• Parks: West Ridge Nature Center

    Alderman Pat O’Connor and Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked off the official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony September 21, 2015  of the long anticipated West Ridge Nature Center. The day’s celebration included activities such as a “Story Walk” for parents and children, an “I Spy” nature walk, discussions on pelts and skulls on loan from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, outdoor yoga and much more, all compliments of the West Ridge Nature Center Advisory Council.

     

     

    Here is a great article about the new park in your neighborhood.

    By Linze Rice | September 20, 2015 3:29pm

    WEST RIDGE — After months of anticipation, the West Ridge Nature Preserve on Western Avenue finally opened to the public Sunday, and city officials, neighbors and nature lovers alike gathered to welcome the new park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

    Dozens of residents from across the city made their way over to see Mayor Rahm Emanuel address the neighborhood and explore the newly unveiled grounds.

    Ald. Patrick O’Connor said he was proud to be able to have “one of the most beautiful places in the city … right here in the 40th ward,” adding that the nature center’s location is a significant part of Chicago’s history. The preserve is located on a natural area of Rosehill Cemetery that was never used for burials.

    “This is a place that has great history for the City of Chicago. I think it’s five mayors that are buried here — and there’s a live one here, too,” O’Connor said jokingly. read more….

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    September 6, 2015

    Join Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Pat O’Connor and the Chicago Park District on Sunday, September 20, at 11:00 a.m. for the official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the long anticipated West Ridge Nature Center. The day’s celebration will include activities such as a “Story Walk” for parents and children, an “I Spy” nature walk, discussions on pelts and skulls on loan from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, outdoor yoga and much more, all compliments of the West Ridge Nature Center Advisory Council.

    The entrance to the Nature Center is located at Western and Ardmore. Don’t miss this opportunity to welcome the proud addition of 20 plus acres of park space to the 40th Ward!

    _____________________________________

    Updated September 8, 2015

    Well, it looks like we are in the final stretch in awaiting the opening of the West Ridge Nature Center! As you can see from the pictures above, all that is needed is some finishing touches. The Chicago Park District has informed us that the Nature Center should be open by October 1st.  As soon as we receive more information as to when the Grand Opening will take place, we will pass that information along to you.

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    Updated May 8, 2015

    Construction of the Nature Center is really moving along and is still projected to be complete by August 1st. Check it out!

    • The boardwalks are 80% completed.
    • Tree planting started this week. Buckeye, hawthorn, oaks, redbud, and filberts are being planted.
    • The foundations for the outdoor classroom and Ardmore entry plaza are completed.
    • The paths have been graded and stone in being placed in.
    • The new storm sewer leading to Western Avenue was installed. Flooding on Western should now cease.

    ______________________________________

    Updated April 3, 2015

    Construction of the West Ridge Nature Center is well underway. The completion date of August 1st will be here before we know it and will give our community a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

    Below is a comprehensive list of the progress being made:

    • Finished the tree removal and trimming of the trees
    • The new sewer that controls the pond has been installed
    • The footings for the board walk have been poured
    • The outdoor classroom on the hill on the southern portions is being constructed
    • The path grading and wetland area are being graded now
    • Fencing along Western Avenue will start in later this month
    • Plantings will start in May

    Some planting will take place in the fall and spring of next year due to the species. We will keep you updated as construction progresses.

     

    The West Ridge Nature Center Construction Story

    “The largest thing that we’ve done in terms of parks is the West Ridge Nature Center . It’s going to be a passive park of 20+ acres and is the largest addition to park space that the Chicago Park District has made in decades. It’s virgin territory in Rosehill Cemetery around the lake. It’s going to have pathways, educational centers, scenic overviews of the lake, and opportunities for people to go boating and fishing. There will be a draw citywide, and it will be a wonderful addition to our community.

    “This is also a defensive measure: cemeteries historically sell off property that they don’t use. The piece of property that we purchased at one time was going to be sold to Jewel for development of a Home Depot store. The neighborhood won’t have to fight back that kind of development in an area where it’s inappropriate because we’re going to have this park there and it will be preserved forever.

