Bucktown Community Organization: State of the 32nd Ward, Crime and Education


Alderman Waguespack gives his State of the Ward presentation


BCO President Steve Jensen facilitated the program

On Veterans Day, the Bucktown Community Organization (BCO), appropriately, met at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt American Legion Post No. 923, 1824 W. Cortland St., to have a "state of the area" meeting.

On hand to give the State of the Congressional District was Mike Quigley; State of the Ward (32nd) was Alderman Scott Waguespack; State of the 14th Police District was Commander Francis Valadez; and State of Educational Issues was Victoria Bryant from Illinois Raise Your Hand. 


Sgt. Rodriguez welcomed all to the American Legion Post

After a welcome by Sgt. Rodriguez of Post 923, Steve Jensen, BCO President, introduced four speakers. Each spoke then entertained questions. 

Mike Quigley, 5th District U.S. House of Representatives
Mike Quigley, who will be second ranking in the House's Appropriations Committee starting in January, indicated that three issues he feels should be on the top burner but probably will not be are climate control, gun violence and  a transportation bill. What is possible are immigration reform, tax reform possibly postal reform. 

Illustrating the wide difference in gun control, he pointed out that in Indiana, you may purchase almost any type of firearm even if, for example, you are a felon, have an order of protection against you or are on the no-fly list. 


Representative Mike Quigley

In two years he could become chair of sub-committee that funds housing, transportation and urban development and that is important, he says. 

Focusing on transportation for such reasons as reducing air pollution, dependence on foreign oil , he talked about  how, even in the depths of depression, this country's infrastructure was built and maintained. 

He felt that he achieved a major victory in restoring Tiger Grants and core capacity re-instated, but the amount put into transportation funding was a drop in the bucket, in comparison to need. He pointed out that it takes a train coming from the west coast as long to get here as to get through Chicago. 

City rail transportation, for example, has more traffic than Amtrak, yet it's operating on a 100-year-old rickety rail system. 

Then there are the 6,000 bridges in this county, with a total of 100,000 in this country that are old enough to be covered by Medicare.  Asked about the metro bridges on Ashland, Quigley said that he expects a report in the next week, which he will share with BCO. 

Also on the topic of transportation, he said that O'Hare Airport is one of his current concerns. "We probably over built runways at O'Hare and probably under built the ground facilities." 

Asked about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, he said "I have a feeling that they will come back to you with different plans. I think they heard the community. We all need to be on the same page." 


Commander Frank Valadez

Francis Valadez, Commander, 14th Police District
"Good news is the entire 30 sector has had a drop in every crime statistic that we count with the basic top 10. If you look at the beats, there are those that have gone up slightly," announced Commander Valadez. 

"The biggest count and the hardest one I have bringing down is thefts. It is listed as over $500 and under $500. I don't know where all these computers go but there is a minimum of a dozen stolen in a day out of cars. It's as simple as breaking a window, grabbing a bag and just keep going. 

"If you are going somewhere, put that bag in the truck before you get there.  No matter what is in that bag, for the person breaking that window, it is a win. That being said, we are down in thefts by 29 since January 1. We have had 1200, but our vehicle thefts are down to 119. 

"I'd love to take credit for these reductions but it really has to do with the neighborhood. If you are paying attention and they know they can caught, they're not coming back. They are going to pick an easier target." 

Reminders: keep your porch light on at night and put your street number on the back of your property. The police department will provide the numbers. Contact your beat facilitator or call the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) office at 312.744.1261.  

Staffing wise, the Commander indicated that he would gladly take another 100 officers, if he could get them. In fact as he approaches is second anniversary as Commander in the 14th, he is down four officers. 

When asked about staffing once the Bloomingdale Trail is open, Valadez said that prior to the delayed opening, they had put in for more officers to handle the Trail. 

"I think that is going to be a great asset to the whole district, but I definitely want someone up there to prevent something  from happening and to protect the Park." 

Jensen told the audience that the 14th has been doing some patrols for stop sign enforcement and crosswalk stings. [There was applause.] 


Victoria Bryant, Illinois Raise Your Hand

Victoria Bryant, Illinois Raise Your Hand
Raise Your Hand (RYH), a grassroots parents organization, began in 2010, at that time Victoria Bryant was involved with Burr School. Over issues of the budget, she joined RYH. 

Giving a view into some of the issues the RYH is now working on, Bryant said that charter schools are not something that we are against, "But they have no oversight and accountability and they are getting a lot of tax dollars and no one knows where it goes." 

Another issue for RYH is advocating to "Park the PARCC" (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). 

PARCC, according to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), is the new state assessment and accountability measure for Illinois students enrolled in a public school district. It assesses the New Illinois Learning Standards Incorporating the Common Core and will be administered to students in English Language Arts and mathematics. 

PARCC assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics will be administered to all students in grades 3-8, as per their current grade level. At the high school level, students enrolled in English III will be assessed in English Language Arts, students enrolled in Algebra II / Math III will be assessed in mathematics, and students enrolled in both English III and Algebra II / Math III will be assessed in English Language Arts and mathematics, regardless of grade level. 

Bryant explained that, "We want them to delay the PARCC for a year.  It is badly written and not user friendly. For example, they are asking 3rd graders to take the test by typing on a computer. Most of them do not know how to type on a computer.  They are also badly written, asking kids to do things that are not age appropriate. On top of that, it has not been tested in the field." CPS can not delay the year, ISBE has to apply for a waiver to the Federal Government. 

Help on improvement of high schools is another item on their agenda as is an elected school board. 

When asked about the new proposed CPS Language Academy High School, Bryant explained that that is another specialized school. RYH is more about equity for all students. 

Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward Alderman, State of the Ward
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was first on 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack's list of to-be-discussed items.


Alderman Scott Waguespack

BRT was a topic he began dealing with in 2007 and 2008. He likens how it is being handled with the Parking Meter debacle. "Had the Parking Meter Deal not gone through, we would have been able to use some of those dollars to run buses in rush hour lanes and do a lot better than what we have with express buses," he explained. The Meter Deal squashed what would have given an opportunity to have some good transportation solutions.

Futhermore, he pointed out,  that the Parking Meter Deal effected Chicagoans in ways beyond hitting drivers in the wallet.  it wasn't just about the billions of dollars that was lost and the fact that it went to Abu Dhabi, Germany and Australia, but also the lose of the ability to do a lot of the good basic fundamental transportation options that could done in the future. 

He stated that he believes that there are issues with the BRT that have not be brought forward. One is how will it be financed. It appears that they want to create little mini TIF districts along Ashland which would raise taxes.  

Special Service Areas (SSA)
There are five SSAs in the 32nd Ward. He has been pushing to get more accountability. Each one is to have signatures from 20% of the pin holders in their district when renewing. In the past sometimes they did not even get the then prescribed %5. 

Unlike SSA #33 in Wicker Park and Bucktown, some had little to no transparency except coming through our office but no showing people how they spent their dollars. Some of the SSAs in the 32nd Ward had budgets of between  hundreds of thousands of dollars to  $2 million, which is more than  aldermanic budget. 

Mariono's has opened, Fox Ford is going up on Elston near Damen, Mid-Town Tennis is re-configuring a large part of their space in about a $20 million project  and all intersections at Damen, Elston and Fullerton are being re-constructed. 

Some of the construction work has begun and the new street is hoped to be opened by December 2015. Delayed by some underground work this last winter but they hope streetscape will be done by spring of 2016. "After a decade of work on this project, I'm glad to see it move forward," said Waguespack. 

Street resurfacing
Completed 12 of 13 streets in Wicker Park and Bucktown area. They tried to plan the schedule so that services such as new water mains were in place before the re-surfacing. 

Damen and Armitage new businesses going in. He described them as unique, some of which are corporate/individual.  There is an immediate physician care facility where the old Scoop was on Milwaukee and Northwestern Medical Center moving from North Ave to Milwaukee in a new facility north of Leavitt. 

He explained that Auldi has indicated that they want to rebuild their facility at Milwaukee and Leavitt, including residential in the new project. The project will go to the BCO and the Wicker Park Committee (WPC) for review 

LED signs
He has asked for feedback from BCO and WPC regarding the large LED signs. The large LED signs along the highway are part of the Mayor Emanuel's package of initially 60 across the City, which was approved about two years ago and has been deemed "the worst overall billboard package the City has ever seen" by Waguespack and others. It includes about five, similar to the one at Orloff, within 1,000 of each other in the area. 

"They already have serious problems with the construction by a Green Bay, WI, vendor. His office has already received several complaints who live close by and "by businesses who have their businesses and signs devalued as a result of these huge additions. 

Bloomingdale Trail
As he discussed the Bloomingdale Trail's progress, Waguespack mentioned his disappointment with the City Law Department,  Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Water Department and Walsh. "We had some serious flooding thanks to Walsh Construction a couple of months ago and they threw are residents out to dry. And, they are not going to pay for any of the damages they caused. We are working with some of the attorneys on helping those people out trying to get them information about how the City came to that decision.

Northwest Tower Building
Exterior restoration on the Northwest Tower Building at Milwaukee and North Avenues is moving forward. The extent of the work has caused some streets to be closed to get the trucks in and put up the equipment they need. 

"This is a very serious restoration, they are not flyby night guys they brought in some of the top-notch people. They are the same company that developed the Walgreen's (originally the Noel State Bank) across the street. I am hoping that we get the same kind of quality…and I think we will in the building were there will be a hotel.

Completion has been put off to spring 2016 because they found extra work that had to be done." 

The remainder of Waguespack's report was about service in the Ward. 

Every time the Commander's officers catch taggers, the judges are now saying, "Send them to the 32nd Ward for 50 to 100 community service hours."  With that "sentence," Jensen becomes their boss to clean up the graffiti and tags. According to Waguespack, that means they work hard. 

With the court appointed service hours and volunteer high school students, they have been able to make the ward cleaner. The average number of clean up service hours per month is roughly between  500 and 600. The 311 requests per month number between 600-700 and the Alderman's office handles another 400 to 500. 

"We are constantly trying to keep up with all the things that coming in," said Waguespack. "I know we miss a few things here and there. I don't like to see that happen. I push my staff very hard to follow up but I know things fall through the cracks. For that I apologize. 

"Over all, we've tried to find ways to co-ordinate with the neighbors, as the Commander said,  if you are not on the Neighbor hood Watch page, I think it is a good thing to do. Join a parks group…they all need help. We have been fortunate to get state monies to help Holstein Park facilities last another 100 years."

He praised Commander Valadez saying, "He is very soft-spoken up here going through the numbers but I want you to know that he is one of the best Commanders we've had in 14." He went on to explain that the Commander has put himself in dangerous positions, shows up in court with his officers, is in the District on his off hours and supporting his officers. 

Further more, even though they are down in numbers, the officers in the area "really bust their chops for us. And the Commander pushes them to do the right thing."  

"I think we are down about 1,000 officers in the City and we [in City Council] are trying to get more officers versus paying more overtime."


Steve J is a huge asset to

Steve J is a huge asset to our community and my neighbors and I appreciate his efforts with the Alderman in cleaning up after these taggers AND our few lazy residents.

Bucktown Community Organization: State of the 32nd Ward, Crime

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