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IN THE NEWS

Austin veteran garden clears cost hurdle

FINALLY GETTING CLOSER:

An architectural rendering of the proposed Veteran's Peace Garden at 5413 W. Madison St. in Austin.

Courtesy South Austin Neighborhood Association

By Igor Studenkov       April 2, 2018

Contributing Reporter

The Chicago City Council recently voted unanimously to allocate $155,000 to cover the costs of building the proposed Veteran's Peace Garden at 5413 West Madison Street, across the street from MacArthur's restaurant. 

The garden is something that the South Austin Neighborhood Association (SANA) has been working toward since 2016. It will honor Austin veterans and provide a space for public activities. The association also envisions it as a place of quiet contemplation along busy Madison Street.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), who is a veteran himself, has been a vocal supporter. The costs will come from the city's Open Space Impact Fee program. 

According to the city's website, the program "allocates fees that are applied to new residential developments to pay for land acquisition and park improvements in each of Chicago's 77 community areas." 

Meg Gustafson, a project coordinator at the city's Department of Planning and Development, told aldermen on March 26 that the Open Space Impact Fee program will pay for $155,000 of the project. Around $90,000 will come from Ald. Taliaferro's aldermanic menu budget. 

According to a LinkedIn post that SANA posted in January, the concept of the veterans' garden came out of the group's discussion about what they could do to serve veterans in Austin. The organization felt that it was an underserved population, noting that Austin didn't have a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, or any other place where they could meet and hold activities. 

The group decided to create something that would honor veterans of all wars American troops were involved in. The park would also honor dogs that served in the military.

Terry Redmond, a SANA board member, is a veteran herself. Redmond said that she reached out to other Austin veterans and they agreed to work with her organization to maintain the garden once it goes up. 

In 2017, SANA teamed up with NeighborSpace, an East Garfield Park-based nonprofit that helps community groups build community gardens by buying property and handling logistics such as securing water and buying insurance. 

According to information on SANA's website and NeighorSpace's project page, the garden will have a fence, complete with a peace symbol and codes of arms of all four branches of the U.S. military. 

Beyond the gate, a path will lead the visitors toward a "flag circle," which will feature the U.S. flag and the flags of the military branches. The path will continue to the north end of the lot, leading to a pavilion area on the right and a sitting area on the left. Redmond said that the garden would also feature a butterfly garden and a sculpture.

According to the documents submitted to the Chicago City Council, the project is expected to cost a total of $245,088 with $30,000 of it going toward land acquisition and $22,088 going toward project management. The rest of the money will go toward construction, site preparation and planting.

Redmond said that now that the funding has been approved, SANA will sit down with NeighorSpace and Christy Webber, whose landscaping company is helping with the design, to discuss some of the particulars. 

Redmond said that it is still too early to talk about when the garden would open, but that, with the funding hurdle cleared, she's feeling optimistic about the project's pending completion. 

"We're getting close," she said. "We're finally getting closer."

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com  

By Suzanne McBride of AustinTalks

More than 40 West Side residents gathered Tuesday night at MacArthurs to talk about how to improve Austin.

The discussion was one of more than 3,500 held May 10th across Chicago and the suburbs as part of The Chicago Community Trust’s third annual On the Table.

The idea behind Tuesday’s discussions: “Elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and create a unifying experience.”

Members of the South Austin Neighborhood Association (SANA), who celebrated the group’s 1-year-anniversay with birthday cake, identified four issues they’re most concerned about – crime/safety, litter, jobs/unemployment and recreation – then they brainstormed possible solutions.

One person said the way to improve strained relations between Chicago police and the community is to require officers to live in the neighborhoods in which they work.

Terry Redmond, who helped start SANA, said litter continues to be a big problem, even in the vacant lot near her home that she and others have worked to keep clean. She recounted with some disbelief seeing someone in a car with New Jersey plates pull over, get out of the vehicle and throw garbage into the lot.

Her husband, Lee Redmond, said trash strewn about a neighborhood sends the wrong signal; it’s a sign that it’s not worth investing in the area.

“If no one cares about your area, then why should someone else?” he asked.

One elderly resident said begins each day by picking up garbage outside her home: “I’m 86 years old, and I shouldn’t have to be out there every morning picking up their garbage.”