    “The Rosehill Cemetery project began with an earmark by freshman congressman Rahm Emanuel, his first earmark when he went to Congress. He put money aside in a transportation bill for the purchase and preservation of Rosehill Cemetery, and then we headed toward that goal through general obligation bonds through the city and some TIF money to finish it off. So it has been in process for over 10 years. We’ll actually just had the groundbreaking, which will then begin a process of about 12-18 months of development before the public can access the property as a park.

    “Integrating with that project we have also put in a new traffic light at Ardmore at Western Avenue because one of the entranceways into the park will be located there. The new traffic light proposal went to the Department of Transportation and utilized some TIF dollars for funding. The justification was not just the fact that Western Avenue is one of the busiest streets in the city, but it’s also going to be the entrance point to one of the city’s largest parks. It’s a really great project that has come to fruition, and it’s going to be a great addition for kids and our community.

    This is nature left to its own devices for decades. But the 20 acres of land that border one of the busiest intersections in Chicago is on its way to getting a long overdue makeover.

    “What we want to do is just provide a little ‘tlc’ to the land, take out the invasive species and some of the undesired undergrowth,” said Chicago Park District Director of Planning and Construction, Rob Rejman. “We’d like to bring some pathways, access to the pond, fishing areas, and turn it into a real nature preserve for the community.”

    The City of Chicago is calling it the West Ridge Nature Center and it’s been a long time in the making. Two years ago, the city bought the 20 acre plot from Rosehill cemetery for $7.7 million. It was one of the biggest and most expensive land purchases the city has made in decades with the intent of keeping it a natural setting. But over the years the land came close to becoming commercial property.

    “When I first got elected the big controversy was that my predecessor was contemplating letting a Jewel to go in. Over the years we’ve had Home Depot that was interested; we’ve had people that are very interested in development,” said 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O’Connor.

    “And the actual ownership of the cemetery has gone through several hands over the years. But the current owners are a Texas based corporation that owns cemeteries across the country – in fact throughout the world – and have a history of selling off portions for developments, so it wasn’t a stretch to think that we could end up seeing them try to do that in this cemetery as well,” O’Connor said.

    At times, the cemetery used the plot as a landfill for sand and dirt and as a receptacle for water run off. Some nature lovers would also fish in the large pond that takes up a sizeable area of the land. But with virtually no tending for years, the 20 acres have become a twisted jungle of undergrowth, invasive plant and animal species and dead wood. In the city’s hands, the proposal is to turn this wilderness into a cultivated landscape where humans and nature can mingle.

    “People have been coming to the area for a while. Just walking and using it as sort of a park like setting. Now we want to turn it into an actual natural area that promotes access and provides a safe environment to come and actually bring kids out, and teach kids about nature, and actually use the area,” Rejman said.

    “That pond gets restored; it actually gets dredged and deepened to help promote wildlife and, actually, fish populations in the pond. And then that water continues to be used by the cemetery. They can draw from that pond for irrigation and other purposes.”

    Preliminary concepts designed by a Chicago landscape architecture firm Hitchcock Design Group include nature trails, canoeing and kayaking launches, observation points and educational signage. The Chicago Park District – which is overseeing the development – likens it to a mini Morton Arboretum.

    But the park district says the West Ridge plans will be similar to the already existing nature sanctuary near 71st Street and the Lakefront where bird watching and footpaths allow nature lovers a quiet escape from the urban noise. The proposed preserve will not, says Alderman O’Connor, be a city park.

    Update: West Ridge Nature Preserve Construction“You’re not looking at ball fields and lit up portions, you’re looking at pathways that would meander around a beautiful lake, and lesser pathways that would be through the forest,” O’Connor said.

    Residents also expressed concerns about a number of healthy trees that were recently cut down around the proposed nature preserve. But the city says those trees were on cemetery property not on the land now owned by the city. But the rehab will involve some deforestation.

