WBEZ | Southwest Side http://www.wbez.org/tags/southwest-side Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago's Southwest Side, southwest suburbs home to major drug warehousing http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-southwest-side-southwest-suburbs-home-major-drug-warehousing-109341 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Heroin%20LLC%20photos%20044%20by%20Bill%20Healy.JPG" title="(WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></p><p>In the shadow of Midway Airport, Latino, black, white and Arab families live in the bungalow belt of the Southwest Side.</p><p><pthese a="" american="" and="" another="" are="" block="" block:="" bloom="" by="" calendar="" colorful="" displays="" flags="" from="" in="" like="" middle-class="" mirror="" neighborhoods="" of="" one="" p="" perennials="" swing="" the="" window="" working-=""></pthese></p><p>Yet, quietly but in plain view, part of Chicago&rsquo;s thriving drug trade operates here. Local and federal law enforcement officials have raided a small number of these residences as places that store significant loads of drugs.</p><p>WBEZ surveyed major drug and money busts over the last five years in the metropolitan area. We found 97 homes where law enforcement allegedly found narcotics. Thirty were on the Southwest Side of Chicago and another 20 were in the southwest suburbs. No other area had more reported drug busts.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Chart: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-southwest-side-southwest-suburbs-home-major-drug-warehousing-109341#chart">Where are Chicago&#39;s drug houses?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Here&rsquo;s a recent example:</p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">In September, Chicago police allegedly confiscated $10 million worth of heroin and cocaine from a house</span> in the 3800 block of West 63rd Place.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;I know something was wrong in the house because only men lived there,&rdquo; said a neighbor on the block who said he&rsquo;s afraid to give his name.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">It wasn&rsquo;t just that only men lived in the rented home. Over a few months, the neighbor</span> noticed several cars parked out front with temporary license plates. But the men didn&rsquo;t cause obvious &nbsp;trouble, the man said. They sometimes spoke pleasantries to him in Spanish; so he didn&rsquo;t call the police.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;Because they don&rsquo;t make noise, no fights, no loud music,&rdquo; the man said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">And thus he was surprised when police stormed the house one September weekday morning.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;That day I was opening my garage to clean it up a little bit. I hear a noise like they pull a big garbage can or something like that. I look around and I don&rsquo;t see nothing. I come inside and I ask my wife, did you hear something? She said no. I looked through my window and I see a lot of police, detectives or narcotics,&rdquo; the neighbor said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Whole neighborhoods of the Southwest Side are relatively crime free. Cicero, Harlem and Pulaski are major thoroughfares for trucks transporting merchandise. There&rsquo;s easy access to highways and a major railroad transfer station. Ease of transportation is one reason drug cartels are so invested in Chicago.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Nick Roti, chief of organized crime for the Chicago Police Department, said drug trafficking organizations deliberately operate on the Southwest Side -- many workers in the business have connections to Mexico, so they can blend in more easily in neighborhoods among Latinos. And in areas where they can fly under the radar.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;They don&rsquo;t want to have a large police presence where there are a lot of shootings or gang activity where there&rsquo;s going to be a heightened sense of police awareness,&rdquo; Roti said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">The rented homes are for storage. Drugs aren&rsquo;t manufactured or sold in these stash houses. Roti said that&rsquo;s not what neighbors should look out for.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to see mostly just men coming in and out of the house. They&rsquo;re going to see people going in and out of the garage because they&rsquo;re not going to unload the drugs on the street,&rdquo; Roti said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Jack Riley, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration&rsquo;s Chicago office, explains it further. He said often people who are in the heroin trade don&rsquo;t even grasp, &nbsp;say, the Sinaloa Mexican cartel - the organization Riley&rsquo;s doggedly trying to dismantle. Its leader El Chapo Guzman is considered the world&rsquo;s most powerful drug trafficker.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Many of the men caught in the Southwest Side Chicago drug busts have been recruited to to bring heroin and drugs from their home country.