Friday, August 13, 2010

“ARE 25th DISTRICT POLICE LAZY, RACIST, OR ON THE TAKE?”

There’s no fried rice coming out of this dilapidated storefront at 5952 W. North Ave., but it’s a wild & crazy place after 2:00 AM on weekends. Police raided the illegal after-hours club in June, seizing guns & drugs, but neighbors want to know why police don’t close it down permanently before someone is killed.

Police verify that this weekend after-hours club operating in 5849 W. North Ave., is totally illegal, but after raiding it in June, cops can’t seem to find their way back, despite what neighbors describe as “mayhem” at the joint.

Business owners in the 5800 and 5900 blocks of North Avenue tell THE VOICE they are staying all night in their stores to protect them from break-ins and damage by patrons of two illegal private clubs who are causing mayhem in the area, breaking windows, urinating in doorways, getting into fights, and throwing garbage around. Chicago police are fully aware of the dangerous situation, but are ignoring it.
    The business owners are openly asking, “Is it because this is a Black neighborhood or are the cops being paid off to leave these illegal clubs alone?”
    Police raided the after-hours club at 5952 West North Avenue in June, seizing firearms and narcotics, according to a police report read to THE VOICE Newspapers over the phone by a 25th district officer. A large orange sign was affixed to the front door by the City of Chicago declaring it illegal for the place to open for business. The sign was scraped off and the club immediately reopened. It operates every Saturday and Sunday beginning at 2:00 AM and continues until 5:00 AM, without police interference.
    The business owners asked the owner of the building housing the illegal club to evict the club. His response to them was, “I don’t care what they do in my building as long as I get the rent – it’s not any of my business.” Neighbors say his building is in very bad condition, with electrical problems, and is infested with rats.
    THE VOICE sent a memo to 25th district police, with the business owners’ suggestion they not raid the club until after 2:30 AM, when it is operating full-blast. Instead, police visited at 10:00 AM, giving rise to neighbors asking whether this was to warn the club operators to remove all contraband or whether it was to pick up a pay-off for not bothering the club. In either case, the club opened as usual at 2:00 AM and police did not return.
    The other problem location is an illegal club operating each weekend at 5849 West North Avenue. Neighbors report frequent loud and drunken brawls with fights spilling onto the street. It, too, is open until dawn on Saturdays and Sundays. It also was raided in June and the police report read to THE VOICE verifies that the club is open illegally and has no licenses or permits of any kind.
    One thing these situations prove is that breaking the code of silence that Superintendent Weis is always talking about doesn’t work when the police don’t want to listen!

“A Toxic Atmosphere”
    Apparently, the problem goes much deeper at the 25th Police District. For years, Black residents have complained about the attitudes of police at the station’s front desk. THE VOICE was told the district only has about ten Black officers. Former White commanders have expressed frustration in trying to recruit African American officers to the 25th district. One current Black officer calls the racial atmosphere in the district “Toxic” and says he doesn’t trust his fellow officers to “have my back in case of an emergency.” An African American female officer says she only chose to work in the 25th district because she has a teenage son and lives in the district. “If anything happens to him at the hands of my fellow officers, I want to be close by to protect him. Other than that, I’d transfer the hell out of here,” she declares. There are reportedly no Black officers in the Tactical Unit, and for special gang and drug operations, Black officers have to be imported from other districts.
    Several years ago, North Avenue business owners meeting in Alderman Emma Mitts’ office asked a Hispanic commander for more police patrols and were bluntly told, “North Avenue is NOT my priority!” Commander Michael McCotter reassigned Officer Chris Hogan to be the North Avenue walking patrolman, over the strong objections and threats by Alderman Suarez, who, according to McCotter, wants the 25th district to be his private security force. McCotter refused and was promoted to get him out of the district.
    A White officer says she doesn’t pay attention to “the parade of Hispanic commanders moving through the station. I don’t know who the current commander is,” she told THE VOICE. “I don’t even buy a program anymore. He’s rarely in the station, so at least we get to pretty much do what we want without interference.”
    But, with Officer Hogan taking a month’s furlough, business people worry North Avenue will get even rougher without police protection and a lot more summer left.

TO DEMAND MORE AFRICAN AMERICAN OFFICERS BE ASSIGNED TO THE 25th DISTRICT AND FOR MORE PATROLS IN THE 25th DISTRICT PORTION OF AUSTIN, CALL SUPERINTENDENT JODY WEIS AT 312/745-6100. SEE IF BREAKING THE CODE OF SILENCE REALLY WORKS!