    “The trees that do need to come down are mostly invasive trees and under story weed trees. What we want to do is replace them with more desirable trees, like Oaks, or other trees that we’d like to promote in this preserve,” Rejman said.

    “Well leave what’s good for habit, woodpeckers and other things. In terms of undergrowth, we’ll leave insensitive areas, and in other areas we’re going to clear out for pathways and provide better trees.”

    The preserve will be enclosed by a fence that separates the park from the cemetery but that’s also raised concerns about accessibility. Right now, there will only be two entrances and might involve crossing busy Western Avenue.

    “We’ll be working with CDOT to improve the crosswalks, and if signalized intersections are needed, we can take a look at that,” Rejman said.

    The redevelopment will cost about $3.5 million, the bulk of it coming from federal grant money but $700,000 coming from TIF funds. In the end, the city says it will be worth it, and a much better alternative to a big box store.

    ______________________________________

    September 21, 2014

    Alderman O’Connor and area neighbors gathered Saturday, September 6, to welcome Mayor Rahm Emanuel along with Michael Kelly, General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District and Rebekah Scheinfeld, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation to celebrate the much anticipated ground breaking of the West Ridge Nature Preserve. The Nature Preserve is located at the northwest corner of Rosehill Cemetery located at Peterson and Western Avenues and has over 20 acres of wooded land and a spring fed lake. Once complete, nature enthusiasts will be able to fish, walk scenic trails and enjoy the tranquility this park is sure to offer.

    With construction underway, the park is tentatively scheduled to open mid 2015.

    Source: WTTW Chicago Tonight
    Article By: Eddie Arruza on February 20, 2013 9:00 am
    Note: Video taken from article.

    It’s been something of a dead zone for decades, but now the City of Chicago has plans to resurrect part of a North Side cemetery.  We’ll tell you about the proposed West Ridge Nature Preserve. View a conceptual plan for the West Ridge Nature Preserve in the PDF below.

    Looking east from Western Avenue, the view is menacing. Looking west from inside Rosehill Cemetery, it’s no less ominous. This is nature left to its own devices for decades. But the 20 acres of land that border one of the busiest intersections in Chicago is on its way to getting a long overdue makeover.

    “What we want to do is just provide a little ‘tlc’ to the land, take out the invasive species and some of the undesired undergrowth,” said Chicago Park District Director of Planning and Construction, Rob Rejman. “We’d like to bring some pathways, access to the pond, fishing areas, and turn it into a real nature preserve for the community.”

    The City of Chicago is calling it the West Ridge Nature Center and it’s been a long time in the making. Two years ago, the city bought the 20 acre plot from Rosehill cemetery for $7.7 million. It was one of the biggest and most expensive land purchases the city has made in decades with the intent of keeping it a natural setting. But over the years the land came close to becoming commercial property.

    “When I first got elected the big controversy was that my predecessor was contemplating letting a Jewel to go in. Over the years we’ve had Home Depot that was interested; we’ve had people that are very interested in development,” said 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O’Connor.

    “And the actual ownership of the cemetery has gone through several hands over the years. But the current owners are a Texas based corporation that owns cemeteries across the country – in fact throughout the world – and have a history of selling off portions for developments, so it wasn’t a stretch to think that we could end up seeing them try to do that in this cemetery as well,” O’Connor said.

    At times, the cemetery used the plot as a landfill for sand and dirt and as a receptacle for water run off. Some nature lovers would also fish in the large pond that takes up a sizeable area of the land.  But with virtually no tending for years, the 20 acres have become a twisted jungle of undergrowth, invasive plant and animal species and dead wood.  In the city’s hands, the proposal is to turn this wilderness into a cultivated landscape where humans and nature can mingle.

    “People have been coming to the area for a while. Just walking and using it as sort of a park like setting. Now we want to turn it into an actual natural area that promotes access and provides a safe environment to come and actually bring kids out, and teach kids about nature, and actually use the area,” Rejman said.

    “That pond gets restored; it actually gets dredged and deepened to help promote wildlife and, actually, fish populations in the pond. And then that water continues to be used by the cemetery. They can draw from that pond for irrigation and other purposes.”