<a name="chart"></a></span></p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart_32.png" title="(WBEZ/Patrick Smith)" /></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>Source:&nbsp;</strong><em>For this chart, WBEZ identified the major drug seizures in the Chicago area since 2008, based on a survey of all press releases from the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago offices of the Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice. In these major busts, the drugs seized were worth at least $400,000, and often worth tens of millions of dollars.&nbsp; From this list, WBEZ looked through court records and official releases to identify the residences that were allegedly used to store large quantities of illegal drugs before they were moved to street-level dealers.</em></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;This happens all the time,&rdquo; Riley said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll arrest a Mexican national and he&rsquo;ll say well, my uncle who lives in El Paso asked me to do this. There&rsquo;s no clear understanding that they&rsquo;re working for Sinaloa. They don&rsquo;t walk around with cards that say you&rsquo;re a card-carrying member of Sinaloa. That&rsquo;s how we have to make these connections from intelligence information, from telephone numbers.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Of course, drug trafficking and sales aren&rsquo;t unique to Latino neighborhoods -- they happen throughout the city and suburbs. And in many places both traffickers and neighbors haven&rsquo;t&nbsp;</span>always connected the dots.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">That&rsquo;s certainly true among many families on the Southwest Side. Even some of the large busts haven&rsquo;t grabbed the attention from law-abiding residents. And police officers say it hasn&rsquo;t been an issue in community meetings.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">On the 6500 block of West 63rd Place in the Clearing neighborhood, a senior citizen woman dutifully tends to her grass one sunny October afternoon. A few days earlier, Chicago police arrested three men, recovered four guns and more than $1 million in narcotics on this very block.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;Clearly someone on this block was paying attention and noticed it. That&rsquo;s neighborly love right there,&rdquo; said 24-year-old Cassie Conkel who wasn&rsquo;t rattled by the raid on the block on which she grew up and still lives. She said people on the quiet, well-manicured block look out for each other - even though many didn&rsquo;t know the men who lived in the raided home.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">After news of the narcotics, Conkel says there was buzz among neighbors, but then it was business as usual.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t really think about the cartels being up here and stuff like that,&rdquo; said Conkel, adding that&rsquo;s because she&rsquo;s not in Mexico and doesn&rsquo;t think the violence will come here.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;This is a quiet neighborhood for the most part. You get fights and parties and all that stuff. It&rsquo;s not something we&rsquo;ve ever had to worry about. When someone brings it up, and says, well, the cartels are here, then I&rsquo;ll worry about it. I can only worry about what I can see,&rdquo; Conkel said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Three years ago, extreme drug violence did briefly rattle a quiet Chicago Lawn block. Four men were shot execution style. They were discovered bound with duct tape and lying face down, reports said. The FBI and DEA were brought in because narcotics were involved.</span></p><p>Chief Roti, of the Chicago Police Department, remembers that case and says the shooters were caught. More important, he says, &nbsp;that type of violence isn&rsquo;t the norm.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;The cartel-related violence that we&rsquo;ve seen in the last few years in Mexico, I don&rsquo;t think we&rsquo;ll ever see that here. Not only because they don&rsquo;t want it to happen here because it would hurt their business, but because law enforcement is vastly different. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s a major safety issue for people who live in that area. I have not seen any real violence that occurred outside of the circle of people involved in this related activity,&rdquo; Roti said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Still, the man who lives on the block where the $10 million drug bust went down is now rethinking his role as a neighbor.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">Despite not knowing the criminal activity at the time, he wishes he had called the police when he felt something odd. Now he&rsquo;s telling his neighbors to do just that.</span></p><p><iframe height="480" src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/embed?mid=zKdLvOTJ_oMo.k6DV1GFYnvn8" width="640"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">&ldquo;Some people they are afraid to call the police. You can call the police and don&rsquo;t give your name,&rdquo; the man said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-01332764-de70-ba26-e286-a2f4fed0655b">And he says the narcotics raid right on his block has him considering bringing back the defunct block club.