Andersen to merge into LaSalle II next year

By Ronda Locke 

Andersen Community Academy elementary school appears likely to close June 17.

Chicago Public Schools interim chief executive Terry Mazany is addressing a $720 million shortfall in Chicago's $5.28 billion schools budget by closing a half-dozen low-enrollment schools.

Andersen's remaining 61 students in grades 6, 7 and 8 will be offered slots at LaSalle II, the magnet elementary school that shares the Andersen building at 1148 N. Honore.

To continue to operate with so few students would deny them better school options, Mazany said in the March 23 CPS announcement. Hans Christian Andersen school opened on the site in 1884, named for the author of "The Little Mermaid."

For earlier grades, Pritzker School at 2009 W. Schiller already has replaced Andersen as the designated neighborhood school.

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno is vehemently opposed to Andersen's early closing because of the timing. CPS is proposing this change in late March when Andersen families have missed the standard mid-December deadline to apply to other CPS schools, as well as deadlines for most charter schools.

The merger could bloat classroom sizes in LaSalle II’s upper grades, or require split classrooms with multiple grades in one room. Details of the merger are yet to be finalized, but LaSalle II’s lottery results were sent to parents on March 18 based on a standard classroom size.

A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 7 to hear from both Anderson and LaSalle II families. The hearings are scheduled to last two hours, starting at 5:30 p.m., in the school board's 5th floor chambers at the CPS central office, 125 S. Clark.

Meanwhile, CPS no longer will honor an agreement to hold half the seats at LaSalle II for neighborhood pupils.

Three years ago when the Andersen phase-out was announced, Ald. Manny Flores said he had negotiated a 50-50 ratio of students within 1.5 miles of the school. Flores and former CPS intergovernmental affairs director Michael Merchant believed that the more generous ratio was to be maintained in perpetuity.

However, Abigayil Joseph, head of the Office of Academic Enhancement, now says LaSalle II's local admissions quota for kindergarten will be the standard proximity allowance for magnet schools of 40%.

CPS is holding to this despite an East Village Association protest in February. "It is our concern that the commitment made to the neighborhood is not being honored," wrote President Greg Nagel, noting the ratio would have implications for fall admissions.

The 65 newly enrolled students from the current school year were not geocoded, so we do not know the current ratio of newly enrolled students living the within the 1.5 mile radius.

However, Principal Suzanne Velasquez Sheehy has not been allowed to fill 2 open kindergarten seats from the proximity wait list. The central office has decided to let those seats remain open until next school year. Older grades are filled to capacity.

EVA last year sought to reduce the proximity radius to 0.75 miles. There's absolutely no potential for that change.

Other elementary schools to be closed include Carpenter, at 1250 W. Erie. Students there will be merged into Talcott, at 1840 W. Ohio. Carpenter is phasing out and has a projected fall 2011 enrollment of 108 students in grades 3 through 8. Because of low enrollment, it has split-grade classrooms.

The Chicago Grand Neighbor's Association is looking to help Talcott, which is within CGNA boundaries. Many active CGNA members live near the school.

Alderman, EVA open window of opportunity

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, chief of staff Raymond Valadez, EVA president Greg Nagel 

Board meeting minutes for March 14, 2011 submitted by Dana Palmer

Attendance: Board members Greg Nagel, Neal McKnight, KK Goh, Dana Palmer, Scott Rappe, Tom Tomek, Aaron Bilton and Stephen Rynkiewicz; non-board members Jennifer Baird, Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, Raymond Valadez. Meeting commenced 7:07 p.m. at Leona's 1936 W. Augusta

Treasurer Transition

KK Goh and Nicole Semple will meet this week to make transition of treasurer.

Trees on Augusta

Neal McKnight reported that the tree census is planned for April 30 and he will write an article for the newsletter to inform the neighborhood. He also reported that he will be working with Ronda Locke to round up kids from Noble Street charter school to help with the census to earn community service hours.

It was also mentioned that the students from the Near North Montessori school are also interested in earning community service hours. The article will be emailed to school boards and the alderman to let everyone know what is happening and to see if any others are interested in participating.

