June 18, 2008

What Is The Future For Gale Community Center?

Well folks, let us know what you think about this. I’m sure some readers are already aware if they were recently asked to ‘sign a letter’.

On June 5, some park council members met at Joe Moore’s office about the re-naming process of Gale Park. Joe had invited the new director of RPCC, Elizabeth Vitell and Dorothy Gregory of DevCorp to join us. It was the first time we'd met with them.

Naturally, we asked again when the Community Center would open. School would be out in a week and the new supervisors hands were tied with programming. We were told about the punch list of work to be remedied and hopefully it would open July 1. Toward the end of the meeting, Joe eased into the topic of certain negotiations that were taking place along with that punch list.

Negotiations? What negotiations, we asked. He tried to make it light and not too worrisome but it could not be avoided. It seems that the Boys and Girls Club, Cotter Club, in Logan Squares’ Lathrop Homes is looking for a new home. It seems that they feel the new Community Center would be a real nice site to relocate to. The negotiations also are based on the declining enrollment in Gale Academy and the Annex could be a possible home also.

The next day and a few phone calls later, we learned about the budget meeting prior to the hotly debated June 11 city council meeting where the relocation of The Childrens Museum was voted upon. After the pro and con arguments and vote was the passing of resolutions. One was for the $800k transfer of funds from the Howard/Paulina TIF to the Park District to partially fund the Community Center.

Tonight Joe attended our three parks councils meeting to address our concerns. He explained that the Park District had just recently been approached by the Cotter Club and that certain community groups thought it was a great opportunity. Naturally, we wanted to know what community groups and why the council had not been included. He named the Principal of Gale Academy, RPCC, DevCorp, Family Matters, and Dick and Dorothy Gregory. The director of Family Matters, a park council member, attended the meeting two weeks ago and heard of the negotiations when the rest of the council members did, so that wasn’t quite correct. Another name was mentioned and one in attendance asked ‘who is he?’ Joe explained that Jim Ginderske was an aldermanic candidate in the last election who spoke highly of the Boys & Girls Club in his campaign.

I mean no disrespect to the work of the Boys & Girls Club, OK? I do find it disrespectful that people who were uninvolved with the park council since 2003, who never donated time or maybe a dime - are promoting changing its point and purpose behind the scenes. Just as frustrating is the non-resident factor. Granted, all park facilities are open to everyone but again, North of Howard residents spent years trying to get this project built.

Their design is to change it from a long-awaited, long fought for community center to a Boys and Girls Club with the Park Districts approval without having the graciousness or sensitivity to ask the community or the council for their opinion. The Boys & Girls Clubs are open to children ages 6 to 16-18 depending on the charter. The plan for the Community Center was to be for everyone, all ages, from pre-school to seniors. Even though we were told that the exercise room with new equipment would be open to adult neighbors, there's nothing that could prevent it from being open to negotiation too.

One person was canvassing the neighborhood with a letter today to get signatures to promote a Boys & Girls Club here. After learning some real facts and history of the project, the same person came to tonights’ meeting and stated the club should be placed in the Gale Annex before the new building.

One concern that was overlooked by our non-council, non-resident neighbors are those age groups over 16 or 18. They still will not have a positive place to ‘hang out’. So there are pros and cons to the future of the building.

Only sensible, thoughtful comments and opinions will be posted.


mcl said...

I'll have more to say on this typical Joe Moore EXCLUSION OF THE COMMUNITY in a future comment. My immediate question is "What the hell are the Gregory's doing 'approving' this 'THEFT' of a long fought for, much needed COMMUNITY CENTER for the ENTIRE NOH neighborhood?" It's time that those who LIVE NOH have a say! The carpetbaggers and faith based non-profits have been "driving the bus' of our neighborhood in the wrong direction for FAR to long, with the full support and approval of Joe Moore. ENOUGH! GIVE THE PEOPLE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD A VOICE AND A SAY!!!!

Toni said...

Years ago the B&G club was approached before the concept of a community center came into play - they weren't interested. Now they are. While their programming may far surpass the offerings of the park district, it's doubtful the 'negotiations' include space for anyone over 18. No space for CAPS meetings, park council meetings, block club meetings, fundraisers (remember the kitchen area?) was mentioned.

Also, the B&G Club has corporate funding behind them.

mcl said...

At the very least, his is the kind of issue/idea that should be determined by the ENTIRE neighborhood thru open and public discussion during a community meeting(s).

KIMBERLY said...

This is extremely disappointing. While I agree with Mike that the Boys and Girls Club have a good record and good intentions, Rogers Park has a greater need. I hope that the alderman does not disappoint his constituents who just elected him into office with an agreement that doesn't serve the communities needs.

Craig Gernhardt said...

I knew this was coming. I just knew this was coming. This is clout working full-bore. Jim helps Joe get elected. Joe helps Jim act like he's a big shot.

You guys got screwed!

Michael J. Harrington said...

There’s nothing new about considering the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) as an option in Rogers Park. During the 49th Ward’s aldermanic campaign in 2003, I proposed to invite BGC to work here, and at all of the candidate forums I raised the issue of our unmet youth service needs. Outside help is still needed. So, I’m glad that someone has picked up on the idea.