    Preliminary concepts designed by a Chicago landscape architecture firm Hitchcock Design Group include nature trails, canoeing and kayaking launches, observation points and educational signage.  The Chicago Park District – which is overseeing the development – likens it to a mini Morton Arboretum.

    But the park district says the West Ridge plans will be similar to the already existing nature sanctuary near 71st Street and the Lakefront where bird watching and footpaths allow nature lovers a quiet escape from the urban noise.  The proposed preserve will not, says Alderman O’Connor, be a city park.

    “You’re not looking at ball fields and lit up portions, you’re looking at pathways that would meander around a beautiful lake, and lesser pathways that would be through the forest,” O’Connor said.

    Residents also expressed concerns about a number of healthy trees that were recently cut down around the proposed nature preserve. But the city says those trees were on cemetery property not on the land now owned by the city.  But the rehab will involve some deforestation.

    “The trees that do need to come down are mostly invasive trees and under story weed trees. What we want to do is replace them with more desirable trees, like Oaks, or other trees that wed like to promote in this preserve,” Rejman said.

    “Well leave what’s good for habit, woodpeckers and other things. In terms of undergrowth, we’ll leave insensitive areas, and in other areas we’re going to clear out for pathways and provide better trees.”

    The preserve will be enclosed by a fence that separates the park from the cemetery but that’s also raised concerns about accessibility. Right now, there will only be two entrances and might involve crossing busy Western Avenue.

    “We’ll be working with C-DOT to improve the cross walks, and if signalized intersections are needed, we can take a look at that,” Rejman said.

    The redevelopment will cost about $3.5 million, the bulk of it coming from federal grant money but $700,000 coming from TIF funds.  In the end, the city says it will be worth it, and a much better alternative to a big box store.

     

  • Parks: Green Briar Park Ribbon Cutting

    I am pleased to announce that the new Green Briar Playground is now complete. The ribbon cutting ceremony, which took place on Thursday, September 11, was a wonderful event with Clinton Elementary School’s 3rd grade class participating in the cutting of the ribbon. First Lady Amy Rule and Chicago Park District General Superintendent Michael Kelly joined Alderman Debra Silverstein and me to celebrate the completion of park.

  • Schools: Jamieson Elementary Construction

    Please be advised that construction of the new Annex at Jamieson Elementary will begin Monday, November 30th. Construction will take place Monday thru Saturday between the hours of 6:00 am and 7:00 pm.

    As part of the expansion, sewer work will also begin Monday to tie in the City’s sewer system. The work hours of this particular job are anticipated to be between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm and will continue through Friday, December 11th.

    jamiesonconstructSewer work will take place on Francisco Ave. between Bryn Mawr Ave. and Hollywood Ave. One lane of traffic northbound will remain open through the duration of the sewer tie-in work. “No Parking – Tow Zone Only” signs have been posted on the west side of Francisco Ave.

    Construction of the Annex is scheduled to be complete by August 2016.

    The current plans for the Jamieson School addition started to be formulated about three years ago, but the discussion of an addition actually started years ago, before the “demountable” classroom was put in. Kevin McCann was the Principal at the time, and the school was overcrowded. The Board of Ed offered him a mobile classroom called a “demountable.” I advised him not to take it, because once you accept that from the Board of Ed, experience would show you that you’re not going to get your addition anytime soon. Consequently, that demountable has been there for the better part of 15 years. And, in part, it’s because he took the pressure off the Board of Ed that would have helped us to get the addition the school needed and the kids deserved.

    When Rahm Emanuel was elected Mayor, one of the advantages that we had was that Jamieson was included in his Congressional district. I knew he was familiar with the school, and he knew the school was severely overcrowded. We began talking about the fact that the school was overcrowded and the kids were eating lunches in the hallways, and that he really needed to come out and see what was going on there.