</span></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. She can be reached at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>&nbsp;or on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me" target="_blank">Google+</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p><i>WBEZ&#39;s Patrick Smith contributed reporting to this story.</i></p></p> Tue, 10 Dec 2013 15:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-southwest-side-southwest-suburbs-home-major-drug-warehousing-109341 Just months after closing 50 schools, Chicago issues RFP for more charter schools http://www.wbez.org/news/education/just-months-after-closing-50-schools-chicago-issues-rfp-more-charter-schools-108398 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/peck web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Just two and a half months after a historic vote to close 50 schools, Chicago is laying the groundwork to bring more charter schools to the city.</p><p>Without fanfare, the district posted an official <a href="http://www.cps.edu/NewSchools/Documents/RFP_ForNewSchools.pdf" target="_blank">&ldquo;request for proposals&rdquo;</a> to its website Monday that invites charter schools to apply to open shop in what the school district has identified as priority neighborhoods&mdash;large swaths of the Southwest and Northwest sides.</p><p>Those heavily Latino areas <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-simple-answers-chicagos-severely-overcrowded-schools-107651">have struggled with overcrowded schools</a>.</p><p>The district wants what it&rsquo;s calling &ldquo;next generation&rdquo; charter schools, which could combine online and traditional teaching. It also wants proposals for arts integration charter schools and dual language charters.&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago is coming off a painful process to close 50 schools it said were underutilized; the district last December determined that <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2012/12/05/20673/under-utilized-schools-continue-shed-students-map">half its schools</a> are underenrolled. District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said Tuesday in an email that &ldquo;while there were significant population declines in some parts of the city, there were also increases in other parts of the city.... There are many schools that are overcrowded or are facing overcrowding and we need to address that issue as we do any other.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union and others have argued for years that school closures are about making way for charters and weakening the union.</p><p>&ldquo;We are not surprised at all by this,&rdquo; said union president Karen Lewis . &ldquo;We were called conspiracy theorists, and then here is the absolute proof of what the intentions are&hellip;. The district has clearly made a decision that they want to push privatization of our public schools.&rdquo;</p><p>The district has been slowly shifting students to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Around 13 percent of district students&mdash;and more than 20 percent of the district&rsquo;s high school students&mdash; are educated in charter schools. Teachers at charters cannot be represented by the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>CPS does not specify how many new charters it would like to open. Districts are required by state law to consider proposals for new charters every year, and CPS has run an annual RFP for at least the last decade.</p><p>Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, says this year&rsquo;s RFP represents a &ldquo;shift in strategy.&rdquo; In the past, the district named neighborhoods that lacked high performing schools as priority areas for charters.</p><p>&ldquo;Eight or nine years ago the focus was getting options schools in places that weren&rsquo;t served well&mdash;traditional West and South side neighborhoods&mdash;and certainly some of the charter school growth in those areas was a result of that focus,&quot; says Broy. &ldquo;Now we see a focus that shifts a little bit to different parts of the city where overcrowding has been a real issue going back 10, 12, 15 years.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>This is also the first time the district has named specific school models as priorities.</p><p>&ldquo;CPS is expressing a preference for models that they don&rsquo;t currently have,&rdquo; says Broy, who adds that his group had input into the RFP. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s really an RFP that seeks to add to what we offer in the city, while also providing an avenue for existing proven models to think about how they might want to expand.&rdquo;</p><p>Broy said a key challenge for any charter operator that applies will be finding an appropriate facility on the built-up Northwest or Southwest side.&nbsp;</p><p>In a statement sent late afternoon Tuesday, the district said its goal with the RFP &nbsp;&quot;is to seek out potential proposals to create more high quality school options for parents and this is merely one&nbsp;step in that process.