REPORT – WPAC Community Meeting – 8-9 PM – SOLUTIONS - Enforcing the Code of Conduct – 30 people in attendance
On Tuesday, March 12, the Wicker Park Advisory Council (WPAC) held a meeting to discuss solutions to enable better enforcement of the Chicago Park District's Code of conduct for all park patrons at all times of the day and night in Wicker Park: No illegal behavior such as drug sales, using drugs, drinking, harassment, and vandalism. The WPAC has worked for years to set up a clearly defined protocol for addressing these problems. The goal for the meeting was to elucidate solutions to the problems derived from the input of all Park District Staff, the 1st Ward Alderman, community groups, and park patrons. As Maria Stone (Friends of the Parks) stated at the meeting – 'the Solution is for all groups to work together to Create the Solution.' Those who view illegal behaviors and do nothing are enabling illegal behaviors. They are responsible for the illegal acts committed by those that they ignored. The WPAC is invested in terminating such illegal behaviors and is dedicated to encourage all park patrons to take an active role in improving their park.
SOLUTIONS PANEL:Tim Kolecke, Wicker Park Advisory Council President, directed the meeting. A solution presenting panel included: 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno, Art Richardson (Manager Park District Central Region), Thomas Byrne (Head of Park District Security), Francis Valadez (Commander 14th District Police), Robert Rejman, (Director of Park District's Planning, Construction and Facility Management), Cynthia Rosario (Park District Central Region Area 1 Manager), and Dan Puente (Wicker Park Supervisor). In addition, Teddy Varndell (WPC President), Jim Drew (WPC, former President), Steve Jensen (BCO president submitted written statement), Susan Fontana (WPAC – former President), some of the chess table regular patrons, and others presented verbal statements that included solutions.
EXPECTATIONS:The expectations of those who set the meeting and spoke in advance with the panel members believed that solutions would be given for 1) a viable protocol for security staff to obtain footage from Wicker Park's security cameras to identify and apprehend vandals, 2) funding sources identified for enhanced Park Security staff, 3) defined support from city police and how they would work collaboratively with Park Security staff, 4) a design for better placement of hardscape to eliminate illegal gathering zones, and 5) a definition of the methods outlined in the Park District Code of Conduct to expel repeat offenders from the park. Solutions for #1 were expected to be presented by the Chicago Park District and the 14th District Police, solutions for #2 by the Park District and the 1st Ward Alderman, solutions for #3 by the 14th District Police and Park Security, and Solutions for #4, #5 were expected to be presented by the Chicago Park District.
WHO CONTRIBUTED?Which panel members presented solutions, committed to elucidating protocols, or answered questions? Alderman Moreno (offered solutions and funding), Robert Rejman (proposed plan of action for WPAC to design), Thomas Byrne (committed to elucidate protocols), and Commander Francis Valadez (answered questions). Other panel members did not participate in discussions.
PUBLIC COMMENTSincluded these solutions: boost security; I will encourage my friends at the tables to not do illegal activities; I will continue to call 911; the drug dealers work the fence – patrol the fence regularly and you will catch them; it is everyone's job to get involved and create the solution. Comments Varndell and Drew – I have never seen drug dealing in the Park. S. Jensen pointed out in a letter submitted that the tables are the center of the drug sales, that he has submitted numerous photos to the 14th and that the tables must go if we want to see improvements in drug sales and illegal drug usage and sales.
STATUS OF ISSUES
- CAMERA VIEWING- Define a precise protocol to successfully request and obtain footage from the two $25,000 cameras connected to the OEMC NETWORK. The cameras monitor the park (one south of fountain and one on Damen) for the 14th District Police and for Park Security to view and then apprehend vandals. No success has been made on this goal in 2 years. Last year we spoke with OEMC and found out the camera south of the fountain was incorrectly labeled Jackson Park parking lot. The WPAC was able to ask OEMC to change the name of that camera to Wicker Park. In addition, we were told the Park District needed to file a damage report to the 14th District Police and then the 14th District Police would file a CLEAR report to obtain the footage to view. This was not done.