    At the same time, about two years ago, the LSC and the Principal came and visited my office, and they were interested in getting a new playground. At that time, I basically said to them, a new playground is something that we can shoot for. And, in fact, there’s been a new playground installed there, subsequent to their visit. But I told them that, as LSC members and as Principals and Teachers from the school, they really should broaden their horizons and look towards something bigger and bolder, and I told them that we should look towards trying to get an addition.

    I had the insight, from being involved in city government, to know that we were looking at another round of capital projects for the schools. And it was my hope that with a push from the LSC and from the community, we could go in and talk to the administration at the Board of Ed and talk the Mayor into helping to work towards this addition.

    A few months ago, before it was decided that this was going to happen- so late in the 2014 school year, before summer- the Mayor went and taught a class at Jaimeson. And we were able to show him the conditions at the school at a time very close to when the Board of Ed was making the decision about where dollars would be spent on the new capital program. That memory being fresh in the Mayor’s mind helped us with the Board of Ed, to tell them that the overcrowding at Jamison was significant and that it would be helpful to put this addition in.

    I think it’s great for the community. The kids obviously deserve it. I think that the parents and the LSC should be congratulated on taking up the challenge. But I will tell you that the timing was serendipitous, and we were very fortunate that we were able to draw down on one of the capital programs that the Board of Ed has put in, because those are few and far between these years. The budgets are very lean, and this would be a great thing for our school. In effect, we’ll double the size of the school, and we don’t anticipate doubling the size of the student body. We will be accommodating the current student body with a limited number of spaces to grow. The school is significantly overcrowded, and we’re answering a real need here.
    Update: December 1

    Please be aware that the Annex Community Meeting has been re-scheduled for Tuesday, December 2nd at 5:30pm. As part of my role as Chairman of the Workforce Development and Audit Committee, we are holding a meeting regarding the increase in minimum wage. This meeting was scheduled at the last minute so we do apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

    Update : November 25
    On Monday, December 1, 2014, Jamieson Elementary School will be hosting a very  important public meeting regarding our new annex. The meeting will be held in the  school’s main auditorium at 5:30 p.m. On Monday, December 1, 2014, Jamieson Elementary School will be hosting a very  important public meeting regarding our new annex. The meeting will be held in the  school’s main auditorium at 5:30 p.m. You can access the auditorium through the main  entrance on Mozart Street near Hollywood Street.

    Representatives from Alderman O’Connor’s Office, Chicago Public Schools, and the Public Building Commission will be in attendance to discuss the annex project and  answer any questions that you may have. All are highly encouraged and welcome to attend.

    Jamieson Elementary School
    When: 5:30pm Monday December 1st, 2014
    Address: Main Auditorium 5650 N. Mozart Street, Chicago, Illinois 60659
    Telephone: 773-534-2395

     

     

  • Health: Swedish Covenant’s New Women’s Health Center

    “If you look at Swedish, a lot of their workforce lives within four zip codes around the hospital, they’re a huge employer for our community. And the women’s center, focused on women’s health, and the emergency room—having had five children, I’ve been in there fairly often—the emergency room is packed to the gills during the weekends. So we got some TIF money to help them.

    From its private consultation rooms to its advanced mammography technology to its vases of bright purple flowers, no detail was overlooked in the creation of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s new $8 million Mayora Rosenberg Women’s Health Center, which officially opened Thursday.

    Source: DNAinfo Chicago
    Article By: Patty Wetli on October 2, 2014 6:05pm
    Note: Photo taken from article.

    The Center’s ribbon cutting ceremony served as the culmination of a campaign that began in 2012, when the hospital identified a need to provide women across Chicago’s North Side with access to high-quality healthcare focused on their specific issues, according to Audrey Silver, co-chairwoman of the Center’s fundraising efforts.

    “I feel that it’s about time that women’s health concerns are addressed,” said Silver, a nurse herself.

    “This facility will empower women through education,” said Silver. “We have the technology and the compassion to really make it happen.”

    Part of Swedish Covenant’s broader Women’s Health Initiative, the Center, 5145 N. California Ave., aims to break down the economic, cultural and language barriers that keep many women in the hospital’s service area from receiving the treatment they need, said Mark Newton, Swedish Covenant Hospital CEO and president.