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 13 Aug 2013 17:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/just-months-after-closing-50-schools-chicago-issues-rfp-more-charter-schools-108398 Mount Greenwood, past and present http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/mount-greenwood-past-and-present-107407 <p><p>Mount Greenwood is the far Southwest corner of Chicago.&nbsp;Compared to the rest of the city, it looks fairly new. Yet the community has a long history.</p><p>During the last half of the 19th Century, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world.&nbsp;That meant a future boom for at least one type of real estate: cemeteries.&nbsp;In 1879, George Waite plotted a burial ground in a farming area near&nbsp;111th Street and Sacramento Avenue.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MG--Central%20Park%20Ave..JPG" title="Welcome to Mount Greenwood!" /></div><p>Waite named his cemetery Mount Greenwood.&nbsp;Within a short time, other cemeteries followed.</p><p>Funerals were an all-day affair then.&nbsp;To serve the mourners, a strip of restaurants and saloons developed along 111th Street.&nbsp;They also attracted patrons of the nearby Worth Race Track.</p><p>Despite all the dead residents, the neighborhood was getting a rowdy reputation.&nbsp;The Village of Morgan Park wanted to annex the area and shut down the saloons.&nbsp;But in 1907, local property owners beat them to the punch and chartered their own village.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MG--Map.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Mount Greenwood was independent for 20 years.The big event of that time was the Battle of the Ditch. Mount Greenwood Cemetery had a drainage ditch.&nbsp;The village passed an ordinance against the ditch, saying it polluted their drinking water.&nbsp;When the cemetery ignored the law, the villagers took up picks and shovels, and filled in the ditch themselves.</p><p>(All-day funerals? Drainage ditch Wars? Aren&rsquo;t you glad you live in the 21<sup>st</sup> Century?)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MG--111th%20Street.JPG" title="111th Street near Kedzie" /></div><p>In 1927 Mount Greenwood had about 3,000 residents. There were no street lights, no sewers, few paved streets and&nbsp;drinking water came from wells.&nbsp;The citizens voted to become part of Chicago.&nbsp;Just in time for the Great Depression . . .&nbsp;</p><p>Years passed.&nbsp;More people moved in, but the improvements lagged behind.&nbsp;During the late 1930s, the federal government began playing catch-up with those overdue projects.&nbsp;Just in time for World War II . . .</p><p>The war ended in 1945.&nbsp;Then Mount Greenwood really grew.&nbsp;The population hit 12,000 in 1950, and 10 years later passed 21,000.&nbsp;The 1970 count peaked at 23,000.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MG--Improvised%20park%20along%20railroad%20tracks-Sacramento%20Ave%20near%20107th%20St.jpg" title="Improvised park along freight tracks" /></div><p>Most of the postwar settlers were Irish Catholic.&nbsp;Today, when many religious high schools have been closed, Mount Greenwood still supports three of them.&nbsp;St. Xavier University is also located in the community. The main cluster of these institutions, along Central Park Avenue, forms a regular Catholic Campus.</p><p>John R. Powers, who grew up in the area, wrote a whimsical account of his youth in <em>The Last Catholic in America</em>. The book became a best-seller, and others followed. As a salute to the cemeteries, Powers calls the neighborhood &ldquo;The Seven Holy Tombs.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MG--Mother%20McAuley%20High%20School%20on%20the%20Catholic%20Campus.jpg" title="The Catholic Campus--Mother McAuley High School" /></div><p>By 1984 nearly all the old truck farms had been subdivided.&nbsp;The last Mount Greenwood farm, on land southeast of 111th and Pulaski, was also the last remaining farm within the Chicago city limits.&nbsp; The Board of Education purchased the property.&nbsp;Today it is the site of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Science.</p><p>Mount Greenwood has become a mature, fully-built community. But it feels uncrowded, almost suburban. Most of the homes are single family, the business establishments are small, there are parks, and open space within the Catholic Campus and along the railroad.&nbsp;Having the farm and all those cemeteries helps, too.</p><p>After four decades of small declines, Mount Greenwood&rsquo;s population rose slightly in the 2010 Census, to 19,093. The residents are identified as 86 percent White, 5 percent Black, and 7 percent Hispanic.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MG--Stay%20off%20the%20farm%21.jpg" title="Stay off the farm!" /></div></p> Mon, 10 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/mount-greenwood-past-and-present-107407 City to build first new domestic violence shelter in more than a decade http://www.wbez.org/news/city-build-first-new-domestic-violence-shelter-more-decade-107422 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/domestic violence_130528_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For the first time in a decade, the city of Chicago will open a new domestic violence shelter.