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47th Ward Residents Voice Concerns About Libraries, Police Cuts at Budget Town Hall

More than 60 North Side residents upset with Mayor Emanuel’s proposed 2012 budget – which includes cuts

Ald. Ameya Pawar 47th Ward. Photo from by Steve Sterns

to close the city’s $600 million-plus shortfall – attended a budget town hall meeting sponsored by Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) at McPherson Elementary School last Wednesday evening.

Police and library officials were also on hand to address community concerns about the night’s hot topics – namely, the proposed library hour and staff cuts, as well as the consolidation of the 19th District police station with the 23rd District station. Some residents also voiced concerns about water fee increases, car-sticker hikes and youth program cuts.

Pawar addressed some of those concerns with remarks at the start of the meeting.
“The budget this year is many decades in the making,” Pawar said. “I understand this is going to be painful. These are not decisions that are easy to make, especially when you have job losses [to consider].”
Michael Flaherty, was one of many residents who addressed Pawar about possible cuts to Sulzer Library, located at 4455 N. Lincoln Ave in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood.
Flaherty said he frequently uses Chicago’s libraries, and that, while growing up, libraries were an outlet for him to “see the world.”
“It’s my home away from home three times a week, at least,” Flaherty said. “It’s a sanctuary from this crazy world out there.”

Pawar responded by saying he knows the value of libraries and wants to restore their funding, butthat has to be done for the long term, not with temporary fixes, as some residents suggested.

“A simple Band-Aid is not going to work,” he said. “We can’t have the same position next year where we move money from one area to another. It’s a shell game.

Isabel Schechter, an event producer at Attention to Detail Event Productions and 47th Ward resident, was last to speak on the issue of library cuts.

Schechter said she would rather see her taxes raised rather than library services cut.
“If you want to raise my property taxes, you want to raise my city sticker, combine our police districts – if you want to cut pretty much everything else, you can do that,” she said. “But do not take my – and everybody else’s – library.”

On the matter of neighborhood grants, Sheila Pacione of the Ravenswood Community Council worried about her job. Grants pay for her to work at the Ravenswood Community Council, and Pacione said she does not want to see the council cut.

Pacione, who became emotional at the microphone, said she knows of many city workers who make $40,000 or less that have been laid off.

“I just think that it would be fair if people that make significant more money took a pay cut,” she said.

Pawar addressed Pacione directly in his response.

“Shelia, I agree with you, I just don’t see it happening,” due to issues related to unions and collective bargaining, he said.

Adalbert Bielski, who has lived at Irving Park Road and Western Avenue for over 40 years, was the first to bring up the 19th Police District merging with the 23rd District. He said it “befuddles him” that more people are not upset.

“Apparently, I am the only person that seems to care that the 19th District is slated to close,” he said. “In two years, if we close that district facility, we are going to have a spike in armed robberies and gang violence.”

Brian Murphy, deputy superintendent and bureau chief of organizational development for the city of Chicago, said the 19th District building was, in fact, not closing, and that officers in the 19th would still work in the consolidated district.

“All [officers] are doing is reporting to the new facility at the 23rd District,” Murphy said.

Murphy also said detectives and special units will still occupy the building, located at Belmont and Western avenues. Murphy assuaged concerns that crime would rise by saying that after the consolidation, the district would have the third-highest number of officers in the city.

The Chicago City Council’s budget hearings end this week, with a vote on the spending plan expected to occur Nov. 16.

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