Guest Speakers

April: Nicole Semple to ask Butcher & Larder, Rich Anselmo has Sublime for business minute. The principal of Wells High School is scheduled to be guest speaker.

May: Neal McKnight will ask Mark Duntemann to report on tree census and Jeanne Felknor to present on gardening.

Bylaw Changes

During the April meeting the group will vote to have a more strict boundary system for voting privileges and a longer waiting period to vote after joining.

Landmark/EVA signs

Tom Tomek is currently working on designing new logo for EVA signs. Scott Rappe reported that Heidi Sperry at the city Historic Preservation Division said to call in June about landmark signs; he said he would call. Tom and Stephen Rynkiewicz will also work together to come up with a new logo for the website.

Roots/Bleeding Heart

1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno and chief of staff Raymond Valadez joined the meeting to discuss Roots' request for a zoning change. Moreno stated that he could not stop a pizza pickup window but advocated withholding an outdoor cafe license unless certain concessions that pleased the neighborhood were made in writing.

Greg Nagel voiced concern about enforcing concessions and the alderman suggested possible consequences if they are not followed. The EVA board will continue to work with Moreno regarding concessions important to the neighborhood.

Meeting adjourned 9:55 p.m.

Membership meeting minutes for March 7, 2011 submitted by Dana Palmer 

Meeting commenced 7:09 p.m. at Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott.

Business Minute: Bucktown Music

Jessica Solares of Bucktown Music presented about her business. Bucktown Music is owned by Solares and her husband and located at 1890 N. Milwaukee Ave. Bucktown Music offers lessons to children and adults 6 years and older. They also offer a Kindermusik class for children 6 years and younger. They have been in business for 2 years.

Board Elections

Greg Nagel is running for a second term as president. Neal McKnight is running for a second term as vice president, Kok Keng Goh is running for a first term as treasurer and Dana Palmer is running for a third term as secretary. There were no other nominations for any board position. Scott Rappe made the motion to elect the candidates. Motion was seconded and passed unanimously.

Guest Speakers

Greg Nagel and Aaron Bilton made a presentation about how property taxes are assessed and why, and the process of making an appeal.


Stephen Rynkiewicz stated that the newsletter will be posted on OhSoWe, a website in development that will allow those who join to share information and post comments.


Tom Tomek presented on the month's CAPS meeting and what reports had been made in the area.

Meeting adjourned 8:37 p.m.

Falafel king? Vegan fast food in Wicker Park

Chicago's first Native Foods Café restaurant will anchor a 3-story building rising at the former Burger King site, 1480 N. Milwaukee. Scheduled to open this summer, the organic and vegan fast-food diner will include sidewalk seating along Honore Street. Ground has broken on the 9,200-square-foot building, said a statement from Marc Lifshin, a partner with builder LG Development.

Valuable tips on property taxes

Sharpen your pencils for these takeaways from Monday's property-tax presentation by Greg Nagel of the Ask Nagel realty service and Aaron Bilton, deputy commissioner of the Cook County Board of Review:

• Only 27% of homeowners challenge their taxes, which means the rest may be leaving money on the table. You can challenge your tax assessment every year and the county will either validate or lower the property value that sets your tax bill.

• A Board of Review outreach program allows you to appeal your taxes for free by simply filling out a one-page document. A session will be scheduled for a future East Village Association meeting.

• Homeowner and senior exemptions that lower the tax bill now must be applied for every year. Shockingly, 30% of eligible homeowners fail to take their exemption!

More good tips are in the property tax handout from Nagel's presentation. Dues-paying EVA members will be able to download the handout from the OhSoWe announcement list. Watch your e-mail for instructions on how to log in and access more features, including a neighborhood directory and a list of items you can borrow from neighbors.

If you aren't a paid member, we've already saved you the cost of a tax lawyer. Dues are cheap and can be charged to your credit card annually. Sign up from the PayPal widget on this page.

EVA News: Tax talk, Pizza Hut orders, Wells farrago

This post contains corrected links.

Download the March newsletter for details on Monday's presentation on lowering your property taxes at 7 p.m. in the Happy Village Tavern, 1059 N. Wolcott. There's also news on developer plans for the Pizza Hut building at Division and Ashland, now in foreclosure, a Wells High School progress report, recycling tips and more. We'll see you at 7 p.m. Monday in the Happy Village at Wolcott & Thomas.