COMMITTED TO ELUCIDATE PROTOCOLS:Thomas Byrne will speak with OEMC staff to set a viable protocol for obtaining the recorded footage from Wicker Park's cameras for city police and park security to examine. In addition, he will attempt to obtain the recorded footage from Sunday, March 10 when vandals installed graffiti on the Wicker Park Fountain. He will report to us the protocol to use in upcoming acts of vandalism. This is to include who is to report incidences to whom and how incidences are to be processed through the Park District and Chicago police.
REQUEST FROM ALDERMAN MORENO– Alderman Moreno purchased one of the OEMC Cameras and asked that Thomas Byrne determine if and how both of the OEMC cameras can be fed into the field house for the park's part-time security guard to monitor, as is done in Haas Park.
PROPOSAL FROM ALDERMAN MORENO– Alderman Moreno proposed that if the OEMC Cameras cannot be routed and then monitored inside the field house by a security guard, that he would consider assisting with funding a third camera that could be monitored inside the field house– similar to the model used at Haas Park.
- ENHANCED SECURITY(Fund longer week day surveillance and add weekend daytime, night, and overnight security each Thursday - Sunday) – The current part-time security guard at Wicker Park has been highly successful in decreasing illegal activities in the park during the hours of her patrol (M-F 4:30 - 8:30PM). It should be clear that this has not been the case with most of the Park Security staff that preceded her in the position. All hired Park Security staff must be monitored and evaluated for their ability to do their jobs effectively in Wicker Park. The WPAC asked for added security to begin earlier in the afternoon on weekdays and all weekend 1pm-11pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. In addition, the Wicker Park Advisory Council has asked for overnight security (11pm-6am) on Thursday – Sunday to curb the after bar vandalism. Sources of funding for these initiatives will be determined in March 2013. These enhanced security requests were submitted in 2011 and 2012.
POTENTIAL SOLUTION– Private source of Funding for Security: Alderman Moreno stated that he has spoken with local bar owners to contribute to this enhanced security fund.
POTENTIAL SOLUTION– Park District Funding for Security: Not addressed in meeting. We will address by end of March 2013 with Park District Staff and report at the April WPAC Meeting. What enhanced security will be funded by the Chicago Park District?
SOLUTION– Funding may be able to be housed in Parks Foundation (501c3) account and give donors a tax exemption. Account to be set up this month – WPAC will ensure this is completed.
NOT ELUCIDATED or ADDRESSED:What is the daily timetable and form of interaction between Park Security and 14th District police. What is the frequency that the park staff can expect to assist them in park surveillance by either group?
- RECONFIGURE Hardscape within landscape to deter illegal grouping of individuals:Robert Rejman encouraged the WPAC to create a workable design of hardscape elements; Doug Wood accepted the assignment. The solution is outlined here. The groves of Hemlocks (low branching under story trees) were installed in the early 20th century under the direction of Jens Jensen and reflected the beauty of his Prairie Style of design. The Hemlocks are located in Wicker Park at the Damen/Schiller entrance on both sides of the sidewalk leading to the fountain. In the 1980's the chess tables were placed within the grove without the proper consideration of how they esthetically fit into the historic park and into its landscape. The grove created a barrier and 'safe' zone where illegal activities could occur among some of the table's patrons and the design of the tables had nothing to do with the design palette of the park. This is clearly a poor choice of the style and an error in the placement of the hardscape (chess tables) in our park, especially at that location.
SOLUTION:Develop a site plan for the park with hardscape that is appropriate for the landmark status of the park that doesn't create groupings of hardscape that invites illegal activities due to poor placement. Park District will fund the final design.
PLAN OF ACTION:Robert Rejman, (Director of Park District's Planning, Construction and Facility Management) granted the WPAC permission to draft a design incorporating hardscape elements throughout the park. This planning stage will take into consideration all usage areas of the park and allow those areas to be free of inhibiting hardscape, will be designed to eliminate sheltered areas where illegal activity could occur, and will feature hardscape appropriate for the uses requested by the patrons and appropriate for the historic status of our park. Doug Wood will complete this design within 2 weeks and consult with the Chicago Park District's historic design staff during the design process. Once the historic design staff approves the plan – it will be presented to Robert Rejman and then the public. It will be installed this spring when the chess tables are removed and the sidewalk is repaired near the current site of the chess tables.
- ENFORCEMENT OF CODE OF CONDUCTto Ban Repeat Offenders from the Park – The Code of Conduct clearly defines how repeat offenders can be banned from any park. These individuals create a great burden upon the Park Staff. Park Executive Officials are clarifying these techniques.
