Jefferson Park Forward community group holds first meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
Forming a “welcome wagon” to greet new home owners and sponsoring social events were among the ideas that residents attending the Nov. 17 meeting of the new community group Jefferson Park Forward would like to see pursued by the organization.
“The goal is you get to know your neighbor and let them know that there is a neighborhood organization,” said Ryan Richter, one of the group’s founders. Organizing a pub crawl and sponsoring a community night at the Gift Theater, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., were among the recommended social events, Richter said.
The group is forming committees to look into bylaws and other organizational issues, Richter said. “The goal is to formalize, but we’re just going to take it one meeting at a time,” he said. “We got a lot of great ideas from the people who were there.”
The group, whose next meeting will be in January, plans to rotate meeting locations among local businesses. About 60 people attended the group’s first meeting at Fishman Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Several organizers of Jefferson Park Forward also are members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association. Disagreement among JPNA members as to the direction of that organization recently led to the first contested election for group’s presidency, with Bob Bank defeating Richter.
Richter said that there is room for two neighborhood organizations in Jefferson Park and that Forward will be “a little bit different” than the JPNA. “I’m still a member of the JPNA and still plan to be and will be going to the meetings,” Richter said.
Over the years the JPNA has found itself at odds on zoning issues with former alderman Patrick Levar and Alderman John Arena (45th). Richter has said that the association’s platform against up-zoning lacks the flexibility needed to revitalize the Jefferson Park business district.
Richter said that it is not known if Forward will be taking stances on development proposals but that “our mission is to be open and pragmatic” and “to stay out of the politics” which can be associated with development and zoning issues.
On Forward’s Web site, the group states that it “is committed to the revitalization of our community” and lists the following vision statement:
“By engaging residents and facilitating participation, Jefferson Park Forward will encourage and support activities to benefit the community through economic and neighborhood development, a pedestrian-friendly downtown area with shopping and cafes, and social and civic events.”
When asked about the formation of Forward, Bank said that neighborhood groups should act as “an independent voice” which challenges elected officials on important issues and that he does not see Forward fulfilling that role.
Forward is co-sponsoring its first neighborhood event, the annual “Holiday Sparkle” at the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., Richter said. It will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7, and include singing, refreshments and the lighting of holiday lights.