Another woman responded by saying it comes down to each person taking responsibility: “What can I do? It’s all about accountability. Where can you start? Where can I make a difference?”

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin agreed, saying “we have to deal with issues or they’re going to deal with us.”

But he stressed the importance of making sure there are jobs for people, especially ex-offenders, young adults and high school dropouts. “We’ve got to give them opportunities.”

That’s an issue that Boykin has been pushing.

Earlier this week, he tried to block a proposal to develop the old Cook County Hospital, saying if $500 million could be spent on the project, then there should be more money available to give young people summer jobs this year.

“I don’t have any problems with redevelopment. But we had 50 people shot and eight killed this last weekend. Our house is on fire. . . . It’s a question of priorities,” Boykin said at a press conference covered by Crain’s Chicago Business.

Tuesday night, the first-term commissioner questioned why government officials have not done more to support the West Side.

“Why has there been little or no investment for 50 years on the West Side? You have to ask yourself, ‘Why not?'”

Austin and other West Side areas must get their fair share, he said. “This is your government – and your taxpayer money.”

Boykin urged the group to hold their elected officials – “me included” – accountable. “Make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to.”

29th Ward Ald. Chris Taliaferro also attended the event.

Ron Reid, a co-founder of the 7-year-old Central Austin Neighborhood Association (CANA), said the biggest issue is economic and job discrimination. Some Chicago areas – like Austin – simply don’t get the same level of resources and government support as other neighborhoods.

He said there are a number of ways this disparity can be measured, like how many times the city cleans streets in one area versus another, and how quickly – or slowly if at all – police respond to 911 calls.”

All of this is about resources and economic racism, he said. His wife agreed, saying people have to demand that attention be paid to their neighborhood.

Financial investment in Austin is critical, said Serethea Reid, another co-founder of CANA.

“We are only asking for what everyone else gets.”

Ms. Drummond Leads SANA to Governor's Mansion

2/24/2016

Left to right:

Lee Redmond, Terry Redmond, Arnold Bearden, Governoe Bruce Rauner, Ms. Lillian Drummond, First Lady Diana Rauner, Cassandra Norman and 29th Ward Republican Committeeperson, Fran Sapone

On Febraury 24th Ms. Drummond was an Honorary Guest of the Illinois Governor and First Lady for Black History Month.

 

At the private meeting Ms. Drummond spoke of the hardships in the Austin community caused by the budget stalemates and of the concrens of South Austin seniors.

 

Nearly 60 Austin Residents Participated in 3rd City-Wide On The Table Discussion

Longtime Austin resident honored with street sign — AustinTalks

by Terry Dean on October 27, 2015

 

 

Lillian Drummond is rarely at a loss for words.

The Austin activist at the center of so many community battles for justice was the center of attention last week, receiving an honorary street sign named after her.

More than a hundred people – friends, family and even a few former adversaries – came out for Drummond. The corner of  Congress Parkway and Leamington Avenue is now know as Lillian Drummond Parkway. Her Congress Parkway home is just a few houses down from her street.

 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was among the attendees, greeting Drummond at her front door and escorting her to the ceremony held at the corner. For Drummond, who turned 94 just a few weeks ago, there’s no such thing as being speechless.

“I’m here to thank and sincerely appreciate Mayor Emanuel over there, the little short mayor,” Drummond said.

Even Emanuel chuckled at that line.

During his remarks, the mayor said Chicago is a better city because of Drummond.

“Lillian, your name may go up on this street sign, this street may be renamed. But it is your spirit that lives in this neighborhood, not just your name that’s on a street,” Emanuel said.

 

A longtime member of South Austin Coalition Community Council (SACCC), Drummond has advocated for residents on many issues. She’s most known for her work on utility issues, helping residents with their heating and lighting bills from Peoples Gas and ComEd. Both companies had representatives there Thursday.

Always outspoken and boisterous, Drummond is never shy about telling such powerful companies how they ought to be treating the people, said Bob Vondrasek, another longtime SACCC leader who’s worked with Drummond for years.

“She’s a great negotiator,” he said. “They’re all here. They honor her because she doesn’t bullshit. She’s like 94 and still going like crazy. She’s become the all-star for all kinds of things but especially energy assistance. She’s able to work out deals for people.”

