50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 30th Ward’s William Olascoaga works for the city he loves

May 21, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
William Olascoaga, in the Avondale neighborhood, heads to the gym.

William Olascoaga is walking to the gym when he stops to chat. It’s the late afternoon, and he wants to get in a workout before his midnight shift at O’Hare Airport.

“It’s rough,” he says of the nocturnal routine, which he started 11 years ago, around the same time he moved to the Northwest Side neighborhood from Little Village.

He's worked for the city a total of 18 years.


“I’m stable. You know, it’s a good job. It helped me raise my children,” Olascoaga says. “I mean, we’ve had a lot of changes, a lot of cutbacks. But I think it’s for the better. I’m willing to take a decrease in pay to have a job, you know?”

That understanding of financial difficulties aside, he is scared by all this talk of major changes to the public pension system, a big topic of late for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.


“They’re trying to up the retirement age...so, yeah, that's kind of scary,” Olascoaga says. “You know, you work all your life and then you look for the end of the tunnel, and then you never know when it’s going to come. Especially if they keep raising the retirement age…. But I’m happy. I'm happy I have a job and it pays good money and I’m able to provide for my family.”

He has four kids, and this is a good neighborhood for them.


“It’s calm, it’s quiet. Everybody kind of looks out for each other. And there’s a lot of accessibility to the El, public transportation is, you know, pretty good. Parking’s not that great. But as far as - it’s a diverse community, very mixed. So, I like that.”

Olascoaga doesn’t see any big crime or drug dealing on his streets. This neighborhood pride extends citywide.


“I lived in California briefly. I’ve lived in Mexico briefly. And I love [Chicago]. I miss home - anywhere I go, I always miss home. There’s nothing like Chicago. You can go anywhere, but here we have good food, our access to getting across the city is very simple. Like, just the city within itself there’s different little cities and a lot of different things going on at all times. The weather’s not that great at times, but – I mean – we manage.”

Chicagoans are tough, he says, and able to adapt. But maybe not to those speed cameras Emanuel got the city council to sign off on.

“For all these years, nobody’s had these speed cameras. I mean, you’re in a 30 [miles per hour zone] and you’ve been driving 50-in-a-30 or 40-in-a-30 for 20 years and all of a sudden there’s a speed camera…and boom, you’re caught. I mean, I think that’s kind of unfair. “

Still, Olascoaga’s concerns about speed cameras and pension changes aren’t enough for him to write off the new mayor just yet.

“I think he’s doing good,” he says, adding that he wants Emanuel to keep pushing for a casino in town. Olascoaga hopes the profits could reduce the price of city vehicle stickers, which Emanuel and the council just raised.

A bit later, he heads off for the gym, and even later, to work at O’Hare. This conversation happened last Thursday, and Olascoaga says the city had them working a little bit extra to get ready for the NATO summit. Cleaning out the shuttle buses, he says, “Making sure everything’s up to par.”