29th Ward residents choose community projects to be funded in 2018

December 4, 2017
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Nearly 400 residents in the 29th Ward cast their votes t0 help determine how Ald. Chris Taliaferro will spend about $1 million in infrastructure money in 2018.

They chose four community projects; the remaining 65 percent will be spent on street and alley resurfacing.

From Nov. 6 through 20, residents voted at one of five expos held across the West Side ward as well as at the alderman’s office as part of the ward’s participatory budgeting process.

“Each of the projects will give our community an opportunity for growth,” Taliaferro said. “I’m encouraged by all the projects. They will bring better development to our ward.”

The four winning projects that will advance to City Hall for approval in January are:

Galewood Park Improvements ($100,000)

·      Replace the outdated mural

·      Add a walking track

·      Add an adjustable basketball rim

Newland Avenue Pedestrian Tunnel Improvements ($125,000)

·      Repair the tunnel

·      Add gardens and arts

·      Improve the lighting

Central Avenue Viaduct Mural ($32,500)

·      Restore the “Movements” mural

·      Add new lighting

Fighting Litter Along Galewood Business Corridor ($55,000)

·      Install decorative trash cans along North and Harlem avenues

Community representatives had compiled a list of five viable projects for residents to vote on based on 67 ideas submitted from July to September, according to the alderman’s office.

“Our team is absolutely outstanding,” said Austin resident Terry Redmond, a member of the South Austin Neighborhood Association who was in charge of the ward’s participatory budgeting process.

Resident at least 14 years old could cast up to three votes on the five projects that made the ballot, and more than 20 percent of the voters were youths, Redmond said.

This is the second year the first-term alderman has implemented participatory budgeting in his ward. In most of Chicago’s 50 wards, the aldermen decide where to allocate the $1 million menu money with little or no community input.

“I think the success comes in community participation,” Taliaferro said. “I’m very encouraged that we have 390 [people] who came out and voted. Our votes have increased each year, so I’m looking forward to continuing.”

Last year, the alderman set aside $700,000 of his menu money for participatory budgeting. About 80 residents voted, and eight community projects were funded.

This year, Taliaferro said, he opened the entire $1 million so that residents could decide how much they wanted to spend on street and alley repairs as well as which neighborhood projects to fund.

Residents voted that 65 percent of the $1 million budget should to be spent on street resurfacing in 2018. Specific streets to receive the funding will be determined based on both resident input and information provided by the Chicago Department of Transportation, Taliaferro said.

The alderman said he’s optimistic about the turnout for the 2019 participatory budgeting, as people will be even more familiar with filing proposals at community meetings and making decisions by coming out to vote.

“We are looking at any method that we can use to increase turnout, but also to look at what we do this year and what we can do better for next year,” he said, adding he would consider approaches beyond expos to advertise the next round of projects.

The process allows some of the ward’s most concerned infrastructure issues to be addressed with residents’ participation, Taliaferro said, noting he’s received requests even before this year’s participatory budgeting cycle for new facilities in and around Galewood Park.

“The park is funded [because of] the desire of the community to have more programs in our park,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to enhance the Galewood Park, so our community can use it.”

The project that did not make the final list for 2018 is installing four neighborhood markers that would identify South Austin, North Austin, Galewood and Montclare, at a cost of $300,000, Redmond said.

“A lot of people actually like the community markers,” Redmond said, but some voters thought it was a bit pricey.

Redmond also expects next year’s participatory budgeting turnout to be higher than this year’s.

“I think next year when people really see what’s going on, they will be much more involved.”

The community will also participate in designing and installing two of the winning projects that aim to beautify the ward, according to the alderman’s office.

West Side artists will be invited to restore the deteriorating “Movements” mural at the CTA Green Line Central station to mark the 10th anniversary of the mural, which features icons of the Civil Rights Movement.

Resident also will be invited to create a mural and/or mosaics on the walls and pavement of the Newland tunnel, which will make it “an interesting place to pass through,” according to the alderman’s office.

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