July 31, 2008

Gale Community Center - The First Day - Be There!

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We welcome the news that the Chicago Park District will open the Gale Park Community Center at 1610 W. Howard to the public on Friday 8/1/08 and plans an open house Saturday. The best interests of the community are served by keeping this new building as a community resource, managed and operated by the Park District as a public facility. We are optimistic about the news because it seems to address the needs of both residents and the Park District staffers upon whom we will depend for support of service delivery.

However, we remain concerned that the Park District – which should directly fund, support, and deliver programming for our community as it does at other park buildings – is being lobbied to make a $100,000 annual grant to the Boys and Girls Clubs. The funds appear to be aimed at still trying to enable the club to set up operations in the community center building.

Our concerns go beyond the real practical issue of how two major entities could physically occupy basically the same, relatively small space.

Will this proposed $100,000 deal undercut funds that are available to the park district staff and Gale Park funding to deliver community programs and full-time operations of the community center?

All of us should be working to bring the wonderful BGC youth program services to the Gale School Annex which has more space and is capable of serving more youth.

Our alderman needs to immediately set up an open process to discuss pursuing the Gale School option and bring in all the stakeholders. This new publicly funded Community Center is NOT an option for the B&G Clubs and we need to MOVE ON from that.

The private negotiations involving Mr. Moore appear to have evolved into a proposing a ‘shared’ effort or shared use of space by the BGC and the Park District. Stakeholders need to know what is currently being planned for the public space

Placing the Lathrop BGC in the Gale Annex, a larger more suitable space to house their programming would also provide the neighboring NFPs the shared space to work together with the BGC in their common goal of programming for youth. It’s vital that the BGC and other organizations who work with youth in the community share the space as needed.

The B&G Club should be treated like all other community organizations that want to schedule activities in the new park facility.

The Park District runs quality programs throughout the city and we trust they can operate our facility to the same high standards as they do other facilities throughout the city -- Loyola, South Shore Cultural Center, Gill Park, Berger Park to name a few -- with the help of an active Advisory Council and neighborhood input.

Many park programs are free and there is always the option that the community request the fees be lowered to accommodate the demographics of any neighborhood. Fees can vary from park to park in this city. That is a little discussed fact.

Regarding funding: Jim Ginderske has stated that the only funding available for the B&G Clubs in Rogers Park is from the Park District, which is why he does not consider the Gale School Annex to be a viable option. However, Joe Moore and the BGC are not new to the art of asking for contributions. They should focus their energies on raising funds and exploring grant options so the B&G Club could move into Gale Annex, until such time as an application can be submitted for 21st Century grant funds.

Furthermore, the CPS System has other resources besides 21st Century funds to bring to the Gale Annex. Those funds need to be researched and brought to light. Perhaps Moore/BGC could match the $50k pledged by Senator Steans (source unknown) and again, focus on grants and pledges as other NFP’s in our community have for years. The Park District should not be giving B&G Club $100,000 annually to operate programs the Park employees can run. This is not the responsibility of the taxpayers of the City of Chicago.

Again we have the issue of public versus private use of a public facility funded by the people.

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