     

    Mammography is an anchor service, along with dermatology, nutrition and bone health, according to Shannon Sikkila, one of the Center’s “health navigators.”

    The navigators have been employed to help coordinate a woman’s care, Sikkila explained, including connecting patients to additional resources both within and outside of the hospital and making individuals aware of options like a grant program under which Swedish Covenant provides free mammograms to uninsured and under-insured patients.

    Situated in a area where 40 percent of the people the hospital treats do not speak English, the Center worked with a dozen social service and nonprofit agencies — like Korean American Community Services and the Indo-American Center — to help determine services most lacking for such a diverse population, Silver said.

    “It was all about, ‘What do we need to have in place?’” she said. “Women are really the link to providing healthcare to their entire family.”

    As a result, the Center offers childcare services and evening and weekend appointments, has trained medical interpreters who speak a variety of languages and, out of respect for religious groups and cultural practices, it also constructed women-only patient areas, private dressing rooms and has female doctors, nurses and technicians available across disciplines.

    “You’ll find women from all over the world … being treated in a way that is culturally aware,” said Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), who helped secure $2.4 million in Tax Increment Finance dollars for the Center.

    “These types of investments make a neighborhood,” said the alderman, citing the hospital’s role as an engine for the area’s economic and physical well-being.

    “This hospital is truly a community hospital. It has kept me alive through a bout of cancer. We have seen births of my family here and we have seen the full circle of life,” said O’Connor.

    “Look around,” he said. “You tell me if this is not worth a $2.4 million investment from the city of Chicago.”

    Silver, who came close to tears a number of times during the grand opening ceremony, admitted that she had often questioned whether too much money was being spent on niceties like artwork and decor that were a major departure from the sterile environments more typically associated with hospitals.

    Standing in the completed Center, though, she said it had been worth every penny.

  • Community: Ward Boundry Transition

    We’ve reached back a couple years to bring this article to the surface showing how the concerns of the community are always very important to me. In the nearly 30 years that Ald. Pat O’Connor has represented the 40th Ward, he’s been through two previous ward remaps. “It’s not a really well-defined process,” he said. But he and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) were clear on one matter while speaking to a gathering of 50 area residents Tuesday night at Amundsen High School (5110 N. Damen Ave): They’re united in providing a seamless transition for neighbors being shifted from the 47th to the 40th Ward.

    Center Square Journal
    Pawar and O’Connor: Ward Transition Will Be Seamless
    By Patty Wetli | Thursday, July 12, 2012

    “From the get-go, Ald. O’Connor has been nothing but a friend,” said Pawar. The two councilmen share a TIF district and have common interests along major arteries including Lawrence, Western and Lincoln Avenues. “On housekeeping issues like zoning, conversations are already taking place,” he said.

    The remap is the result of Chicago losing a significant number of citizens as reported in the most recent census. For wards to maintain equal population and to comply with the Voting Rights Act, boundaries were moved. “The North Side was remarkably collegial,” O’Connor said of the negotiations. “Nobody wanted to get rid of anything or pick up a grand prize.” He ceded territory needed by Ald. Joe Moore to boost numbers in the 49th Ward, which created a domino effect: O’Connor picked up residents in Lincoln Square as compensation, just as Pawar gained population in Lakeview.

    “In some instances, I’m coming home,” said O’Connor, whose ward once stretched as far south as Irving Park Road.

    Prior remaps took effect once precincts and garbage routes were redrawn. With the city recently converting to a grid-based garbage collection system, that leaves the precinct maps as the lone hurdle. “I just had my meeting with the Board of Elections today,” O’Connor said. He expects residents to receive notice of their new precinct sometime around the end of July, at which point the new ward boundaries will largely take effect, barring a legal challenge. “Ninety percent of the citizenry will be happy where they’re at,” he said.

