JEFFERSON PARK — For the third year in a row, residents of the 45th Ward will decide how to spend Ald. John Arena’s $1 million discretionary budget.
Arena will host five neighborhood assemblies in the coming weeks to begin to develop the infrastructure projects that residents will ultimately vote on in the spring.
The participatory budgeting process is intended to give ordinary people decision-making power over the city's budget, Arena said.
Heather Cherone explains why some wards get to decide where the money goes, and other don't:
The neighborhood assemblies are scheduled to take place at:
• 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Filament Theater, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave.
• 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings Ave.
• 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at Hitch Elementary School, 5625 N. McVicker Ave.
• 7 p.m. Nov. 20 at Independence Park Fieldhouse, 3945 N. Springfield Ave.
• 10:30 a.m. Nov. 22 at St. John Lutheran School, 4939 W. Montrose Ave.
After the assemblies, where refreshments and pizza will be served, committees made up of volunteers will evaluate the long wish list of potential projects for feasibility and cost. The committees will ultimately decide which projects will make it on to the ballot.
In the spring, the committees will host several project expos to present the projects members picked for the ballot and answer questions from residents of the far Northwest Side ward, which includes parts of Portage Park, Jefferson Park, Old Irving Park, Forest Glen and Gladstone Park.
About $300,000 will be held back to cover cost overruns and emergency projects, said Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff.
In the 2014 vote, streets, trees and a new playground at Independence Park were the big winners.
Of the 450 trees voters agreed to fund, 160 have been planted, Brugh said. The remaining trees will be planted in the spring after issues at City Hall delayed the awarding of the contract, he added.
Work may start this fall on the new playground at Independence Park, with $100,000 coming from Arena's budget, $100,000 raised by the park advisory council and the rest from the state and the Chicago Park District, Brugh said.
In addition, voters in the 2013 and 2014 election approved funds to clean up the ward's viaducts, many of which are covered in pigeon droppings.
"We're still waiting on cost estimates for some projects," Brugh said. "And the efforts have been more successful in some places than others."
Voters also decided to spend 55 percent of the discretionary budget to repave streets throughout the ward that were badly damaged by the harsh winter. That work is proceeding, but has been delayed in some cases by pipe-replacement work underway by crews working for People's Gas and the city's water and sewer departments, Brugh said.
"Some of those streets are the worst in the ward," Brugh said. "We tried to move up the work, but we're just not in a position to do that."
For more information, call the 45th Ward office at 773-286-4545 or email Brugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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