There could be a light at the end of the tunnel in the 37th Ward — or, more accurately, that light could be at the top of a lighthouse.
Last month, during her annual state of the ward address, Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) detailed the past year’s accomplishments and gave residents a preview of possible projects, including early sketches of a proposed outdoor venue for concerts and recreational activities, with the lighthouse as its centerpiece.
However, the idea is a still long way off from being a reality. The development — which would include stadium-style TVs for concerts and rock-climbing walls on the lighthouse’s exterior, as well as a restaurant at the top — would require a land usage change that could be granted only by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Mitts said.
The alderman said the lighthouse is being targeted for the area of Chicago Avenue just east of Kilbourn Avenue.
“I’m looking to change the law for our community so we can have something historic on the West Side of Chicago and have people come to our neighborhood,” Mitts said.
“You don’t see lighthouses too much. You see them in the magazines or on TV or in a book. But we’ll have one in our own neighborhood.”
Another issue Mitts addressed was the pending city budget for 2016, which continues to be a source of debate among Chicago City Council members.
Some of the stickier points in Emanuel’s budget, which was approved at an Oct. 28 council meeting, include:
- a four-year $588 million property tax increase;
- a $9.50-a-month garbage collection fee;
- $13 million in higher fees for building permits;
- a $1 million tax on e-cigarettes, and;
- $48 million in fees and surcharges on ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, according to a report by the Sun-Times.
During the Oct. 22nd meeting, Mitts promoted the proposed budget as a way to help bring about the city’s first balanced budget since 2008.
Mitts presented the increased taxes and fees as a way to save existing programs.
“We must protect and preserve our basic services,” Mitts said.
“[There are] two options: We could terribly cut the services we need or [accept] an increase in property taxes.”
Other details from the past year Mitts highlighted include:
- Over $300 million in infrastructure improvements,
- The opening of two charter schools: ITW David Speer Academy, 5321 W. Grand Ave., and Moving Everest Charter School, 416 N. Laramie Ave.,
- 119 clean lot requests,
- 943 potholes filled,
- 3,944 water management/sewer requests,
- 1,134 baiting and rodent control requests,
- 2,116 forestry requests,
- 260 fly dumping complaints responded to,
- 1,116 building violations,
- 2,505 family and support services requests and
- Over 100 block clubs running.
Some of those at the meeting were supportive of Mitts’ efforts and results in the ward but said more residents need to step up and pitch in to help make the community better.
“We have an excellent alderman,” William Nero said. “I just wish the community would come out and be more active, and that’s what would make us have a more excellent community. We don’t want to participate; we have an excellent alderman — and the information she gives out benefits the whole community — but we’re not coming out to get it.”
And problems are sometimes different from block to block, so residents should do their parts on their blocks in the effort to help the ward, said Senesceria Craig..
“That’s why we have our block clubs,” Craig said. “We have seven blocks in our block club and we manage those ourselves. Everything shouldn’t be on [Mitts].”