that projects which come under the jurisdiction of another taxing body, such as the Chicago Public Schools or the Chicago Park District, will be limited to $100,000 in discretionary funds. Another change announced last fall is that the minimum voting age of residents who are allowed to participate in the vote, which will occur in May, has been lowered from 18 to 16.
One of the projects on the ballot last year which was not selected was a $350,000 allocation for a new playground at Independence Park, and the project has been proposed again this year. Brugh said that an effort is being made to have the project broken down into smaller segments.
Other proposals for 2014 include crosswalk improvements near Hitch School at Bryn Mawr and Austin avenues, platform improvements at the Mayfair Metra station, the creation of new bike lanes and the installation of rain gardens, which are designed to soak up storm water, Brugh said.
Workshops will be held at which volunteers will make presentations on their proposals. Brugh said that other funding sources may be secured for some projects.