George Bailey of the Austin Green Team got a shout out from Drummond during her speech.

“Is George here?” she asked.

 

Someone in the crowd said no, and Drummond snapped back, “Why not?”

Drummond and everyone laughed. Bailey was there and said he wanted to make sure his friend knew that. Bailey also praised Drummond’s work for the community.

“That’s how she became an advocate, because she was never afraid to speak her mind. And she always had the support behind her,” Bailey said, noting that Drummond’s not afraid to use colorful language to get her point across or put people, who needed it, in check.

While displaying her trademark feistiness, Drummond also showed her warmth in acknowledging those she’s worked with for so many years.

“I could not have done as much as I’ve done without those people. I believe that’s why God has let me live to be 94 years old,” Drummond said.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro read a Chicago City Council proclamation in honor of Drummond and later joined Drummond and Emanuel in unveiling her sign. Thursday morning’s ceremony continued inside the Austin Senior Satellite Center, 5071 W. Congress Parkway.

The South Austin Neighborhood Association, which formed this past summer, organized the street naming for Drummond.

Terry Redmond, one of the group’s founders, said they worked with Taliaferro on the honor. Drummond and the group traveled to Springfield over the summer to advocate for seniors.

After the ceremony, Drummond was flanked by friends and supporters who gave her hugs, kisses and took plenty of selfies. The woman of honor said it felt real good to get so much love and appreciation.

“It makes me want to keep on living.”

 

West Side residents pushing to expand state liquor law

February 19, 2017
By Terry Dean | February 19, 2017

Some Austin residents want to change state law governing liquor stores to keep those establishments from opening near playgrounds and parks.

Current law prohibits liquor licenses be granted to stores operating within 100 feet of churches, schools, and hospitals, as well as housing complexes for senior citizens and military veterans. Liquor stores near parks and playgrounds, however, are not covered.

Members of the South Austin Neighborhood Association (SANA) want the 1934 Liquor Control Act amended to include parks and playgrounds.

They say the proliferation of liquor stores in Austin has attracted more crime and litter to their neighborhoods; stores located near parks and playgrounds are especially dangerous for children and elders, residents say.

“We don’t need those types of stores in our community,” SANA member Terry Redmond said.

Residents objected to the opening last summer of G & N Food and Liquor across the street from Columbus Park at Van Buren and Central. The owner,

George Habeeb, told AustinTalks at the time that his business would be run professionally and he planned to work with neighbors on any concerns.

Still, residents launched a petition drive to vote that precinct (42nd) “dry” but failed to garner enough signatures for a referendum on this spring’s ballot. They’ve since turned their attention to amending the Liquor Control Act. Redmond said the group is working with Austin state Rep. La Shawn Ford on amending the law.

Ford told AustinTalks he’s working with residents to address their concerns. The lawmaker said he’s also shared those concerns with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission and the city’s general counsel. A major question, however, is how broad the proposed amendment should be, Ford said.

If, for instance, it covered every park in the city, that could be a problem, he said.

“Near every park in the city would mean Millennium Park and Soldier Field possibly. We just have to make sure we don’t impact areas that shouldn’t be,” Ford said, adding that the best solution is to vote a precinct dry.

“Residents have done that before. You don’t have to change the law in that case to get what they’re trying to get,” Ford said, adding he has no immediate plans to file a bill with the Illinois General Assembly.

A liquor store moratorium for certain blocks could also help restrict how many open in Austin, said Serethia Reid of Central Austin Neighborhood Association (CANA).

Crime and trash has been an issue along Madison Street between Laramie and Lotus avenues, where three liquor stores are located, Reid said. A moratorium was in place for that area until 2012, following approval of a City Council ordinance sponsored by then-Ald. Deborah Graham to lift the ban.

Reid said she’s not opposed to allowing liquor sales at certain businesses, like restaurants, but said the community “don’t need any more places selling 40 ounces.”

“You don’t need them on every block, and it doesn’t do anything positive for the local economy,” she said.

Reid said stores must follow their operating agreements that were part of their license application with the city. Those agreements can include certain mandates for store owners, such as keeping trash under control outside their business.

“The city needs to make sure they’re in compliance with their operating plan,” Reid said. “That’s the issue. We don’t need stores selling liquor out of every hole in the wall.”