August 22, 2008

A Meeting With Julie Hamos

Our district state Representative Julie Hamos called a meeting August 20 to address certain concerns she had over the new community center.

a. It is closed on Sundays
b. Extended hours
c. How to get there
d. What is the process
e. Programs geared to the 15-25 year old group

The building has been open for 21 days – and not with the proper celebratory fanfare the doors should have opened with. Instead, we had to engage in more political struggles, the kind that shower a festive occasion with ominous dark clouds. The neighborhood was faced with the uncertainty of the privatization of a public building that was promoted by Joe and certain members of certain community organizations. Many of the latter attended the meeting and Rep. Hamos ensured that the three parks advisory council members were included. At last, everyone sat in a circle and Rep. Hamos intelligently guided the conversation from her first involvement ten years ago to the present.

What became apparent early in the discussion was the ongoing comparison of ‘cookie cutter’ programming versus what would have/could have allegedly been provided by the Boys and Girls Club from Joe. What also became obvious was an attempt to put the park district supervisor and the area supervisor on the hot seat over programming. As explained by Sharon and Brian – the programming is not available until September (fall cycle). As explained by both – the success of a new building is dependent on the popularity of certain programs, the input from those attending, the community, and area organizations. Sharon mentioned providing the gym for home basketball games for the Alternative High School. She mentioned individuals and groups requesting certain events or programs and her willingness to sit down and work with them. Granted, there is a need for more activities to include the age group Rep. Hamos is concerned about on the Fall 2008 indoor 10 week program list.

Hamos never gave me the impression that she was promoting the BGC, however, Joe was still in apparent lobby mode. Some in attendance made rather snide remarks about the park district employees capabilities – including one whose spouse is employed by the park district! Yet hopefully people learned a few things at the meeting.

The building will be extending hours from 9am to 9pm Monday through Friday and 9am to 5pm on Saturday in September when the programming cycle begins. Due to the delay in opening – the summer cycle couldn’t be met and the building is in a state of transition. Its rather obtuse to compare new park facility programs to those of an established one until the needs have been determined. Some parks have their trademark program(s) and Gale has yet to find theirs. Certainly, there is always room for improvement and it might just start with a community that proactively works together for common agreed upon goals.

Again, certain people in attendance attempted to disregard the purpose of a park advisory council and the goals that the three councils had been working on prior to the disturbance from June 5 to August 1 when the building opened as a public facility. Tuesday night, August 19, the three councils representing Gale, Triangle and HW Playlot met with more than 20 people attending the first meeting in the new facility.*

When the park council first formed 5 ½ years ago, the Park District agreed that one umbrella group could cover all three neighborhood parks. This year the Park District directed that each park must have its own individual council. Therefore, we have three councils, one for each of our three area parks. Since all three parks are so close together the three new councils meet on the same night, the third Tuesday of each month, with allocated time for each. We are three separate yet united entities. What affects one park will ultimately affect the other two and the goals, though varied in focus, are to envision and create parks we can be proud of.

The councils meeting highlights were: setting up committees for security, fundraising; selecting the top 2-3 priorities for each park for the 2009 park district budget, the cost to be open on Sundays. (Tim King, of the Park District Central office responded to Eva’s question that it would cost approximately $60k for three years to be open on Sundays.) Communicating to the schools and parents, local agencies and businesses and of course, having a real celebration with the mayor attending. While one member of one RP organization mentioned they had no need to attend park advisory council meetings, it was pointed out that some of the afternoon’s discussion was already being put into place by the council.

All three parks are under the supervision of Sharon now and by collaborating and working with her, broader programs can be provided than what currently appear on the first park scheduling cycle.

It might be easier to work together than re-inventing the wheel.

In attendance:
Family Matters
Good News Kitchen
Housing Opportunities for Women
Howard Area Community Center
Joe Moore
Neighbors For A Healthy Rogers Park
Partners For Rogers Park
SEIU Local 73
Individual members of:
Gale Park Advisory Council
Harold Washington Advisory Council
Triangle Park Advisory Council

When the conversation led to programming and after school activities, I asked how many attending were involved in agencies providing youth programming. Several hands were raised. Which led to the simple thought process of rather than ‘outsourcing’ to a non-area NFP, there are several in the area with ideas and programs. Start at home.

*There were 22 signatures on the sign-in sheet but people arrived late who may not have signed in.


tom who has lived here too long said...

it is amazing that the park district has been able to do *any* programming in such a short time given all of the confusion around this park opening as a public institution. .

Give the new park administrators time. It takes years to build successful programs. Given all of the organizations in the area that are providing services, I would think that, working together with the park council, we could have a model for other activist neighborhoods.

Maybe this can be the kind of place that Leone Beach used to be.

Thanks to council members who have stayed with this.

Kheris said...

I have been out of town the past 2 weeks, but a nice write-up about a meeting I would have liked to attend.

Toni said...

Kheris - the meeting with Hamos wasn't a public forum or town hall as one blogger has 'implied'. It was for the stakeholders who provide social services - especially youth programs in the area.

The same person volunteered to revamp the PD fall schedule into a 'calendar' for Julie, she said OK. However, it later got twisted into 'Julie asked me to...' and it appeared later to promote the agenda of a BGC on said persons blog! Surprise Surprise NOT!

But the council meetings are public.