As I watched the news this past Monday, my mantra that I have been writing this year-“Pay Attention Chicago”- obviously wasn’t heeded by many. Those who didn’t heed it were the folks who showed up at public buildings on Monday Aug. 17, to take care of their business, only to find that the city had shut down for the day. Now this is the city that works-ha, ha.

This is the city that used to work. Now it is a mere shadow of its previous self. A slew of businesses and manufacturers are long gone, and our tax base is being driven by tickets for parking and red light violations. This is a city that is paying salaries to many individuals who could never make as much in the private market. And one of its biggest expenses is the never-ending retirement plan for city workers. While many in private industries have had to put their retirement into 401k(s) and contribute part of their current salaries to their future retirement, that is not the case for city workers-individuals with the luxury of being well paid, along with the city contributing to their pension plan.

Every year since I began writing for Austin Weekly News, I have encouraged those that read it to attend the city’s budget hearings. It is the only mandatory public hearing that the mayor must attend, and he must listen to the concerns of the citizens.

Why do I like the budget hearings so much?-because no subject is off limits. Schools, parking, littering, garbage pick up, 311 calls, loud music, corn carts, storefront churches…potholes, taxes, CTA, library, water bills, sewer cleaning, tree trimming, new curbs and sidewalks…unemployment, job training, city contracts, shootings, drug dealing, CHA, dogs, bikes, ex-cons…and on and on-all can be brought up at the hearings. The mayor has the directors from every department there to answer questions or get back to you with a response at a later day. Go and make your voice heard.

How about a parade?

Did you know that there will be a huge West Side parade this Saturday beginning at 9:00 a.m.? It will start at Cicero and Madison traveling east to California. Then it will travel south to Jackson and back west to Central Park Avenue, where it will end at Garfield Park. The parade is sponsored by the Westside Service Organization along with state Sen. Rickey Hendon (5th). The parade has more than 300 different groups participating. Actor Harry Lennix (The Five Heartbeats), star of FOX’s Doll House will serve as the parade’s grand marshal. Entertainment, free food and book bags for kids are also available. Once the parade ends at Garfield Park, there will be a free picnic along with 100 nonprofit organizations present. I will be there at table number 63 on the Independence side passing out Austin Weekly newspapers and pluggers for my first book, Billion Dollar Winner, about a West Side community activist who wins a $1 billion prize from the very lottery she’s protested against. It will be available in the coming weeks. Saturday’s parade is in memory of Diane Spence, a community activist and legislative aide to Hendon.

To learn more

The city’s upcoming budget hearings: Tuesday Aug. 25, at South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive; Wednesday Aug. 26, at Central West Recreational Center, 2102 W. Ogden; Thursday Aug. 27, at Falconer Elementary School, 3020 N. Lamon. Meetings start at 7 p.m. Registration for public comment at 6 p.m. All facilities air-conditioned and handicapped accessible.