50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 40th Ward’s Linda Carroll is a fan of gardens, and a skeptic of government

July 6, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Linda Carroll walks in the city's Bowmanville neighborhood.

Walking around the Bowmanville neighborhood on the city’s far North Side, I keep seeing gardens. And not just in yards; the railroad embankments are covered in them.


“What I love about this neighborhood is that it’s quiet and it’s garden-friendly,” Linda Carroll tells me. “Like, you can see all different types of gardens throughout the neighborhood. And people really care about how their front yard looks.”

In her 18 years in Chicago, Carroll says, she’s lived all over the North Side: River North, Ukrainian Village, Lakeview, Boys Town, Lincoln Park and more. She owns her own custom closet company.

“Once this closet is designed for you," Carroll says she tells her clients. "The rule is you can't put something in until you take something out."

She's walking a dog when we chat – not her dog. Carroll is just being neighborly.

“It’s…very close-knit,” she says of her neighborhood. “You’ve got everybody from very, very wealthy to not-so-much, people who’ve lived here for years and years on end.”

“It’s a very walkable neighborhood, close to transportation, easy to get on to [Interstate] 90/94, and it’s just the ambience of the neighborhood. It’s just very quiet and calm.”

Carroll strikes me as a quiet and calm person. But when she spells out her biggest disappointment in local government, she’s slightly less so.


“Parking meters,” she says without elaboration. But we all know what she’s talking about. The city leased street parking to a private company, which was allowed to raise meter rates, and keep on raising them until the end of the 21st Century is in sight.

“I mean, I’ve found my way around [the pricey meters] because I know certain areas that are free. But, I mean, not everybody does know,” she says.

“I think as a private citizen we don’t get a say in the matter. It’s all done, it’s all negotiated prior to our opinion,” Carroll says. “You can call your alderman’s office and say, ‘No, I don’t really care for that. Please vote no.’ By that time it’s already said and done.”

Still, Carroll doesn’t seem entirely distrustful of government – just skeptical. When I ask her to grade Rahm Emanuel’s early performance as mayor, she says it seems like he’s doing a good job – a good job of spending federal money.


“You see construction all over the city of Chicago right now. Everything is being worked on. It’s got people, you know, jobs, people are working,” she says.

“I can’t say that [Mayor] Emanuel has actually been the one who’s actually caused that. It just so happens that he’s the one in office now and it’s actually happening.”

Sounds like the careful, deliberative comment of someone with an organized mind. No wonder she’s a clutter-clearing-custom-closet-coordinator.

Feel free to trademark that, Linda. It’s our modest gift to you for sharing your thoughts.