</p><p>The shelter will operate in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, increasing the number of available beds from 112 to 152.</p><p>It will be the biggest in the city and is expected to serve as many as 100 families a year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Wednesday.</p><p>VersAnnette Blackmon is a survivor of domestic violence and mother of two. Finding a shelter at the time she sought help was disheartening.</p><p>&ldquo;In order for you to get in, you have to get on a waiting list and when you&rsquo;re in a situation, and you have nowhere to go, a waiting list really doesn&rsquo;t help you all that much,&rdquo; Blackmon said.</p><p>Shelters can offer a safe space and connect families to counseling and legal services. According to the city Chicago police respond to nearly 200,000 domestic calls annually.</p><p>The shelter will be suite-based, meaning it will house two families for every bathroom to promote privacy. The City Department of Family and Support Services is partnering with Women in Need Growing Stronger (WINGS,) Metropolitan Family Services and the Greater Southwest Development Corporation to build the shelter slated to open in June 2014. The construction cost is $4.2 million and the city will contribute $1.8 million from settlement in a lawsuit filed against a local strip club.</p><p>Emanuel also announced $123,000 will go toward court advocates to assist domestic violence victims as they go through legal proceedings.</p><p>Natalie Moore is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">@natalieymoore</a>.</p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 15:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-build-first-new-domestic-violence-shelter-more-decade-107422 What are we going to do about 51st Street? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/what-are-we-going-do-about-51st-street-107302 <p><p>When the Orange Line was built in 1993, the planners left an opening in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; structure to accommodate a future extension of 51<sup>st</sup> Street. Twenty years later, that opening is still there, still awaiting the extension of 51<sup>st</sup> Street.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A--51st%20%40%20Pulaski.JPG" title="Orange Line 'L' crossing 51st Street, at Pulaski" /></div><p>If you&rsquo;re familiar with the South Side, you know that 51<sup>st</sup> Street is a major half-section street. It carries significant traffic from the lake (where it&rsquo;s called Hyde Park Boulevard) straight through to Kedzie. West of Kedzie, 51<sup>st</sup> gradually trickles into a minor side-street until it stops at Harding, just short of the Orange Line viaduct and Pulaski Road.</p><p>A 1902 city map shows 51<sup>st</sup> continuing to an intersection with Crawford (Pulaski). But shortly afterward the Belt Railway constructed a spur track through the area, cutting off 51<sup>st</sup> a block short of Crawford. Since this was&nbsp;a remote&nbsp;part of the city, closing the street didn&#39;t matter very much.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Map%201902%20%28U%20of%20C%20Library%29%20-%20Copy.jpg" title="51st-Crawford [circled] in 1902 (University of Chicago Libraries)" /></div></div><p>By the 1930s the West Elsdon neighborhood was growing up. A streetcar ran on 51<sup>st</sup> as far west as Lawndale. Plans were&nbsp;being made&nbsp;to elevate the&nbsp;Belt Railway. Then 51<sup>st</sup> and its car line could be extended, perhaps all the way to Cicero Avenue.</p><p>More years pass. The 51<sup>st</sup> Street streetcar gives way to the trolley bus, and eventually the diesel bus. More houses are built, but a Belt Railway viaduct isn&rsquo;t. The barrier is still there, and 51<sup>st</sup> remains a local street.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Map%201933%20%28Cram%27s%29%20-%20Copy.jpg" title="51st-Crawford, 1933 (author's collection)" /></div><p>Curie High School opens. There&rsquo;s again talk about elevating the Belt Railway tracks and extending 51<sup>st</sup>, so the bus line can serve the new school. Nothing happens.</p><p>The Orange Line is built. The planners leave that gap in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; structure. Now the railroad tracks will surely be elevated, and the bus run through to the Pulaski-51<sup>st</sup> station. Nothing happens&mdash;and the bus line is cut back to serve the Kedzie-49<sup>th</sup> station.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/B--51st @ Harding.JPG" title="51st Street at Harding, view west" /></div></div></div><p>Will 51<sup>st</sup> Street ever be extended to Pulaski? Perhaps it should be kept the way it is. Archer Avenue passes through just to the north. Adding another arterial street to the area could cause traffic headaches.</p><p>Still, the opening&nbsp;in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; is there in case the city ever changes its mind.