NOT ADDRESSED AT MEETING
- SIGNAGE– The Chicago Park District has installed SAFE ZONE signs in two locations in the park. Alderman Moreno will is working on installing SAFE ZONE signs on Schiller. The signs state that fines increase in SAFE ZONES.
NOTE: Information received from these initiatives will be reported at the Tuesday, April 2 WPAC meeting held at 7-8:30pm in the Wicker Park Field House. The report will be given first on the agenda at 7pm.
SOLUTIONS MEETING ENDS AT 8PM
REGULAR BUSINESS MEETING, Tuesday March 12 – 8PM – 9PM
ATTENDED:Dan Puente (Wicker Park Supervisor), Tim Kolecke (President WPAC), Scott Venable (Vice-President WPAC), Richard Tilley (WPAC Treasurer), Doug Wood (WPAC Secretary), Adam Housley (Dog Park), Denise Browning (Former WPAC President & WPGarden), Susan Fontana (Former WPAC President and WPGarden), Sylvia Ramos (Pritzker & Neighborhood), Lauren Krebs (WPAC Events Committee), Elaine Coorens (Publicity Chairman and OUT), John Shirk (Urban Encounter and Wicker Mic), Tyler Culligan (Magic Boat Puppet Theater), Jake Moore (Magic Boat Puppet Theater) – NOTE – Teddy Varndel (WPC) and Alisa Hauser (DNA) choose to view the meeting from the back of the room.
- Minutes – Doug Wood– February Minutes were read and approved.
- Treasurer's Report – Richard Tilley– Report Given
- Park District Report – Dan Puente– Dan discussed the portal toilet rental; Park District will pay for handicapped toilet, WPAC will pay for regular. Doug Wood is to obtain a quote for $880 for the regular toilet and WPAC will send check. The letter requesting a full time Physical Instructor position to be created from the 2 part time positions was read and the it was approved to be sent to executive staff. It was noted that this would be returning the park to its 2008 staffing levels. Letter to be sent by Doug Wood. Dan Mentioned the Meet the Easter Bunny Event that will occur on Saturday, March 30; 10am – 10:30 Egg Hunt; 10:30-12 Movie – HOP. Programs are going well and most work orders are being completed.
- Dog Park– The Dog Park Fundraiser went well, it was well attended, and raised $2,281. The drains are being addressed. Dog Park Cleaning Day will be the same day and time as Big Mulch Day, Saturday, April 6. The Sub T fundraiser is set for Saturday, June 8 at 7pm – 8:30 – Subterranean 2011 W. North Avenue - BANDS - H for Hombre & Lamp. A poster is finished for uploading and distributing.
- Website – Tim Kolecke– Doug will give entire list of events, dates, details, logos, links to Tim for uploading – currently nothing is up on site for the 2013 Season.
- Teen Group & Mosaic Church – Scott Venable– Programs are going well.
- Landscape & Education – Doug/Denise/Susan/Richard– The 2013 7-week long Home Landscape Design Class was a great success and ended the last Saturday of February. On March 2, Richard Tilley hosted the Plant Propagation Workshop at his home and on March 30 he will host the tool sharpening workshop. BIG MULCH DAY is scheduled for Saturday, April 6; Mosaic Church will provide 20 volunteers, John Shirk's Urban Encounter will have 20 volunteers, Covenant Presbyterian will bring 8, the Care of Trees will bring tools and 6 volunteers, and other volunteers (20) will come from all over the city. The Garden Club will purchase food and drink for volunteers and the Dog Park Committee will assist with these costs.
- FOTP SEED GRANT- The WPAC submitted a Seed Grant to Friends of the Parks and received $500 to contribute toward the cost of 4 stage units - 4ft X 8ft for $2,000. The WPAC will purchase these items if the Central Region agrees to keep the units in Wicker Park and not to move them to other parks – they are not up for sharing with other parks. Dan will work on obtaining a written agreement.
- POWER WASHER– The WPAC power washer returned from Humboldt Park last summer and needed a checkout/tuneup. Sylvia Ramos's husband will look at the washer and repair this month. He will donate his time and expert work and WPAC will pay for parts he purchases. Doug Wood will send PDF Manual to All.