Sometimes it doesn’t feel good to be “right.” Instead of jumping for joy at being right, you sit down and hold your head in your hands and cry because being right isn’t really what you wanted to be. This column has served as a vehicle for me to call attention to issues and concerns here in Austin, yet my being right about an issue that I wrote about on Nov. 22, 2006 brings no joy. It just brings sadness and anger that as a concerned resident of this community, when life-or-death issues are pointed out, those in charge are so hell-bent on their agenda, they don’t heed warnings. Just like President Bush, they want to “stay the course” because it’s not their butt on the line.

Last November, I wrote a column and included the question, “Why isn’t there a traffic light at the new Wal-Mart?” At that time, I had noted the danger of having people standing out in the street directing traffic. Especially when it came to westbound traffic. Going underneath the viaducts, the street dips down and coming back up creates a pseudo-“blind spot” for drivers if they don’t see the traffic aides in the street. At that time I mentioned North Avenue, but the truth came to light on the Grand Avenue side.

According to several news reports, Julian “Jay” Alamillo, 44, was directing traffic last Wednesday night. Now if directing traffic out in the middle of North Avenue wearing nothing more than a yellow vest and holding a dim red light was seen by me as dangerous, then the same thing happening on Grand Avenue was four times as bad. Grand is a narrower street, with less room to maneuver. And since it runs at an angle, a driver’s vision is further impaired as one drives westbound.

Mr. Alamillo was standing in the middle of Grand last Wednesday night around 6:40 p.m., directing traffic. A westbound car came up from under the viaduct and hit Mr. Alamillo. One witness is reported as saying he was thrown up in the air and then hit by a second vehicle traveling eastbound. Transported to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, he died on March 11.

Mr. Alamillo was the first traffic aide to die on the job. Ironically, he was hit by a car in front of the first Wal-Mart in the city. He had only been on the job for six months. Wal-Mart has been open for just about six months. But why is it that the only Wal-Mart in the entire city of Chicago six months after opening has to have people risk their lives to direct traffic in front of it? Where are the stoplights-or at least the stop signs?

The driver of the car that struck Mr. Alamillo was cited for what is far too common now in Chicago and especially on this side of town-driving without a license. How is it that so many people can get license plates and city stickers but don’t have a driver’s license? Then to add insult to injury, a Chicao Police Department spokeperson said this tragedy was “just an accident.”

Is it truly an accident to send people into the middle of the street to direct traffic for six months when common sense says traffic lights should have been the first order of business? Or to have Mr. Alamillo’s boss, Andres Velasquez of the Office of Emergency Management, put the blame on the motorist without expressing outrage that one of his workers died because of the lack of political will to put a stoplight in place?

What is the point of having traffic aides (they are city employees, paid for by our tax dollars) stand in front of a privately owned store and direct traffic for them? Is there no outrage because Ald. Mitts didn’t have the foresight to put a traffic light in place at the beginning instead of waiting for someone to lose his life? Should she be charged with criminal negligence for postponing a major safety feature which could have prevented a man from being killed? Case in point, the Central Avenue bridge had its stoplights put in place well in advance of everything being built under it. So why not the only Wal-Mart in the entire city of Chicago?

Will Mr. Alamillo’s death now be the impetus to finally have those stoplights installed?

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