</p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/what-are-we-going-do-about-51st-street-107302 A tale of two Kellys http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/tale-two-kellys-106691 <p><p>Politicians love to get their names on things. So when a politician passes on, it&#39;s natural that the living politicians try to find something public they can rename to honor a departed colleague. In Chicago, this process can become quite creative.</p><p>Take Kelly High School and Kelly Park. They&rsquo;re across California Avenue from one another, just south of Archer Avenue. But each is named for a different Kelly.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-29--HS%20and%20Park.JPG" title="Kelly High School, as seen from Kelly Park" /></div><p>Thomas Kelly was born in 1843. He got into Democrat politics and was elected alderman in the 28th Ward. He later became a trustee of the Chicago Sanitary District. Kelly was serving on the Board of Education when he died in 1914.</p><p>In 1928 a new junior high school opened at 4136 South California Avenue. Thomas Kelly had been on the school board and lived in the neighborhood, so the building was named for him. In 1933 it became a four-year high school, which it remains today.</p><p>The school also owned a parcel of vacant land across the street, on the east side of California Avenue. In 1947 the Park District signed a lease for the property with the idea of building a park. A number of adjacent home owners were forced to sell by court order, and their houses leveled. In 1951, Kelly Park was dedicated.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Kelly%20with%20future%20voter.jpg" style="width: 270px; height: 252px; float: right;" title="Mayor Ed Kelly cultivates a future voter (author's collection)" /></div><p>Meanwhile, Edward J. Kelly had just died. This Kelly had been Mayor of Chicago from 1933 to 1947, the longest tenure in the city&rsquo;s history. Today the signs at the park read &ldquo;Edward J. Kelly Park, established 1951.&rdquo; However, it&rsquo;s not clear when Ed Kelly&rsquo;s name was actually put on the park.</p><p>I had an older friend who grew up nearby. He said the vacant land on the east side of California was informally called &ldquo;Kelly Park&rdquo; as early as the 1940s. It was considered to be part of Kelly High School.</p><p>Maybe the Ed Kelly dedication did take place in 1951. Maybe it took place in 1991, when the Board of Education transferred its portion of the property to the Park District. Maybe it happened some time in between. The end result is a sort of cut-rate commemoration, two politicians for the price of one.&nbsp;</p><p>In any event, Ed Kelly now has his own bit of immortality. And as much as any Chicago politician, he deserves to be remembered. After all, he&rsquo;s still the longest-serving mayor whose name is not Daley. &nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 29 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/tale-two-kellys-106691 Dingbat's funeral http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/dingbats-funeral-105974 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/03-11--Dingbat.jpg" style="width: 270px; height: 282px; float: left;" title="The departed Dingbat (author's collection)" />On this March 11 in 1930, the big story in Washington was the funeral of William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States. In Chicago, the big story was also a funeral. The city was saying good-bye to the Dingbat.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Dingbat was John Oberta, his nickname derived from a comic strip. He was 29 at the time of his death. Like Taft he was a Republican politician, the 13th Ward Committeeman. Unlike Taft, he was a gangster.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Oberta was a protégé of Big Tim Murphy, bootlegger and labor racketeer in the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood. One morning Big Tim opened his front door and had his head blown off by a shotgun blast. A few months later, Dingbat married Big Tim&rsquo;s widow.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now Dingbat was gone, too. He had been found shot dead in his car, along with his chauffeur, on a deserted road near Willow Springs.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">By 1930 the gangster funeral had become a familiar Chicago custom. Dingbat&rsquo;s friends would not scrimp. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m giving him the same I gave Tim,&rdquo; Mrs. Murphy Oberta told reporters.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Dingbat was waked in his home on South Richmond Avenue. He lay in a $15,000 mahogany coffin with silver handles, under a blanket of orchids. Joe Saltis, Bugs Moran, Spike O&rsquo;Donnell, and all of Dingbat&rsquo;s pals were present. So were assorted politicians.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Two priests of the Polish National Catholic Church conducted a brief service. Then the pall bearers prepared to carry the coffin to the waiting hearse. Out on the street, a crowd of 20,000 people had gathered. (In Washington, half as many were reported at Taft&rsquo;s funeral.)