    Among the unhappy folks: Those who championed the candidacy and surprise election of Pawar as a fresh alternative to machine politics. O’Connor, by contrast, is no “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”; he’s been an alderman since the age of 28 and is a power player within City Council, often referred to as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s right-hand man. At least one Pawar supporter explicitly expressed his disappointment regarding the change in representation during Tuesday night’s meeting, though Pawar quickly leapt to his colleague’s defense, noting that a number of his ideas as a freshman alderman, including a weekly email newsletter and the establishment of a zoning advisory committee, were actually suggested by O’Connor.

    The forum at Amundsen, organized by the Lincoln Square North Neighbors and the Winnemac Park Neighbors — both affected by the remap — had the vague feel of a campaign event, though perhaps another analogy would be more apt as O’Connor wasn’t stumping for votes. It was like the first meeting between the parties in an arranged marriage, not sure if they’re signing on for better or for worse but stuck with each other regardless.

    “I would like to think my longevity would speak to my ability to communicate,” O’Connor said, responding to a query regarding accessibility. He then listed various points of constituent contact: He maintains a frequently updated website, an online newsletter and can even be found on Twitter. He conducts two rounds of town hall meetings each year and keeps regular office hours.

    So what can residents expect from their new alderman?

    All that experience means the man knows his way around the council chambers. For 20 years, he chaired the education committee and also served on the Local School Council of Hawthorne Elementary, which his children attended. “I understand school funding and construction very well,” he said, pointing to the $35 million he secured for Mather High School, the alderman’s alma mater.

    Now that he’s inherited Chappell Elementary, along with Amundsen, residents were keen to hear O’Connor’s position on education and neighborhood schools.

    “First and foremost, I believe in the vehicle of the LSC, but a school does not improve unless it has a dynamic principal,” he said. Pointing to Budlong Elementary, where the recently retired principal had been in place for 40 years, O’Connor noted the school has made “negligible progress in 20 years.”

    His role, as O’Connor sees it, is not to meddle with a school’s internal operations but rather to provide funds for the physical plant, to ensure safety around the school and to help the community access resources to achieve their goals. But the daily running of the school and its educational directives are left in the hands of the LSC and the school’s administration. “At the local level, you are the primary mover for change. The Board of Education is not always your friend when you’re working for school improvement. Principals and LSCs have to advocate for their schools.”

    Economic development was another major theme of the meeting. The man who brought Target to Peterson Avenue has been a proponent of streetscapes (which bodes well for extending the Lawrence Avenue makeover to the River), but was realistic about the prospects of filling empty storefronts on the stretch of Lincoln Avenue between Lawrence and Foster.

    “A lot of the stock is not real attractive,” he stated frankly. To spur growth, he anticipates recruiting the Lincoln Bend Chamber of Commerce (successful in ousting certain nefarious motels on Lincoln north of Foster) to extend its influence further south to the rather woebegone commercial district.

    More than anything he said at the meeting, it’s what O’Connor did afterwards that captured the imagination of the handful who witnessed it. He hopped on his scooter, parked out front on Damen, and motored away as his new constituents snapped photos on their iPhones. You could hear the thought turning over in their heads: “My Alderman rides a scooter. Cool.”

    Relationships have been built on less.

  • Children: Public Art Project

    That mural was the work of students at Centro Romero, which is a social service agency geared predominantly towards Hispanic individuals with a variety of programing: anti violence, anti domestic violence, citizenship, tutoring for children, English as a second language, computer classes. It’s a really good resource for folks who live in our community. It’s located over on Clark Street just north of Granville.

    Centro Romero was seeking to do a public art project, and they came to me. We went to the railroad, and they gave us permission to put it up at Granville in Ravenswood. The Metra railroad and the Union Pacific, I introduced them to the work that Centro Romero has been doing in our community, and they have become a pretty much annual funder of Centro Romero.

     

     

    So that day we were not only honoring the children that did the mural, but we were also presenting them a check from the railroad to help subsidize the work that they did at Centro Romero.

