The big topic right now in our neighborhood is the potential closing of the 13th District Wood Street Police Station. It started out as a rumor, but the the Police Supt, and the Mayor’s office informed the Aldermen that it was going to part of the budget cuts for the upcoming city budget. With crime in our neighborhood on the upswing since this summer, now is not the best time to be talking about the removal of the police station in our midst. You may have seen the flyers, or the Facebook page, or website of a newly-formed neighborhood group that has sprung up to support the continued operation of the 13th District police station. You missed an amazing opportunity tonight to sit down with the woman who has kick-started this group, as well as Alderman Waguespack, to talk about the station closing, proposed city budget cuts, and what all this means for the city and our neighborhood.
The Alderman started things off with a run-down of the the recent budget meetings at city hall as a way to put the station closing issue in perspective. So far 5 departments out of 40 have been reviewed – the Police Department budget comes next week. Here are some things you may or may not know about what our Mayor wants to do in the next fiscal cycle to tackle the 635 million dollar budget deficit that we are facing:
- Raise the fees for water usage ; You can read more about it here. What the Alderman also told us though is that if you don’t have a water meter on your home, you should get one installed as that often can decrease your city water bill. There is a program out there to get water meters installed, that hasn’t been well promoted by the city called MeterSave. Most households pay a flat rate that could be lowered by installing a water meter as most of us don’t use the amount we are being charged for now at the flat rate. This might also offset the large increase the city plans to add to households.
- Increase the price for a city sticker: If you drive and SUV or any ‘heavy’ car, your sticker prices are going to go up.
- New Garbage contract: Forcing the Streets & Sanitation department to bid against Waste Management for garbage and recycling pickup. Yes, you heard it right Ukrainian Villagers, there’s a good chance we’ll have recycling in our neighborhood by the end of the year.
- Increase the fees on Valet parking services. This was an interesting point. Did you know that those services only pay about $25 a year for their valet parking space in front of businesses? The city wants to charge them $1.50/hour. Got to agree with the Alderman who is suggesting that they be charged more like $5- $10 an hour.
- Collect on uncollected debt: Actually, the city didn’t propose this, but they did let slip that there is a HUGE amount of uncollected debt that goes back to 2008. How huge? $700 MILLION DOLLARS. This is something else that was news to the Aldermen. This does NOT include uncollected parking ticket revenue by the way. This is money owed to the city by businesses like say, banks. Check in with Alderman Waguespack as he has asked to get the spreadsheet of who owes what. That’s gotta be interesting. And just think what kind of dent it would make in the budget if we collected only 1/2 of it?
- Reducing the budget for Graffiti removal – This seems hard to believe, but true.
All this was a way of talking about how large the budget deficit is, as well as the various places that money could be saved. If heavy water-use businesses had to pay for the actual amount of water they used instead of a flat rate based on the type of building they were in, that would bring in extra revenue, along with charging valet parking companies with an actual usage fee, or even collecting city debt. These would save more money to the city and not leave us without a police station.
Next, we moved onto a longer discussion about the proposed closing of the 13th District Station and what has been done so far to get the word out, what others are saying, etc.
- Ann Shaw was on hand and brought flyers and lots of information and insight to the challenges we face w/o a neighborhood police station. Here is what she’s done so far:
- She is posting updates and news articles and volunteer events on the Save the 13th District Facebook page , website, and twitter feed.
- She has organized a rally that will take place before the Community Meeting next week on the 25th
- She has petitions out all over the neighborhood as well as online – you can sign up here
- She has hand-delivered a few thousand petitions to the Mayor already and he was not expecting the large number of people who are against the potential station closures.
- She and her volunteers are meeting this Sunday the 23rd, at 2:00pm at St. Helen’ Church on Augusta/Oakley to make signs, posters, etc., in to post them and hand them out. More help is needed!!!
What can you do to help the 13th District?
- Contact Anne’s group: Volunteer to make posters, hand out flyers or just help organize groups of people. This is a big growing movement and she needs all the help she can get. (facebook, or email: Save13thDistrictPolice@gmail.com)
- Contact the Mayor!
- Call the Mayor’s Office and let him know that you do not support the closing of the 13th District station (Mayor’s #: 312-744-3300)
- Fax a letter to him (sample letter can be found on the Save13.org site here.) at 312-744-8045
- Submit an online complaint form on the city’s website here (Subject Line: 13th District Police Station and Organization: Concerned Citizens and Businesses of the 13th District)
- Attend the Rally and Community Meeting with the Aldermen and the Police Superintendent on Tuesday October 25th at the Ukrainian Village Cultural Center (2247 W, Chicago Avenue). Rally at 5:30pm , Meeting at 6:30pm
- Attend the City Budget Hearings for the Police Department. They won’t get to the Police Dept until next Thursday (10/27) probably in the afternoon session after 1:00pm. It’s free and open to the public, at City Hall.