</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3-11--Dingbat's Funeral02.jpg" title="The scene on Richmond Avenue ('Chicago Tribune'--March 12, 1930)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Carry my Johnny out the back way,&quot; Dingbat&rsquo;s mother wailed. &quot;Don&rsquo;t let them see him! They didn&rsquo;t care about him!&quot; The pall bearers ignored her and brought Dingbat out the front door.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The coffin was loaded, then the hearse moved away. Following it were four carloads of flowers and a procession two miles long. When the funeral cortege arrived at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, hundreds more curiosity seekers were there to greet it.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Dingbat was laid to rest a few feet from Big Tim Murphy. There was just enough space between them for another grave. Presumably that spot was reserved for their mutual wife.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The&nbsp;killing of Dingbat Oberta was never officially solved. And with the Great Depression fast descending on the country, the gaudy gangland funeral went out of fashion.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 11 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/dingbats-funeral-105974 Brighton Park, past and present http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/brighton-park-past-and-present-105113 <p><p>Brighton Park is a Southwest Side neighborhood located about seven miles from the Loop along Archer Avenue. It is officially designated as Chicago Community Area 58.</p><p>There are at least three different stories on how Brighton Park got its name. What&rsquo;s agreed on is that settlement began&nbsp;in the 1830s, during construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brighton--Spaulding.JPG" title="Welcome to Brighton Park!" /></div><p>The land itself wasn&rsquo;t very inviting. Much of the area was low-lying and marshy, with the occasional clay hole. Flooding was frequent. Still, a few truck farmers stuck it out.</p><p>Local businessman John McCaffery is called the Father of Brighton Park. Seeing possibilities where others saw swamp, he built a plank road along what is now Western Avenue and began subdividing the land to the west. In 1851 the Village of Brighton Park was incorporated.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-5--Brighton%20Park%20Map.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Railroads entered soon afterward. Various industries were established. Brighton Park had a nail factory, a brickyard, a cotton mill, and even a stockyard. One of the biggest plants made blasting powder&mdash;until a lightning strike blew up the place.</p><p>Brighton Park became part of Chicago in the great annexation of 1889. Yet as it developed, the community was cut off from the rest of the city on three sides. On the north was the Sanitary and Ship Canal, successor to the Illinois and Michigan. On the west were the massive yards of the Santa Fe Railroad. On the south was an industrial park.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brighton--Santa Fe.JPG" title="Santa Fe Railroad Yards" /></div><p>That isolation didn&rsquo;t halt the wave of settlement. The meatpackers were always hiring at the Union Stock Yards, only a short streetcar ride away. There were also plenty of jobs around locally, particularly after the Crane Plumbing Company opened its new plant in 1915. Cottages and two-flats began going up along the side streets. Archer Avenue became a thriving commercial strip.</p><p>The new people were mainly Poles, with a sprinkling of Lithuanians. The population of Brighton Park reached 46,000 in 1930. At that time 37 percent of the residents identified themselves as Polish, the largest concentration of that group in the city.</p><p>For much of the 20<sup>th</sup> Century, the community was solid and stable. True, the population was dropping every decade, and was recorded as 30,000 in 1980&mdash;a decline of one-third over the course of fifty years. That was explained as due to normal aging, and the vogue for smaller families. Brighton Park looked the same as always.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brighton--Five Holy Martyrs.JPG" title="Five Holy Martyrs Catholic Church" /></div><p>In 1979,r a reigning pope came to Chicago for the first time. John Paul II was Polish, and he made it a point to visit his fellow countrymen at Five Holy Martyrs parish in Brighton Park. After he left, a portion of 43<sup>rd</sup> Street was renamed Pope John Paul II Drive.</p><p>Brighton Park began changing during the 1980s. The Crane plant had closed in 1977, and now other factories started&nbsp;shutting down. The railroads scaled back as trucking cut into their freight business. With the decline of heavy industry, most of the residents worked in clerical or service jobs.</p><p>There were other demographic changes. In 1980 about 15 percent of Brighton Park residents identified as Hispanic. By 2010 that figure had risen to 85%. The population count had rebounded to 45,000, near the historic high.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brighton--Archer%20Avenue.JPG" title="Archer Avenue commercial strip" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Today the Orange Line &lsquo;L&rsquo; cuts through the edge of Brighton Park, giving the community easier access to the rest of the city. Some factories remain, while others have been replaced with new housing and new strip malls. There are fewer Polish restaurants, and many more serving Mexican food.