Winnemac Park Neighbors Upset About Proposed Shift to 40th Ward

By Patty Wetli | Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Meeting of the Winnemac Park Neighbors group. Credit: Patty Wetli

There are, undoubtedly, a large number of Chicagoans completely disengaged from the ward remap process. The Winnemac Park Neighbors are not among them. Depending on which map City Council ultimately adopts, many or all of the residents in the area bounded by Damen, Western, Lawrence and Foster, will shift from the 47th Ward to the 40th, a change that attendees at the most recent WPN meeting found dispiriting.

Approximately 30 people gathered at Dolce Casa, 4947 N. Damen Ave., on Jan. 10 for an update from WPN chairman and 47th Ward Council delegate Eric Rojas. “The negotiations are being done without us,” he said. Acknowledging that the shift “looks like a done deal,” Rojas encouraged members to email the office of 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar to express their dismay at the move. “Otherwise it’s just going to happen.”

At issue: Concerns that many of the positive steps taken in the past months by Ald. Pawar, including the Grow47 schools initiative, will be erased. Among the questions raised, what happens to TIF dollars Pawar intended to direct toward Chappell Elementary and Amundsen High School if they’re no longer in his ward? (Unclear.) In the spirit of transparency and citizen participation, does 40th Ward Ald. Pat O’Connor have a ward council? (No.)

“I’m totally opposed” to the move, said Deanna Arvin, a resident of the Winnemac Park area since 1978. “Living next door to the 40th Ward, I haven’t seen any investment. It’s all about the status quo. I got pumped up about Pawar. We got new, fresh blood giving us an education on how City Hall is working; we never had that before.”

Kirsten Brandt, an 11-year resident, was taking a wait-and-see approach. “I still have to educate myself,” she said of the various ward remap proposals. “We were all excited about Pawar, the openness. He really brings it to the people.”

“I want to stay [in the 47th Ward],” added Bob Farster. While admitting that Pawar’s transition into office had a few bumpy patches, Farster liked where the new alderman was heading, particularly with the establishment of the ward council, comprising representatives of various neighborhood groups. “I think he’s attempting to do the right thing,” said Farster. “I worked and fought to get Ald. Pawar elected. I want to see where he takes things.” With the remaps still being debated, Farster was “keeping my fingers crossed” that the Winnemac area would remain in the 47th Ward.

And if not? “I just hope we can light a fire under O’Connor,” said Arvin.

Update from Amundsen Principal

Amundsen High School Principal Carlos Munoz. Credit: Patty Wetli

Carlos Munoz, principal at Amundsen High School, was invited to speak to the Winnemac group. After polling attendees and discovering that none of the parents were currently sending or planning on sending their student to Amundsen, Munoz stated, “No disrespect, that’s why I’m here. You need to look at your neighborhood school.” Amundsen’s enrollment of 1,500 students is split between 60 percent neighborhood students and 40 percent drawn from across Chicago. “I would desire 101 percent neighborhood,” he said.

With top neighborhood students commonly “siphoned off” by Northside College Prep, Lane Tech and Walter Payton high schools, Munoz made a pitch for Amundsen’s International Baccalaureate program, which accepts approximately 120 students each year. He also touted the school’s small learning communities, including the Global Village program, which emphasizes cultural and environmental awareness, and the Jorndt Urban Mentorship Program, which is raising funds to send 15 students to Nicaragua to build a school. Would he be open to a “Friends of…” group, similar to community groups that rally around elementaries? “We don’t have a ‘Friends of,’ not that we don’t need friends,” answered Munoz. “We’re not going to turn you away. We’re open to suggestions.”

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  • http://profiles.google.com/ericrojas2 Eric Rojas

    Speaking with neighbors after the meeting, we felt Mr. Munoz talk was very interesting. I know many of us learned several things about Amundsen and several local high schools we did not know.  However, he felt short on a “road map” wherein the community and parents can best engage and help the school.  The schools can help themselves by better facilitating community and parent participation…giving a little a clear direction so parents and communities can run with it, do the work and raise money.

    This was a fair representation of the meeting and the general feelings toward the re-map process.  Many feel while the new Alderman has been terrific about community involvement, transparency and information, we were conspicuously left hanging on the Ward Re-Map issue.   However, we tried to put the re-map issue out there fairly and received facts from some of the neighbors in attendance.  We suggested that if you’re disappointed in (or in support of) the process to contact Pawar’s and Mell’s offices respectfully and attend the upcoming meetings (I joked about “go have a sit-in if that’s your thing”).

    However, we also said many may be indifferent or may support the move to the 40th.  Whatever the individual opinion, I think it was good for the neighbors to learn and think about how they will engage the changes in local leadership and representation. 

    This particular group of neighbors is involved in McPherson, Chappell, and Amundsen schools,  Winnemac Park and community garden initiatives.  These are the public institutions that serve our immediate area.  A formal “Friends of McPherson” exists, a Chappell group is forming now. The goal of the meetings is good information and key note speakers…we avoid political rallying.

  • http://spudart.org spudart

    Great points by Carlos Munoz, and great points by Eric Rojas.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder what was the point of going to the trouble to attend candidate forums, educate ourselves on our options, and finally elect new aldermen for many wards, just to have them snatched from us.  Also, 47th Ward Ald. Pawar made it clear right off that education was his priority and passion, giving much hope to schools that could now just be dumped in another ward.  It’s like voters have about as much choice in government as we do about the weather.

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