Ald. Villegas gets to know East Village

36th Ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas meets East Vlllage Association members Sept. 12, 2022 at Roots Pizza.

East Village again is split in Chicago's City Council redistricting. Ald. Gilbert Villegas introduced himself to East Village Association members Sept. 12. In turn, members sounded him out on how he works with community groups on neighborhood issues.

The remap pushes Villegas' 36th Ward boundaries east along Grand Avenue from Belmont Cragin into East Village. A West Town satellite office at 2246 W. Chicago Ave. is staffed Tuesday through Thursday.

"I ran in 2019 under an acronym that I still use today, which is PEACE—Public Safety, Education Accountability, City Services and Economic Development," Villegas told EVA members before taking questions. "I'm not an alderman that's about defunding the police. I'm an alderman that's about reimagining how we can deliver public safety."

Asked for details, he noted a pilot program that dispatch social workers to respond to mental health 911 calls and use of beat officers to follow up on non-emergency issues. He said he would work with the 12th District to copy the 14th district's catalytic converter tagging program. He noted that he had worked with other aldermen to get more recruits assigned to the O'Hare neighborhood.

Villegas was asked to confer with EVA on development concerns. "If I hear that becomes an issue I'll be more than happy to do that. It doesn't bother me. The more input the better," he said. "I'm not opposed to creating a zoning commitee within the ward office. I have no problem with that. I haven't done it in the past but will be more than happy to do it."

The 36th Ward uses participatory budgeting for infrastructure projects, involving high school students on one school-focused initiative. Response in 2021 was comparable for the 1st and 36th wards. Villegas says he uses the vote to guide proportions rather than specific dollar amounts, which depend on funding from all sources.

Chicago casino plans should consider traffic and other effects on Chicago Avenue neighborhoods, he said.

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