In Chicago and nationwide, communities are eager to leverage the resources and expertise provided by BGC, the Boy/Girl Scouts, the YMCA/YWCA, and other many other entities that are recognized as leaders – which produce results – in the field of youth development and support.

We know that the Chicago Park District’s track record is spotty at best (i.e. inadequate staffing, marginal equipment and supplies, mostly weekday hours, and weak volunteerism support). That’s why I agree we should seek additional help. Although, to give credit where it’s due, the great work Park Supervisor Mary Hopkins’ staff and volunteer team produces (on a skimpy budget) at Loyola Park is a shining example of what the better Chicago Park District programs and services can look like.

That said, it’s important to acknowledge that there are pros and cons about inviting BGC. Before considering those it might be important for us to see how this option stacks up against the “community needs assessment” ideas offered at the Gale School meeting convened by your park council last September. State Rep. Julie Hamos was among the dozens of community residents who contributed to the many ideas generated that night. You should circulate the document compiling that input for all to see. I’m most interested in ideas we suggested around delivering programming on weeknights and weekends, the times when so many youth absolutely need something constructive, enriching, and fun to do.

BGC already manages aggressive programs in Chicago schools. Unused space classrooms, auditorium, and other space at Gale School also sounds like a good option to explore. BGC is very serious about the local community’s participation in club leadership, support, and especially in fundraising. Are we up for that? Are there local adults and youth who would be willing to volunteer their time to this? I bet the answer is yes.

Although it would make sense for BGC to offer some kind of intergenerational and parenting programming, their focus is youth service and they would be open for youth weeknights and weekends. Yet, the downside of BGC managing our sparking new field facility on Howard would be that it would offer little to no support for programs exclusively involving adult residents and seniors citizens. Frankly, I’m also curious-to-concerned about why BGC is ending its program in Logan Square, and why they decided against opening in Rogers Park years ago.

These are just some quick thoughts for now.

Toni said...

Again, the B&G club at Logan/Lathrop Homes is moving because it's time to rehab that CHA facility. Why they weren't interested years ago versus now is a question that may never be answered! Unless one wants to look at the math 2+2=4.

Hypothetically speaking: You want my help, I give it and we agree on what you will do for me later on. To defeat the purpose defined years ago when neighbors before me began working toward this goal is far from progressive or liberal.

The needs assessment was never requested by the parties Joe named. I doubt if Joe's ever seen it either - all 23 pages! The Park District went through a hiring process for a new Gale Park supervisor who has been waiting along with everyone else to find out when she can really begin her job. She was present at the meeting last night too.

Certainly the BGC is for youth - but again, what about the teenagers over 16? What about the seniors and other members of this neighborhood? The kids need guidance but so do some of their parents and guardians.

The principle of the matter is the presentation after the fact and the introduction of the term 'negotiations'. When the community groups and individuals so 'concerned' about youth want to spend time here actually doing something positive, integrating themselves in the pocket of poverty they may have helped create then perhaps I, and others, will better understand their motive. There's talking the talk and then there's walking the walk. If any of the group would like to move here, I'm sure a realtor would be happy to show them some fine properties for sale. They can get a hands on intro to the neighborhood and begin straightening up what they may have created.

Michael J. Harrington said...

Toni, your regular "just the facts" reportage continues to be wonderful. However, that style rarely leaves room for you to strongly assert and take credit for all of the hard work that you North of Howard neighbors have accomplished. People need to be reminded of that on occasion, but you are just too darn modest!

You didn't say it, so I will. WHAT DAMN NEGOTIATIONS? This STINKS. It smells worse than the many pools of putrid rain water and garbage that swirl for days on end over the clogged drain sewers in Rogers Park! To discover after the fact that the powers-that-be and all the wannabes have been negotiating over what YOU NEIGHBORS have worked so hard to achieve is disgusting. It's yet another betrayal of our community. You should have been the first ones invited into the discussion, not the last.

Until I hear convincing arguments about an alternative, I'm going to hope that the powers-that-be help the Boys and Girls Club form an alliance with Gale School to conduct operations there with a community-based board to support it. We need them to do that.

There's no question that the "community center" goals so many of us have supported will not be realized if this non-profit group gets a contract to use the new Gale Park Field House, mainly to serve kids. What you want and what we expect is something even better.

I sense that your vision of a North of Howard community center (unlike a Boys and Girls Club) includes having it serve as a platform upon which to create and support a new sense of community, involvement, and connectedness among North of Howard area residents. The goals to serve young and older residents, of all races, and of all classes, with an understanding that they bring both problems and assets to the table are important. To date, no institution here has approached such a goal, and it's time for us to try it on for size.

A Gale Park Chicago Park District facility can develop and deliver solid enrichment programs to meet the needs of such a diverse constituency IF it has a goal-focused, dedicated, neighborhood-based advisory council with maybe a little extra attention and funding support from the park district administration. (I still want to see that needs assessment report).

It's clear you folks have the numbers, the people, the skills, the creativity, and the energy to create what could be a unique model for park district service in Chicago. I know that you also will be able to recruit unprecedented financial and volunteer support from Rogers Park businesses, residents, and institutions to help it succeed.

I encourage and support that.