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New Rules Set for 45th Ward Participatory Budget Vote

By Heather Cherone | January 12, 2014 8:51am
  The changes are designed to make the second-annual vote fairer, 45th Ward chief of staff Owen Brugh said.
New Rules Set for 45th Ward Participatory Budget Vote
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JEFFERSON PARK — The rules for the 45th Ward participatory budgeting vote have been changed to ensure the money benefits as many residents of the Far Northwest Side as possible, said Owen Brugh, chief of staff to Ald. John Arena (45th).

Projects that fall under the jurisdiction of one of the city's sister agencies who get a share of property tax revenue will be limited to no more than $100,000 of Arena's $1.3 million discretionary budget, which is sometimes known as menu money.

The Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District as well as the Chicago Transit Authority and the Regional Transportation Authority all have their own sources of funds that should be used to upgrade their facilities, Brugh said.

"We're willing to pitch in and instigate and accelerate projects," Brugh said, adding that a good example of that is the the installation of an artificial turf play surface at Beaubien Elementary School, 5025 N. Laramie Ave., which spurred CPS officials to build a new play structure for the school.

However, that project — which cost $183,000 — would run afoul of the new rules.

In addition, projects will not receive money from the participatory budget vote two years in a row, Brugh said.

"It is an issue of fairness," Brugh said. "Everyone contributes to this pot of money, and everyone should benefit."

Arena's office held five community meetings in the fall to put together a list of the infrastructure projects that will appear on the May 10 ballot. Committees will work through the winter to narrow down the list of suggestions by assessing their feasibility and cost.

The projects under consideration include a plan to rebuild the Tennis Courts at Wilson Park, Brugh said, adding that he is working to ensure the cost is less than $100,000 and comply with the new rules.

Other suggestions included traffic calming efforts near Hitch Elementary School in Gladstone Park, in an effort to make student pick up and drop off safer and more efficient, Brugh said.

A $350,000 plan to build a new playground at Independence Park that was not selected by voters last year may be on the 2014 ballot, Brugh said, adding that he is working to break up the project into smaller phases.

A proposal to build a playground at Farnsworth Elementary School could be funded by the area's Tax Increment Financing district, Brugh said.

Other proposals under consideration include bicycle lanes, improvements to local Metra stations and rain gardens, which soak up flood water.

Once the ballot is finalized, workshops will take place in late March or early April to allow supporters of each project to tout their merits to voters.

All residents of the 45th Ward 16 and older can vote on which projects should be funded, and what percentage of the budget should be used to resurface streets, repair curbs and sidewalks and replace streetlights.

Arena represents parts of Portage Park, Jefferson Park, Old Irving Park, Forest Glen and Gladstone Park.