VOLUNTEERS REPAIR HOMES FOR AUSTIN RESIDENTS ON NATIONAL REBUILDING DAY

Surrounded by volunteers, Mayor Daley explains that Rebuilding Together is the true spirit of Chicago, with neighbors helping neighbors. (Photo by Kevin Hayes)

Three months ago, an army of volunteers from the Chicago Department of Community Development descended upon Austin to help repair and refurbish homes for seniors and the handicapped with limited financial abilities. The annual event was part of a national program known as Rebuilding Together that works in partnership with communities to help rehabilitate the residences of low-income homeowners, including seniors and the disabled.
    “The homeowners that are being helped today have made an investment in the City, and we are helping them with repairs and upgrades so that they can remain in their communities,” said Department of Community Development 1st Deputy Commissioner Ellen Sahli. “These modifications will allow them to continue to enjoy living independently for years to come.”
    The department and its volunteers worked to rehab the home of Minnie Mingo, 74, in the 600 block of North Lorel Avenue, where she has lived for more than 39 years.
    Thanks to this program, her house got a new roof, siding and trim on the fa├žade, energy-efficient windows, refurbished front steps and a wrought iron fence, plus grab-bars in the bathroom.
    Ms Mingo learned about the Rebuilding Together program at a CAPS meeting and was encouraged to apply.
    The Chicago Chapter of Rebuilding Together and its team of 3,500 volunteers made repairs to 48 homes in Chicago and the suburbs. All time, labor, and materials are contributed.
    For information about Rebuilding Together, call 312/201-1188 or visit their website at www.rebuildingtogether-chi.com.
Workers take a moment to pose with Mayor Daley. (Photo by Kevin Hayes)

County Board President Todd Stroger chats with Austin residents. (Photo by Kevin Hayes)
The Mayor talks with plumbers and other craftsmen volunteering their skills on National Rebuilding Day. (Photo by Kevin Hayes)

BASKETBALL STAR DWYANE WADE OPENS SCHOOL AT ELLA FLAGG YOUNG

CLEANING UP THE 37th WARD AFTER CHICAGO’S KATRINA

Ald. Emma Mitts lends a hand to Streets & San crews and a front-end loader in clearing flood debris from 37th ward alleys. Along the way, she spoke with homeowners and called Gov. Quinn & Sen. Durbin to view the damage. (Photo by Brad)
Ald. Emma Mitts confers with Streets & San Division Director Tommie Johnson & crew members about the flood clean-up efforts throughout the 37th ward. Johnson says the flooding is the worst and most widespread damage he has seen in his 21 years working for the city. (Photo by Brad)

    The torrential storms that battered Chicago two weeks ago left a wake of destruction totaling millions of dollars. The 37th ward was the hardest hit of any Chicago community and homeowners are still cleaning up from flooded basements.
    Tommie Johnson, Streets & Sanitation Division Director, says this is the worst and most widespread damage that he has seen in his 21 years working for the city. He said he had 37 garbage trucks working the ward’s alleys picking up water-soaked belongings being thrown out by residents. He notes that one truck picked up 50,000 pounds of debris from one alley alone between Rice & Iowa in a few hours of one day. Johnson says it usually takes a truck an entire day to pick up half that amount of garbage on an entire route of the ward.
    Johnson also says there have been two waves of flood debris being set out in alleys as homeowners make progress in sorting through belongings and trying to rescue salvageable items. He says he is expecting another heavy wave of garbage being set out and is preparing to meet the demand.
    Alderman Emma Mitts opened her ward service office to assist more than 3,000 residents fill out flood damage claim forms. Her staff then delivered the claims to City Hall for processing. She also called Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, telling them they need to visit Austin and inspect the damage so they can add their support for disaster relief. FEMA investigators have been in the area surveying the extent of the damage. They will make recommendations regarding a federal disaster declaration by the President.

Ald. Mitts discusses flood damage with a 37th ward building owner during her tour of the community. (Photo by Brad)
Ald. Emma Mitts examines a flood damage claim before sending it to City Hall with more than 3,000 claims her staff helped ward residents prepare in her office. (Photo by Brad)
A 37th ward homeowner thanks Ald. Mitts for her compassion and efforts to bring help in the wake of the floods. (Photo by Brad)

BETHEL LUTHERAN & ALD. SMITH PRESENTING FREE HEALTH & RESOURCE FAIR AUG. 21

The Men of Bethel Ministry, Alderman Ed Smith, and Bethel Women of the ELCA are presenting a free Health & Resource Fair at West End Avenue & Keeler Avenue, on Saturday, August 21, 10:00 AM-3:00 PM.
    There will be a variety of health screenings and community resource information. There will also be a Block Party With a Purpose, including fellowship, food, music, and activities for children. The public is invited to attend and participate.