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The neighborhood also faces the usual urban challenges. Crime and unemployment are too high. The housing stock is growing older. There aren&#39;t enough recreational facilities, and the schools could be better.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Would John McCaffery recognize Brighton Park? Probably not. But he&#39;d be proud of the place, just the same.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brighton--Calmeca%20Academy.JPG" title="Calmeca Academy" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 05 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/brighton-park-past-and-present-105113 How I named a Chicago expressway http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/how-i-named-chicago-expressway-104247 <p><p>Adlai Stevenson II died on a heart attack while walking along a London Street on July 14, 1965. He was a one-term Illinois governor and a two-time Democrat presidential nominee. At the time of his death he was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/12-12--Stevenson%20%28LofC%29.jpg" style="float: right; width: 255px; height: 330px;" title="Adlai Stevenson (Library of Congress)" /></div><p>I was getting ready to start college that summer. I knew a bit about Stevenson and had a favorable opinion of him. Besides, he was a Chicagoan who&rsquo;d been an actual<em> presidential nominee. </em>We&rsquo;d probably never get another person that close to the White House for a hundred years.</p><p>So the day after Stevenson&rsquo;s death, I sent a letter to the <em>Sun-Times</em>, suggesting that the new Southwest Expressway be renamed the Stevenson Expressway. I recounted some of the high points of his career. I also said that the Southwest Expressway would be an appropriate memorial, since it ran toward the ancestral home of the Stevensons in Bloomington.</p><p>A week went by. I&rsquo;d just about decided the <em>Sun-Times</em> had thrown away my letter, when&mdash;they printed it! The paper had edited away about two-thirds of my copy. But there was my letter, on page 27 of the July 23rd <em>Sun-Times</em>, right under the editorial cartoon about President Johnson&rsquo;s proposed Medicare law.</p><p>On September 1st the Chicago City Council voted unanimously to change the Southwest Expressway to the Stevenson Expressway.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/12-12--7-23-65%2C%2027.jpg" style="float: left; height: 382px; width: 255px;" title="'Chicago Sun-Times'--July 23, 1965" /></div><p>I&rsquo;m sure that I wasn&rsquo;t the only one who came up with the Stevenson Expressway idea. Still, it was a heady experience for 17-year-old to think that the movers-and-shakers might actually be partaking of his wisdom.</p><p>A few years later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. I again sent a letter to the <em>Sun-Times</em> suggesting a street name be changed. I proposed that 47<sup>th</sup> Street be renamed King Avenue. After all, 47<sup>th</sup> was a main street in a Black section of the city, and it ran west into a White section, and wasn&rsquo;t bringing the races together what Dr. King was all about?</p><p>This time, the <em>Sun-Times</em> did not print my letter, or even part of it. South Park Avenue was the street chosen by the city council to become King Drive.</p><p>I retired from the street-naming business for forty years. Then, when Barack Obama was elected president, I wrote to <em>Chicago </em>magazine with my proposal for the street that would eventually be renamed in his honor. I mentioned Wabash Avenue, though lately I&rsquo;ve been leaning toward Franklin Street.</p><p>But that will have to wait until the President&rsquo;s term is over. In the meantime, has anyone noticed that the I-57 expressway doesn&rsquo;t have a name?</p></p> Wed, 12 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/how-i-named-chicago-expressway-104247 There in Chicago (#15) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/there-chicago-15-103345 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-02--2012--Archer-Whipple.JPG" title="Archer Avenue at Whipple--view northeast" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-02--1955.jpg" title="1955--the same location (CTA photo)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">How well did you find your way around 1955 Chicago?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">We are just east of Kedzie, in the Brighton Park community. The ribbon commercial development on a somewhat wide street is one clue to this being Archer Avenue.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The transit clue is the double overhead wires. Notice that the bus in the picture is not using those wires. Although Archer never had its own trolley bus line, about a mile of the street was used for moving trolley buses from other lines to the CTA barn at Archer and Rockwell.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 02 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/there-chicago-15-103345