Mitts looks to create safe harbor in 37th Ward

October 25, 2015
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There could be a light at the end of the tunnel in the 37th Ward. Or, more accurately, there light could be at the top of a lighthouse.

On Thursday during her annual state of the ward address Ald. Emma Mitts’ (37th) detailed the past year’s accomplishments and gave residents a preview of possible projects, including early sketches of a proposed outdoor venue for concerts and recreational activities, with the lighthouse as its centerpiece.

However, the idea is a still long way off from being a reality. The development — which would include stadium-style TVs for concerts and rock climbing walls on the lighthouse’s exterior as well as a restaurant at the top — would require a land usage change that could be granted only by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Mitts said.

The alderman said the lighthouse is being targeted for the area of Chicago Avenue just east of Kilbourn Avenue.

“I’m looking to change the law for our community so we can have something historic on the West Side of Chicago and have people come to our neighborhood,” Mitts said.

“You don’t see lighthouses too much. You see them in the magazines or on TV or in a book. But we’ll have one in our own neighborhood.”

Another issue Mitts addressed was the pending city budget for 2016, which continues to be a source of debate among Chicago City Council members.

Some of the stickier points in Emanuel’s budget expected to be voted on Oct. 28 include:

  • a four-year $588 million property tax increase;
  • a $9.50-a-month garbage collection fee;
  • $13 million in higher fees for building permits;
  • a $1 million tax on e-cigarettes, and;
  • $48 million in fees and surcharges on ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, according to a report by the Sun-Times.

During the Oct. 22nd meeting, Mitts promoted the proposed budget as a way to help bring the first balanced budget since 2008.

Mitts presented the increased taxes and fees as a way to save existing programs.

“We must protect and preserve our basic services,” Mitts said.

“(There are) two options: We could terribly cut the services we need or (accept) an increase in property taxes.”

But in an interview with AustinTalks on Friday, Mitts said she wasn’t yet sure how she would vote on the budget, saying there are still questions she has about whether  there will be a homeowner exemption for properties valued under $250,000.

“I understand what’s at stake and what’s at stake for our community,” Mitts said.

And it appears Mitts isn’t the only one with reservations about Emanuel’s budget. According to a recent report by the Sun-Times, as many as 20 aldermen could vote “no.”

In a recent AustinTalks article, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said he was unsure of how he would vote on the budget, saying he would vote in accordance with his constituents’ wishes.

A full vote on the budget is planned for Oct. 28.

Other details from the past year Mitts highlighted include:

  • Over $300 million in infrastructure improvements,
  • The opening of two charter schools: ITW David Speer Academy, 5321 W. Grand Ave., and Moving Everest Charter School, 416 N. Laramie Ave.,
  • 119 clean lot requests,
  • 943 potholes filled,
  • 3,944 water management/sewer requests,
  • 1,134 baiting and rodent control requests,
  • 2,116 forestry requests,
  • 260 fly dumping complaints responded to,
  • 1,116 building violations,
  • 2,505 family and support services requests and
  • Over 100 block clubs running.

Some of those at the meeting were supportive of Mitts’ efforts and results in the ward but said more residents need to step up and pitch in to help make the community better.

“We have an excellent alderman,” William Nero said. “I just wish the community would come out and be more active, and that’s what would make us have a more excellent community. We don’t want to participate; we have an excellent alderman — and the information she gives out benefits the whole community — but we’re not coming out to get it.”

And problems are sometimes different from block to block, said Senesceria Craig. So residents should do their part on their blocks in the effort to help the ward.

“That’s why we have our block clubs,” Craig said. “We have seven blocks in our block club, and we manage those ourselves. Everything shouldn’t be on (Mitts).”

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