GIFT HOUSE HOLDING FREE HEALTH EMPOWERMENT CLASS AUG 14

The Gift House, an agency providing free HIV/AIDS testing and counseling for sexually-transmitted infections, is hosting a Health Empowerment Class on Saturday, August 14, 3:00 PM, at 1309 South Kedzie Avenue.
    The second week of August is designated National Health Center Week, recognizing the services and contributions of these agencies in providing access to affordable, high-quality health care to medically underserved citizens and families.
    This event at The Gift House is intended to instruct people on ways to take control of their health care needs. The public is invited to participate. The class is made possible by the Advocate Bethany Hospital Community Health Fund. For information on this event and services of The Gift House, call 773/522-2420.

JLM ABUNDANT LIFE CENTER PROVIDING FREE MONTHLY LEGAL CLINIC

The JLM Abundant Life Center, 2622 West Jackson Boulevard, is offering a free Legal Clinic on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. No appointments are necessary and people are seen on a first-come-first-served basis.

AUSTIN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE HOSTING 4TH GOLF IN AUSTIN SEPT. 24

The Austin Chamber of Commerce is presenting its 4th Annual Golf In Austin fundraiser on Friday, September 24. This event benefits the ACC Summer Youth Program and Holiday Parade & Tree-Lighting Celebration.
    For information regarding sponsorship or competing in Golf In Austin, call 773/854-5063.

PREVENTION PARTNERSHIP & CEDA PRESENTING FREE ECONOMIC STABILITY SEMINAR AUG. 17

The Prevention Partnership, Inc., West Side elected officials, an array of local agencies, and THE VOICE Newspapers are sponsoring another session of the unique Economic Stability Seminar at Frederick Douglass Academy High School, 534 North Waller Avenue, on Tuesday, August 17, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Participation is free and includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
    Topics addressed in the seminar include personal goal setting, developing job readiness skills, job seeking techniques, resume writing, interviewing strategies, communication skill development, entrepreneurial opportunities, and hints for dressing for success.
    To reserve space at this valuable event, call Novella Bates at 773/378-4195, ext. 11. Each seminar is limited to 50 participants.

DANNY K. DAVIS HOSTING BACK-TO-SCHOOL PARADE & PICNIC AUG. 21

Mark your calendars and start decorating your floats. Congressman Danny K. Davis and an array of community sponsors are planning the 2010 Back-To-School Parade & Picnic for Saturday, August 21. To contribute, volunteer, or reserve your space in the parade, call 773/626-8481.

Sisterhouse: Community Support Shines Through

An hour northwest of SISTERHOUSE’s humble facility, a pocket of enthusiasm exists that has been supporting our work for over two decades.  Saint Mary’s Parish in Buffalo Grove has countless groups and parishioners whose dedication, labor, prayer, and constant encouragement have been the lifeblood of SISTERHOUSE.  On August 6th, our friends at St. Mary held a charity golf outing to raise funds for SISTERHOUSE and the St. Vincent DePaul Society.  This event was a wonderful glimpse into the hearts of those people who never forget SISTERHOUSE, despite these tough economic times.

The next day, the alumnae of SISTERHOUSE collaborated with the Wicker Park Alano Club and a few other agencies to host a picnic for the community, inviting the residents of SISTERHOUSE, their friends and families, and all our alumnae.  The love and energy that combined in one weekend was a wonderful reminder of how we are sustained by the community that surrounds us.  Seeing our residents with their families, witnessing restored relationships as the women grow into a new life, there is little doubt that our mission is worthy and recovery really is possible.

To receive more information on SISTERHOUSE’s services for women and/or volunteer opportunities, please call 773/626-0525.

SEN. RICKEY HENDON PRESENTING BACK-TO-SCHOOL PARADE & PICNIC AUG. 28

Senator Rickey Hendon is hosting his annual Back-To-School Parade & Picnic on Saturday, August 28, 11:00 AM-8:00 PM. For information on entering a float, car, or marching unit in the parade or volunteering to help make the event a success, call Earnest L. Thomas at 773/470-7948.

CHICAGO BAR ASSN. OFFERING FREE LEGAL ADVICE AUG 21

The Chicago Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service is hosting its free Call-A-Lawyer Program on Saturday, August 21, 9:00 AM-12 Noon. Volunteer attorneys give free legal advice over the phone to Chicagoland residents who call 312/554-2001. Attorneys will be available to answer general questions on a variety of legal issues, including Criminal Law; Juvenile Law; Estates; Trusts; Corporate & Securities Law; Tax Law; Pensions & Profit Sharing; Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice.
    Callers can explain their situation to an attorney who will then suggest self-help strategies to resolve their legal issues. If callers need further legal services, they will be advised to see their attorney or to contact the CBA Lawyer Referral Service.
    The CBA Lawyer Referral Service is one of few bar associations in the country to meet the American Bar Association Standards for lawyer referral and approved to use its logo and slogan: The Right Call for the Right Lawyer. For referral to an experienced attorney, the public can contact the CBA Lawyer Referral Service at 312/554-2001 during business hours or through the Website at www.chicagobar.org.