    The individual from the railroad who speaks in the video, Adrian Guerrero , is a young man who went to Loyola Academy with some of my children. And when you get into the upper grades at Loyola, you have to go out into the community and do service for others as part of the Loyola training. So when Adrian was a junior or senior at Loyola he actually worked at and with Centro Romero as part of his service to others. And then when he went to the railroad as their intergovernmental guy, and I tried to introduce them to Centro Romero, I didn’t have to do much educating because he knew all about it.

    So we have been able to count on them for funds for the last several years on an ongoing basis. And they have increased it each year to try to be helpful. So it was a great day, and it’s a wonderful mural. But more importantly it was an opportunity to give more resources to Centro Romero’s cause.

  • Schools: Anywhere we can help to maintain and improve a school, we will do that.

    Thanks to all those who supported the Amundsen High School’s Spruce-Up Day.

    DNA Info
    Amundsen High Gets Face-lift, with Help from Community, Lawmakers
    By Mauricio Peña | January 10, 2015 3:31pm

    Instead of staying home and sleeping in, Alan Hernandez, 18, opted to go to school Saturday. The senior at Amundsen High School in Lincoln Square arrived at 8 a.m. to help  “spruce up” the campus.

    “It’s the place where we are getting our education; it’s important to keep it clean,” Hernandez said. “It’s also fun getting to meet people from our community and working on something like this together.”

    Hernandez was among more than 60 staff, students and community members volunteering for Community Spruce-Up day at Amundsen. Among those pitching in were Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Ald. Ameya Pawar (46th) and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago).

    For principal Anna Pavichevich, community participation in the much-needed TLC project goes a long way.

    “Throughout the year, we have community members ask what ways they can support the school,” Pavichevich said. “With this project we matched the communities interest with a need.”

    Volunteers assisted with painting walls, hanging up new bulletin boards, cleaning windows, wiping down lockers and completing minor repairs throughout the nearly 100-year-old building.

    “We decided to work on things that our engineers can’t get to during the school day because they are working on other things to keep the school functioning,” Pavichevich said. “By the end of the day, we should at least meet all the goals we set out to accomplish today.”

    The Community Spruce-Up Day comes just a few days before the school holds one of the four International Baccalaureate program meetings for prospective students and parents across Chicago. The school is expecting up to 4,000 students and parents to visit the school during the meeting.

    “We want to make this place comfortable and welcoming,” Pavichevich said.

    The event, organized by staff and Friends of Amundsen, had been in the works for months and, finally after school resumed from winter break, a decision was made earlier in the week, said co-organizer Wendy Vasquez, a member of Friends of Admundsen .

    “We’ve been talking about it for months, but we were trying to figure out when would be a good time, especially with so many things going on,” Vasquez said. “The real motivator in this case was the citywide International Baccalaureate meeting. Once we decided, we reached out to the aldermen, put it out on social media, and we got a great response.”

    O’Connor and Pawar notified their constituents in their newsletters, and each donated $1,000 to assist with supplies needed for the work.

    “[Principal Pavichevich] has been in constant communication with Ald. Pawar and myself with trying to get collaborative community efforts off the ground,” O’Connor said. “This is a great way to get the community involved.”

    “Anywhere we can help to maintain and improve the school, we will do that,” O’Connor said. “This day is just like when you’re preparing your house when company is coming over.”

    Pat Wilder, 71, heard about the event from one of the newsletters and decided to come out to volunteer.

    “Anytime you have people meet up and do good work like this, it’s rewarding,” she said.

    Teacher Mayra Bravo-Gonzalez was excited to see the cleanup process in action, saying “These students are amazing and beautiful. They deserve a clean and beautiful school.”

    Vasquez said she was excited to see the community support that came together with only a week’s notice.

    “Typically, when we make this request for community involvement, you get some of the usual suspects, but with this project, I don’t know most people here, and that’s fantastic. We have people of all ages from around the community who want to support the local neighborhood school,” Vasquez. “Getting them in here, sharing their time is a big takeaway. And all the work we are doing, they are little things, but they are a lot of things that will make a big difference.”

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