Violence interrupters to hit West Town streets

Alderman Daniel La Spata
Ald. Daniel La Spata speaks to EVA members on Zoom. Live meetings resume in August.

Chicago has extended priority funding to West Town violence reduction and street outreach services. Ald. Daniel La Spata told EVA members June 7 that the city plans to contract with a number of agencies to operate by July.

The city's Violence Reduction Dashboard shows 14 criminal sexual assault and 60 aggravated assault victims this year, compared with 9 rapes and 41 aggravated assaults at the same point in 2020.

The violence reduction strategy works with young people who are violent crime victims or perpetrators. The violence interrupters build relationships, mediate disputes and connect people to social services. Victim outreach includes shooting. aggravated battery and assault victims.

La Spata asked for feedback on how the city should spend $1.8 billion in federal American Rescue Plan relief, which can be used to fund nearly anything short of pensions or debt service. An online Right to Recovery poll asks how participants how they would allocate the cash among health and social services, infrastructure, police and other city priorities.

La Spata said he worked with State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz on an affordable housing law to give landlords a tax break for keeping rents at or below market rate.

In a question-and-answer session, La Spata said the city needs to spend more on lead pipe replacement, raising income limits to pick up the full cost for homeowners (now $72,800 for a family of 4), and offered to work with residents in building or legalizing coach houses and basement or attic apartments.

Rep. Quigley on Capitol riot, infrastructure and crime

Rep. Mike Quigley got his COVID shot the day after the Capitol riot, with no side effects. A staff physician told the congressman most people have no reaction to the vaccine—but then again, an allergic reaction wouldn't have much chance against the Jan. 6 adrenaline.

The 5th District representative visited a West Town neighborhood cleanup in April; 60 volunteers signed up, and picked up a lot of face mask litter, Neal McKnight reported. Quigley followed up May 3 with a virtual visit with EVA members. Citing FBI Director Christopher Wray on the threat posed by homegrown terrorism, he reflected on the insurrection. He plans to push for accountability and change on the House appropriations, intelligence and oversight committees.

"Just about anybody who was there could figure out what we needed," Quigley said, "a retractable fence, a fast-response team, a better trained, better equipped, larger police force, better ionformation, better coordination, better intel that's shared, and an agreement with the National Guard. ... I heard one of my colleagues say 'Where's the f-ing cavalry?'"

Nothing is easy in government, Quigley mused, when a $400 billion COVID relief program has to fight the perception that the pandemic is over. He proposes future relief for 1.4 million fitness workers who lost jobs in the lockdown, and advocates infrastructure relief to improve Lake Shore Drive, extend the CTA Red Line, rebuild shoreline and seaway, mitigate climate change, build the power grid, address the digital divide, replace lead water lines and possibly launch high-speed rail service.

In a question session, Quigley had answers for a range of issues. International travel is possible for the end of the summer. The new Chicago police call center and gun safety laws would start to address crime issues. COVID recovery could improve mail delivery yet structural change is still needed.

EVA Saturday: Earth Day Community Cleanup at Commercial Park

Earth Day 2021 poster

EVA is supporting Earth Day with a cleanup and COVID-safe crafts April 17 at Commercial Park, 1845 W. Rice St. Gloves and tools will be available. There'll be water, juice boxes and Dark Matter coffee, and we'll be giving away 2 Christy Webber Farm & Garden swag baskets.

From 10am until noon we will be cleaning Commercial, Honore, Superior and Snowberry parks, as well as the surrounding neighborhood. We will provide lunch at noon for our volunteers (from the awesome Takorea Cocina!) and from noon until 2 pm there will be spring themed crafts at the park for kids.

All cleanup participants must stop by Commercial Park before heading out to clean in order to sign a waiver and pick up bags and gloves. (You must wear a mask in the parks!) We ask that you sign up so we can maintain social distancing (and so we know how much food to order). Please make sure that all members of your group are included on the signup.

Last minute attendees are welcome, but we can't guarantee the tacos will last. If you are only planning to attend in the afternoon for the post-lunch kids' events, there is no need to sign up in advance. Lust come join the fun!

If you have any questions, please email commercialparkinfo@gmail.com. Thank you for joining us and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to our parks!

Solar 'farm share' cuts ComEd bills

Not all Chicagoans can put solar panels on their roofs, but solar farms on the other side of the state can provide their energy and a ComEd bill credit.

Alternative electric suppliers have made residential customers wary over a quarter-century of marketing in Illinois, so community solar offerings have had a more modest rollout. Brent Buchberger, project development manager at Engie Distributed Solar, gave a soft-sell presentation March 1 on the Morrison, Illinois solar project for which EVA President John Gantner was civil engineer.

A 2017 law authorized the Illinois Shines program, which gives homeowners and renters financial incentives to support solar farms. The Citizens Utility Board says energy supply credits are similar to the savings from installing panels on your own property. Engie subscribers get a $100 signing bonus.

Cloud kitchens take bite of local restaurant business

Restaurant food isn't always cooked in restaurants. Chicago allows pop-up restaurants in vacant stores, and now delivery-only "ghost kitchens" are popping up in warehouse and factory spaces–no diners allowed.

Delivery services like DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats make these commercial kitchens possible, Fifty/50 Restaurant Group co-owner Scott Weiner told a joint meeting of the East Village Association and Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association,

Fifty/50 runs online pizza and cakeball businesses from its restaurants, but Weiner says national chains like Applebee's and Chick-fil-A contract with commercial kitchens to fill online orders.

Chicago clears way for business reopenings, bus lane, library repairs

1st Ward Ald. Daniel La Spata answers questions on Zoom.

Chicago's eased COVID-19 restrictions this month do not sacrifice public health, insists Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward).

"There was actual data behind them," including a drop in COVID-19 cases, La Spata told EVA members Oct. 5 via Zoom. City inspections quickly brought a few businesses into compliance with early reopening guidelines. Residents need to do their part to stay safe, but mask wearing is not targeted for enforcement.