Inside Booster Covers Lincoln Park 2018
Posted on February 28, 2018
Check out coverage of Lincoln Park 2018 from Ron Roenigk with Inside Publications.
The Lincoln Park community held their annual state of the wards meeting Feb. 7 at Earl’s Kitchen + Bar, 1538 N. Clybourn, and the state of the trisected community is some good and some bad. Sponsored by the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce [LPCC], the two-hour breakfast meeting drew about 100 local residents and chamber members, and featured the three aldermen who serve separate parts of the tony neighborhood. Although, if you happened to live on one particular block you could get ward updates daily, with access to two of the three alderman everyday just by stepping outside onto the sidewalk.
Aldermen Michele Smith [43rd] and and Brian Hopkins [2nd] admitted they lived on opposite sides of the same street, on the fringes of their two wards. Ald. Scott Waguespack [32nd], whose ward dips into the west side of Lincoln Park, claimed he and his family live in western Lincoln Park… “at Western and Armitage, for all you realtors in the audience,” he joked.
But the meeting, moderated by Paris Schutz of Chicago Tonight, quickly took on a serious tone as the alderman all wanted to talk about public safety in light of the dramatic increase in quality of life crimes targeting Lincoln Park and much of the North Side. From muggings to sexual assaults, robberies, carjackings, break-ins — many featuring gun use, it appears that many North Side communities are being targeted by a criminal element who no longer fear the police nor worry about spending any time in jail.
All three aldermen listed crime and safety as their number one concern these days. Ald. Waguespack recounted being cornered at a community gathering recently and “getting an earful” about crime from 40 people. Ald. Hopkins reported the crime wave becoming personal for him when a man was arrested for a gun crime right in front of his house. “It was unsettling and very stressful.”
For many locals, the lack of any law enforcement and justice is quickly becoming a core issue in Chicago. Police continue to arrest the same criminals over and over for multiple offenses only to see Cook County fail to prosecute the perpetrators and setting them free on low or no bail… sometimes even on the same day the perpetrators were arrested. This newspaper has been reporting for over a year about seeing police reports and arrest records that show a class of criminals exist in Chicago, many of whom had been arrested on multiple charges, only to see those charges dropped and bail waved by County prosecutors. It is not unusual to see rap sheets on people showing multiple arrests, sometimes as high as 10, 15 or 20 arrests, who are quickly set free after they once again get arrested.
Ald. Smith said that “More police are not the only answer. Crime needs justice. Criminals need to receive consequences for their criminal actions.” Perhaps most shocking of all is that using a gun in the commission of a crime is not always enough to trigger the State’s Attorney’s office to act. Many of those using guns to commit their crimes these days are set free when felony gun charges are negotiated down to misdemeanors by prosecutors, thrown out or just ignored.
One officer who attended the LPCC meeting who spoke on background said that it doesn’t matter how many police are on staff if arrests are not followed by prosecutions. As for the recent jump in carjackings, police say those are due mainly to bands of criminals who have a full day of robberies planned and start that effort off by taking a car to use for their transportation. “The cars are generally used in the commission of crimes and then abandoned at the end.”
The City’s ‘no-pursuit’ rules have limited the risk of being caught stealing a car. Those rules are designed to stop car wrecks that sometimes resulted from a high-speed police chase; but the carjackers know too that if they just speed up and race through traffic that the Chicago Police in pursuit are required to pull off the chase and let the offenders go.
Ald. Smith went as far as to hail the arrival of additional Federal law enforcement in Chicago. “Without public safety nobody will want to live here.”
As for the good news, the aldermen generally congratulated the LPCC for putting forward their annual legislative and cultural agendas. Ald. Waguespack noted that the LPCC was the only chamber he knew of that did this and said it helps out them and their offices.
Ald. Smith lauded the chamber for good management of their two Special Service Areas and for their efforts to provide planning for the new looks on Clark St. and Lincoln Ave., and for their “great relationship with the community. It hasn’t always been one in the past,” she said as she pointed out representatives from various community groups in the room. She said that “Lincoln Park [has become] a worldwide destination for the arts and culture” and noted that the complaints her office receives about noise and drinking have come down over the last few years.
When questioning turned to the potential for Amazon locating its second headquarters in the community Ald. Hopkins ventured a guess that Chicago’s chance of winning the competition were “at least a 50-50 chance we’ll get it. We offer everything they’re looking for.”
But all three aldermen said the city getting Amazon would be a mixed blessing. “The challenges are stiffer if it’s Amazon rather than any other firm,” said Hopkins. “They can be a tough negotiator.”
All three aldermen said that there needed to be healthy debate on how the city builds needed infrastructure in the face of the sudden demand that would come from the online retailers decision to choose Chicago.
“We are the city of ‘no small plans’ and this is the first time we’ve abandoned that principle by doing one-off deals that will bring in 50,000 new residents,” said Ald. Smith regarding new development along the Chicago River.
Ald. Waguespack warned that the city is working on a new TIF district on the North Branch of the Chicago River and that “the lack of transparency is troubling to me, and should be to you too.” He said under the current proposal that Amazon would also get to decide how the income taxes generated by the operations would be spent offering, “Nobody gets to do that?!”
Ald. Smith’s concerns about demands for housing and the lack of new recreation space in the development plans are well-known and well-founded, but have so far been generally ignored by city hall planners and the mayor’s office. “City planners look at the North Branch and see it only as an extension of downtown. They have no vision for parks. If the area gets too congested families will move to the suburbs to raise their kids.”
She suggested that Lincoln Park was becoming like and island, hard to get in and out of. She predicted that as a result, development would be forced further west and south rather than trying to jam ever more people into the already over-crowded, close in neighborhoods.
Additional bad news came in predictions of taxes jumping dramatically after the 2019 elections to help cover government pension costs. “We’re still digging the hole deeper,” said Ald. Hopkins, who called for switching to defined benefits over pensions. He noted that even if changes were made today that government employees would still have to pay for benefits for the next 20 years that they’d not themselves receive.
All three aldermen called for pension reform, saying that the guaranteed annual three percent compounded raises retired workers are getting mean many are now paid far more every year than they ever made while on the job.
“The next couple of years the city is on the hook for much higher annual pension payments,” warned Waguespack; while Ald. Smith said that a lot of Lincoln Parkers would be hit by the new federal tax laws that limit state tax deductions to only $10,000. “Our property tax system is messed up,” she said, calling it regressive. It’s “one of the worst in the nation.”
All three also spoke about congestion and the need to get cars off of the streets. Ald. Hopkins said that the CTA is already running at over capacity during the morning and evening rush hours while Ald. Smith thinks the city should stop encouraging car-related services such as Uber, Lyft and Car To Go since they take passengers away from CTA buses and put them into cars.
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