REV. DADA ANNOUNCES PARADE FOR JESUS & CONVENTION AUG. 28

Senior Apostle Emanuel Dada announces that the annual Parade for Jesus and Convention are being held Saturday, August 28. The parade steps off promptly at 10:30 AM from 5138 West Division Street, proceeds north on Laramie Avenue, around LaFollette Park, and concludes in the park, where the Convention begins at 12:30 PM. The theme for both events this year is: Reaching All For Christ.
    The public is urged to enjoy the parade and participate in the convention, continuing until 6:00 PM. There will be singing, dancing, inspirational preaching, free refreshments and giveaways, puppet shows, and tumblers.
    For information on entering floats, cars, or marching units in the parade, or to volunteer, call 630/372-5845.

METROPOLITAN M.B. CHURCH HOSTING ANNUAL MEN’S LUNCHEON AUG. 21

The Brotherhood Men of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, 2151 West Washington Boulevard, are holding their annual luncheon on Saturday, August 21, at 12 Noon. Special guest speaker is Bro. Willie Rambus of Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church. A $10 per person donation is requested. The public is invited to partake in the food, fun, and fellowship. Rev. Scottie Williams, Sr., is Pastor.

WHARP HOLDING LEGISLATIVE STRATEGY BRUNCH AUG. 21

The Westside HIV/AIDS Regional Planning Council (WHARP) is hosting its annual Legislative Strategy Brunch on Saturday, August 21, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM, at Sankofa House, 4041 West Roosevelt Road. Theme of this year’s brunch is: Supporting & Sustaining HIV/AIDS Services and Resources.
    For information and reservations, call Beverley Walker-Donley at 773/485-1715 or e-mail beverley270@aol.com.

LaFOLLETTE PARK ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING AUG. 19

The LaFollette Park Advisory Council is seeking members interested in improving the condition of the park and expanding the program offerings for children and adults. The Council meets every third Thursday of the month, with the next meeting August 19, at 7:00 PM. All meetings are held in the fieldhouse, 1333 North Laramie Avenue. For information, inquire at the park.

SCOTT LEE COHEN HOLDING FREE JOB FAIR AUG. 19

Scott Lee Cohen, Independent candidate for governor, is emphasizing the issue of job creation and the crisis of unemployment by holding a major job fair at his campaign headquarters, 566 West Lake Street, on Thursday, August 19, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM. More than 30 companies currently hiring are committed to participating. Admission to the job fair is free for employment seekers.

INDEPENDENCE & ARTHINGTON COMMUNITY REUNION SET FOR AUG. 21

The 2nd Community Reunion on Independence & Arthington for all current and former residents of the neighborhood is being held Saturday, August 21. The planning committee is still seeking people to help make this year’s event even bigger and more fun than last year’s. The next meeting is August 7. Anyone interested should call Robbin Robinson at 773/653-7378. They are in process of ordering custom-designed Tee-shirts and are trying to secure donations of book bags and school supplies for the kids.

10TH ANNUAL GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY COUNTY FAIR SET FOR SEPT. 18

Experience the excitement and fun of a county fair in the middle of the city. Chicago’s original urban hoedown is being held on Saturday, September 18, 11:00 AM-4:00 PM, at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 North Central Park Avenue. Admission is $5. Ages 3 and under are free.
    The Garfield Park Conservatory’s County Fair celebrates the harvest and healthy communities in an urban setting on Chicago’s West Side. The connection between plants, food, and American heritage are highlighted through a variety of activities, demonstrations, and entertainment. Families can enjoy hands-on activities, games, a petting zoo, pony rides for $1.00, compost demonstrations, a harvest showcase, beekeeping demonstrations, live music, food, a farmers market with fresh produce from local farms, and much more.
    For more information, log onto www.garfield-conservatory.org or call 773/638-1766, ext. 18.

NORTH AUSTIN BRANCH LIBRARY PRESENTING POETRY SLAM AUG. 21

The North Austin Branch Library, 5724 West North Avenue, is presenting another edition of its popular Poetry Slam on Saturday, August 21, 2:00-4:00 PM, as part of the Chicago Public Library’s City Verse series.
Local poets meet other poets to network and share information. Everyone is invited to read or perform their original works and the public is invited to enjoy hearing great poetry. There is no charge to attend or to perform.
Published local poets include Ida Hayes Barnes, Beverly A. McLaughlin, and Frank Alexander.
For information and to reserve a seat, call 312/746-4233.