...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon (RPCC)

"Phooey!"

"How 'bout this?" asked my expatriate friend from Lincoln Park as he and his wife walked into my favorite Friday night rendezvous, the Pinewood Inn on Touhy Ave near Western.

"I think it's wonderful," I said as I glanced at his wife, a former Winnetka resident. Longtime readers may recall this couple who live in one of the condos on Eastlake Terrace. "Being pregnant certainly adds a new dimension to ones life. When is the expected birth date?"

"I'm not talking about that," he stammered. "I'm talking about this." He handed me a newspaper article about recent city council action to raise the annual expense allowances of the city's 50 aldermen by $10,000 and to create a pool of $15,000 for each alderman for merit raises for their three staff assistants.

"Just one year ago," he continued, "they gave themselves an annual increase of 13 percent, raising their salaries to $85,000 plus benefits."

"It's a demanding job," I countered. "How else can we expect attentive, single minded, business caliber experience if we are not willing to pay for it?"

"My point," he exclaimed, "only a handful meet that requirement. Look among the 50 wards! How many have other jobs? Sometimes two or three other jobs! And how many jobs have a sibling or Siamese twin connection. And how much of that assistance money goes to pay rent in aldermanic or family owned buildings?" My God! I think they oughta pay the city for the right to be an Alderman!!!"

"An interesting theory," I said. "Would the fee be more in the 1st or 43rd or 19th ward than in the 3rd or 46th or maybe the 49th? On second thought, it might engender an improvement in the latter two."

"It's outlandish," he continued, ignoring my humor. "The $1.25 million cost for the Year 2000 will be financed by a $200,000 reduction in the budget set-aside for the City Council's Transportation Committee."

"Huh!! Where did that money come from?" I inquired, "and how come that committee doesn't need it any more? Have we no more transportation problems?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," my friend responded.

"In the meantime," I asked, "what else is new in your life besides your anticipated parenthood? Must be something in the strange fruit at the Rogers Park Fruit Market, everyone comes to Rogers Park and gets pregnant!"

"That's not the way it's done, silly," countered the even more vivacious, tanned, pony-tailed, blonde ex-suburbanite. Readers may remember her when she had long, streaked blond hair hanging down past her waist. Then, she wore Dana Buchman and Liz Claiborne, with a gold necklace and diamond stud earrings and 9 West shoes; now she was head to toe right out of Pea In A Pod, and with sensible shoes. She still had the scrubbed suburban look. Some things are forever!

"Also," she continued, "the Board of Education has reportedly purchased the South-east corner of Morse and Clark for a new school. That should help relieve the Field School and just in time," she said, patting her stomach. "Although, judging by the time-table of some government - controlled construction in Rogers Park, my kid might be out of high school by the time the school is complete. At least he will be able to use the new public library nearby! It's really very nice. It's too bad the school construction will displace The Raven Theatre — I hope they can find a new home in Rogers Park."

"Maybe," her husband interjected, "the Alderman, Joe Moore, could help or maybe some of the altruistic non-profits could help. Maybe they might have to do some community outreach and earn their 501- C- 3 status. That would be different. I also hear that the long established No Exit Café on Glenwood has exited. Rumor has it that the coffeehouse will be replaced by a 'Youth Club'…I wonder what that really means? They've broken ground at the northwest corner of Sheridan and Juneway, at the entrance to Evanston, near Calvary Cemetery. What a great place! What a view of the lake and the city!"

"Yes," I said, "and all things considered, fairly reasonable—eighteen row houses with 2 to 4 bedrooms from $197,000 up and 2-3 bedroom condos in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. Do you suppose there will be people living in it and flowers growing on the landscape before we see any action at Gateway Plaza?"

"And further west—in the 50th Ward—see how much I've learned since last we talked—like Gaul, Rogers Park is divided into three parts; Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres," she joked. I love New Trier grads.

"But I hope, unlike Gaul, with a different ending," I responded jokingly—well maybe half jokingly.

She continued, "at Pratt near Kedzie there are plans for 41 single family houses ranging in price from $350,000 to $365,000 and the old Bethesda Hospital is being converted to condos and lofts. But we don't know about the venerable adjoining shopping center. The Pickle Barrel Restaurant is down and Jewel wants to leave. I think it's due for a complete overhaul".

"Don't forget," her husband reminded her, "about the newly announced plans for 18 town homes on Western near Lunt where there has been a vacant auto body shop for years."

"But it's not all upbeat," said the guy on the next stool. "Gateway Shopping Center continues to flounder. Howard Street resembles the aftermath of a war. And the demographics of the development at the old Howard Theater are yet to be determined. And despite all the hoopla, some time ago, 1528 Morse remains a total mish-mash and soon Charles Variety Store will close and be torn down. Who knows what else will happen on what is quickly becoming a street of despair."

"Well you see," I remarked, "improvements take time. There is much that needs to be considered and contemplated. Rome was not built in a day, you know." Everybody groaned.

"Yeah!" said the guy at the corner of the bar. "But neither were these entrepreneurs, private and non-profit, suckled by wolves. Oh, maybe they are judging from the less than overwhelming success of the neighborhood TIF programs relative to increased property values and available taxes for use 23 years down the road when the TIF expires."

"It is reported," he continued from his seat at the far corner, "in the triennial assessment that non-downtown TIF assessments grew 8.14% while the overall city gain was 8.4%. More than 3 billion dollars have been taken off the tax books on a gamble of the promise of future increases."

"Talk about riverboat gambling," piped in the friendly bartender, "or maybe the commodity markets or the future exchanges."

"You folks are much too hard," I responded. "They are all doing the best they can with limited finances, limited experience, poor execution, a maze of bureaucratic barricades and some serious growing pains."

"Phooey," they all sang out in one united chorus. "Phooey!"

*********************

Huff and Puff and Blow the House Down

This column was written on July 22nd. On the evening of July 23rd, several pieces of the wall at Dominick's Gateway Plaza construction site were blown down during a storm. Now we have to ask about the question of safety!!

...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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