In the future this newsletter will be distributed to members through the password-protected OhSoWe website. If you're an EVA member, answer the e-mail invitation to create a profile on the site, which will allow you to send messages to the entire group. If you're not a member, use the PayPal button on this page and chip in a few bucks to make your neighborhood better.

Taxes give appealing reason to meet Monday

Time to pay property taxes — motivation enough to learn how your neighbors have lowered their tax bills.

Members Greg Nagel and Aaron Bilton lend their professional expertise to a tax discussion at Monday's East Village Association member meeting. Nagel has developed apartment and condo buildings; Bilton, a former assistant state's attorney, has been appointed chief of staff to Board of Review Commissioner Michael Carbonargi.

But if you've been successful appealing your property taxes you'll want to contribute as well. Since my days as a real-estate writer I've been filing an appeal like clockwork every three years as my home is reassessed.

The first-installment tax bill is due April 1 this year and in March as usual next year. (Pay online here.)

The session will cover the basics of how Chicago handles property taxes and the routes to appeal through the Cook County Assessor and Board of Review.

Both agencies made do-it-yourself appeals easier, providing online research tools and free neighborhood filing sessions. But there are a few tricks to checking both the accuracy of county records for your property and the property values of your neighbors.

We'll also try to make sense of the fictionally low dollar figures on assessment notices and the upward creep of the equalization factor, which the state uses to turn them into something approaching market value.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m in the Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott. Also on the agenda is the annual officer election and business introductions by Jessica Solares of Bucktown Music, 1890 N. Milwaukee Ave. The previously scheduled Rob Levitt of Butcher & Larder (1026 N. Milwaukee Ave.) is not available.

East Village residency at issue (it's not about Rahm)

As Rahm Emanuel sorted out his Chicago residency bona fides early this year, East Village Association leaders started to weigh what makes someone part of the neighborhood. If members agree in April, EVA voters must be East Village residents or property owners.

They won't need to pull a wedding dress from their crawlspace as proof. The idea is that while anyone can support East Village, only those directly affected should cast ballots on community issues.

Residency comes up often in connection with EVA votes because it has not been a requirement. Anyone who identifies with the neighborhood may (and should) join — I signed up as an Oak Parker searching the real-estate listings. But I couldn't vote immediately, because a monthlong cooling-off period was in place to discourage single-issue voters.

Often newcomers arrive with development interests before the group. Votes for such things as zoning changes and special land uses are intended to advise the alderman on neighborhood sentiment, and their authority would be tarnished by participants still unfamiliar with the surroundings.

EVA took another look at the rules when people who had not yet been added to the member spreadsheet showed up Jan. 3 ready to vote on a Chicago Avenue rooftop cafe for Bleeding Heart Bakery, briefly delaying an announcement of the tally.

The board reviewed member Aaron Bilton's proposal on Feb. 15 and circulated amendments over the next three days. The change would limit voting privileges to residents and property owners who have been members at least three months, a span chosen both to make election rolls easier to compile and to assure that voters will have settled into their new territory.

"I don't think it unfair that we ask those who have not actually invested within our area to invest some time to become part of our community," Bilton suggested. "The people that we are looking to include will not be that put off by missing one vote if they truly want to become part of our community."

Also at issue were members with the potential of voting twice, either those who belonged to two neighborhood groups debating the same issue or those holding both family and business memberships. And since a strict reading of the bylaws would have required everyone voting Jan. 3 to have paid both 2010 and 2011 dues, the proposal gives the board discretion in dues collection dates.

The resolution rewrites East Village Association bylaws, but keeps the neighborhood bound by Division Street and Milwaukee, Chicago and Damen avenues.

EVA members will vote the proposal up or down April 4 in the monthly meeting at Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott:

Be it resolved that the By-laws of the East Village Association be amended as follows: Delete preamble of Article IV; delete last two sentences of Article IV Section 2; amend first sentence of Article VI to read: "Only members in good standing over 16 years of age who reside or own property in the area defined in Article II and who have been members for a minimum of three months are eligible to vote. Add at end of section: "No person may cast more than one vote."