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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Have An Idea To Improve Rogers Park? Neighbors Can Weigh In On How $1 Million Gets Spent In Neighborhood

The 49th Ward's participatory budget process allows neighbors to offer ideas on how to spend "aldermanic menu" funds.

Pratt Pier at Tobey Prinz Beach.
Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
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ROGERS PARK — If you want to see changes in Rogers Park, now is your time to push for funding.

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) has started the ward’s participatory budgeting process, which allows neighbors to propose and vote on projects to improve the neighborhood. Hadden has earmarked $1 million for the process.

Each year, aldermen receive $1.3 million in what is known as “aldermanic menu” money. The funds are meant to address neighborhood issues like street paving, sidewalk repairs and bike lanes.

Aldermen have different methods for choosing projects to fund. Participatory budgeting allows neighbors to conceive of and determine what projects should receive funding.

Rogers Park’s 49th Ward implemented participatory budgeting in 2009, the first local government agency in the United States to do so.

Previous participatory budgeting processes have funded water features and an AstroTurf playing field at Pottawatomie Park and disability access ramps at local beaches, for example.

Now, the 49th Ward office is taking suggestions for how this year’s funds should be dispersed. To submit a proposal, fill out the community survey online. A Spanish-language version of the survey can be found online.

The survey asks residents, “If you could change one thing about our community that would make life better for you, what would it be?”

A community meeting held Thursday sought to get some ideas. One idea floated was to increase security measures at Rogers Park beaches.

The accessibility of Rogers Park’s beaches makes them dangerous for some residents, said Laura Oliver. Earlier this summer, four teens were rescued after launching a kayak from Leone Beach and becoming stranded 7 miles off shore.

Oliver would like to see life rings or other life-saving equipment at Rogers Park beaches.

“If someone is drowning, there is nothing we can do to help them,” she said.

At a previous community meeting to brainstorm ideas, residents suggested installing more tornado sirens in the area. This comes after a tornado ripped through the area and destroyed hundreds of trees.

Using the aldermanic funds on tree replacement has also been discussed.

Once the ward office has gathered ideas, a group of volunteers will turn those ideas into funding proposals, Hadden said. The proposals will be made public, and residents will be able to vote on the which items they’d like to see funded.

Hadden’s office earmarks $300,000 of the aldermanic menu funds for project cost overruns and ward emergencies.

Voting in the participatory budget process is open to all ward residents older than 14, Hadden said. The ward office is putting up fliers and hosting social media campaigns to advertise the process.

“We try to remove as many barriers [to participation] as possible,” Hadden said.

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