Vote early! 1st Ward participatory budgeting

Snowplow clears Polish Triangle plaza.
A snowplow clears the Polish Triangle at Division and Ashland. A participatory budgeting proposal would explore plaza beautification.

Here's your chance to spend $1 million on street work.

By Marjorie Isaacson

It’s time to vote! No, not in that election, the one for mayor and alderman on Feb. 28. For 1st Ward residents, this is an opportunity to spend $1 million in ward infrastructure money.

Participatory budgeting is a resident-led vote to identify and fund projects that are important to the community. Ideas are solicited, then a team of volunteer residents reviews them and develops them into proposals, then residents can choose their preferences.

Voting is underway now and closes Feb. 5. The highest voted-on projects listed are what the alder will spend the money on, maybe with some adjusting to stay within the $1 million limit. Whether the projects get done will be subject to many things, but straightforward ones will be done&mdassh;if more votes come in for street repaving versus alley repaving, the streets will be done.

The process includes voting on eight policy advisory questions, in addition to the infrastructure projects. The participatory budget funding can be used only for infrastructure or actual physical projects, such as resurfacing streets and alleys or installing bike road improvements.

During the idea collection phase, many residents submitted ideas about safety, dog-friendly areas and use of tax increment financing dollars. These are not fundable by the infrastructure money. However, the ballot includes these ideas as advisory questions. Votes on these items will help the alderman and his staff determine their working priorities for the upcoming year.

Voting is a simple two-step process. First there is a short survey to register and answer the eight policy advisory issues. Then proceed to the infrastructure voting. There are 11 projects to choose from. I found the voting easy and quick. Do it!

The propossals are listed below.

1st Ward Advisory Questions

Select your top three policy advisory topics.

  • Given resident complaints regarding the hazards of this location, Alderman La Spata should implement a traffic study for pedestrian calming on North Avenue between Damen Avenue and the Kennedy Expressway.
  • Given concerns around bicycle security, Alderman La Spata & the 1st Ward Office should further explore various types of secure bicycle storage and to determine their ideal location throughout the 1st Ward. This secure storage would go beyond traditional bicycle racks that are present in the ward.
  • Given concerns regarding the width of Division Street eastbound towards Ashland Avenue, and the speeds at which incoming traffic passes through this area, Alderman La Spata & the 1st Ward Office should explore traffic calming and lane narrowing options for this stretch of street.
  • Alderman La Spata & the 1st Ward Office should explore and implement pedestrian safety measures at the intersection of Campbell Avenue and North Avenue in the form of a traffic study, the installation of a pedestrian island crossing North Avenue, and the installation of HAWK Hybrid Pedestrian Crosswalk.
  • Alderman La Spata & the 1st Ward Office should work with the 2nd ward office and local community groups to explore beautification opportunities and funding for the Polish Triangle plaza at the Division Blue Line stop. The work would include a review of previous placemaking efforts, opportunities for space improvements (for example, adding green space, seating, artwork, etc.), coordinating with relevant City agencies, and identifying potential funding sources.
  • Alderman La Spata & the 1st Ward Office should establish a volunteer committee of residents who will be charged with the tasks of creating a proposal for a new dog friendly area (DFA) in Ward 1? The committee will be responsible for identifying one or more possible locations for a DFA, gathering petitions, conducting site usage surveys, collecting letters of support, convening public neighborhood meetings and submitting a proposal package to the Chicago Parks District. If the DFA is approved by the Parks District, the committee will oversee the design, construction, and management of the DFA along with the Parks District.
  • Alderman La Spata & the 1st Ward Office should work with the Park District to identify land for a new children's playground at or near the Logan Boulevard circle.
  • Alderman La Spata & the 1st Ward Office should work with city agencies to utilize TIF Dollars to fund a corridor study for California Avenue. The community-based planning process would examine land uses, development, streetscape, circulation, and pedestrian safety.

1st Ward participatory budgeting proposals

Assign $700,000 up to $1 million to the projects you want.

  • California Avenue protected bike lane, $375,000
  • Repave two streets in the 1st Ward, $295,000
  • Traffic calming in the 1st Ward, $280,000
  • Upgrade alley adjacent to Haas Park, $280,000
  • 1500 West Chestnut Street residential street lighting, $165,000
  • Division / Paulina & Milwaukee / Paulina improvements, $150,000
  • Repave three alleys in the 1st Ward, $115,000
  • Modernize Logan Boulevard skate park, $100,000
  • Dean Street / Paulina Street cul-de-sac beautification, $100,000
  • Contraflow bike lane on Paulina, $75,000
  • Add curb ramps to Wolcott Avenue, $60,000
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