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.

Senator Omar Aquino
State Sen. Omar Aquino

Sen. Aquino leads legislative remap

Illinois redistricting keeps West Town largely on the southeastern edge of the 5th Congressional District of Rep. Mike Quigley. At the state level, much of East Village stays in the 4th Illinois House District and the 2nd Illinois Senate district. Noble Square and Ukrainian Village are mostly in the adjoining 10th House District and 5th Senate District. Each Senate district combines two House districts.

State Sen. Omar Aquino, majority caucus whip and current 2nd District senator, chaired the Senate's redisticting committee. Aquino told EVA members he expected a court challenge; Republicans filed a court challenge days later.

Gov. Pritzker signed bills Aquino introduced to distribute $1.1 billion in federal housing aid, close immigrant detention centers in the state and bring $150 million in state and federal money to safety net hospitals and clinics, including Amita Health Saints Mary and Elizabeth and Humbolt Park Health (formerly Norwegian American Hospital).

Will they do Do Division?

July's Chicago Avenue street fair West Fest has been scrapped this year, as well as the Do Division festival. West Town Chamber of Commerce Membership Chairman Sara Bemer says the call was made at the start of the year. Dancing in the Streets, a jam-band street fair on Hubbard Street, is a "maybe" for August. Two later events are likely to continue as scheduled: the West Town Art Walk on the last weekend in September and Winterfest on the first weekend in December.

The chamber's pop-up store will help small businesses test new retail concepts into next year at 1821 W. Chicago Ave. The Unwaste Shop will be selling cleaning products through August.

Business networking events will resume in July. Erin Ludwig, the chamber's economic development consultant, will be drafting a new master plan for the business district. The chamber is active on Instagram and Twitter and fields questions at info@westtownchamber.org and 312-850-9390.

EVA will resume live meetings in August, with plans for a summer picnic.

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