That word can be used to describe many things, such as a detonation caused by a thermodynamic blast or as an expression of enthusiastic excitement.
Last week, both examples were on display in Austin.
Two events took place last Wednesday, Aug. 29, at the old Brach’s candy factory site at 401 N. Cicero. Part of a small abandoned office building on the site at Cicero and Lake streets was blown to smithereens for a movie.
The afternoon explosion was for a scene in the next Batman movie titled The Dark Knight, the latest in the caped crusader’s film franchise scheduled for release next summer (See story on page 4).
Hours after the explosion, another group bombarded the site looking to champion a different crusade: placing a referendum on next year’s ballot supporting a new high school for Austin.
As for the movie, the filmed explosion leveled one half of a four-story office building, which was converted to the fictional Gotham City Hospital.
Later that day as film crews cleaned up debris, State Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th) hosted a press conference at the site calling for the referendum on next year’s ballot.
The referendum would read: “Should the Chicago Board of Education construct a new high school to serve the children in the Austin neighborhood?”
It would be placed on the February 2008 ballot for the 24th, 28th, 29th and 37th West Side wards.
Since his election as state rep in 2006 and during his campaign for the office, Ford has envisioned a college-like, multifaceted high school campus to be located on the large 32-acre West Side Brach’s site.
Ford spoke to local media last Wednesday about the referendum and his desire to see a new school built at the location.
“Austin is the largest community in Chicago yet there is not a school here that is open to all students. I feel this site would be the ideal location for a new school,” he said.
The owners of the Brach’s site have not commented publicly on Ford’s plan, and the location is currently zoned for industrial use. The city would have to rezone the area, which Ford believes is doable.
Among those joining Ford last week were representatives of Westside Health Authority and the organization’s Youth Freedom Riders, composed of elementary, middle school and high school students who live in Austin but mostly attend school outside of the community.
The Board of Education estimates that Austin has approximately 13,000 high school-aged students in the community, but there are only 6,000 available slots for them.
Since the former Austin High School, 231 N. Pine, stopped accepting freshmen in 2004 – the final senior class graduated this summer – and was later converted into a Renaissance 2010 school – two small schools are currently open on the campus – community members have been fighting for a replacement school.
The WHA is among a group of Austin activists involved in that effort.
Ford added that he is currently working with the Freedom Riders to collect signatures from community residents in support of the referendum.
“I think that the voice of the community must be heard here,” said Ford.
He added that he’s initially targeting around 170,000 signatures, but is hopeful to get as many as 200,000 to 300,000.
Ford said that should be enough to put pressure on the governor and the Chicago Board of Education to address the community’s need.
“The Brach’s site is the ideal location to make it happen,” he said.
For more information on the referendum, call Rep. Ford’s West Side office, 5104 W. Chicago Ave., at 312/388-3673. Signatures can also be taken at the office.
Terry Dean contributed to this story