WBEZ | Blue Island http://www.wbez.org/tags/blue-island Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How Blue Island fought off Chicago's annexation attempt http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-blue-island-fought-chicagos-annexation-attempt-109763 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/136868066&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>If Blue Island, a Southwestern suburb of just four square miles, once beat back Chicago&rsquo;s attempt to annex it, we shouldn&rsquo;t be surprised that they trounced other suburbs in a Curious City face-off.</p><p>Recall that curious citizen Jim Padden asked Curious City how Chicago grew over time by annexing its neighbors. (The answer? It&rsquo;s in an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">animated map</a>).</p><p>But then, we asked you: Which Chicago suburb&rsquo;s story of resisting annexation do you want to hear more about?</p><p>Blue Island prevailed against Oak Park, which is on the city&#39;s western border, and Evanston to the north. I want to thank the&nbsp;<a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1hZ7pRixGl5BicB0a6JZQ7Iz94ZRrx9cTcgxD3Wn8GQQ/viewanalytics#start=publishanalytics" target="_blank">thousands of you who voted</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>If you&rsquo;re not familiar with the place, Blue Island is a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883" target="_blank">diverse, proudly working class suburb</a> of about 24,000 people. It&rsquo;s about 16 miles southwest of Chicago&rsquo;s loop, as the crow flies.</p><p>To get to the heart of why this suburb said &lsquo;No thanks&rsquo; when Chicago came knocking, we need to go back in time.</p><p><strong>Which is the city, which is the suburb?</strong></p><p>In the 1830s, Blue Island and Chicago were just whispers of their future selves among Illinois wilderness.</p><p>&ldquo;Blue Island is just two years younger than Chicago,&rdquo; said chair of the Blue Island Historical Society Mike Kaliski. &ldquo;So Blue Island was a stopping point for travelers going on to Chicago. It was still a day&rsquo;s travel from here to Chicago. So between Chicago and Joliet, Blue Island was it. There was nothing else and this was a big town. So Blue Islanders always felt maybe Chicago should be the suburb, not Blue Island. &rdquo;</p><p>But Blue Island remained a modest four square miles while Chicago grew, annexing its neighbors one at a time. By 1914, Chicago had sidled up to Blue Island&rsquo;s doorstep.</p><p>&ldquo;Morgan Park had voted for [annexation by Chicago in 1914],&rdquo; Kaliski said. &ldquo;So now, oh boy, it&rsquo;s getting closer. Now what are we going to do? So there was probably a little more urgency to the Blue Islanders&rsquo; frame of mind at that time.&rdquo;</p><p>Blue Islanders got to see what happened to their neighbors in Morgan Park after Chicago gobbled them up in 1914. For one thing, Morgan Park lost half its street names in the transition; its east-west streets took on numbers (e.g., West 111th Street), following Chicago&rsquo;s convention.</p><p>We dug out some old newspapers to give a sense of how the arguments for and against annexation played out. Here&rsquo;s an excerpt from the Blue Island Standard on February 2, 1915.</p><p>&ldquo;Who is Annexation Society? The writer afraid or ashamed to disclose his identity...The first gun in the annexation campaign was fired last Saturday when hundreds of circulars called Volume 1 Annexation filled the mails and found their way into nearly every home in the city.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>The anonymous &lsquo;Annexation Society&rsquo; flyers touted Chicago&rsquo;s public schools and other city services. But they didn&rsquo;t convince many Blue Islanders. In 1915, residents rebuffed Chicago in a landslide, with about 77 percent voting not to join Chicago.</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/blue%20island%20historic%20western.PNG" style="height: 207px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Archival image of Western Avenue in Blue Island. (Courtesy of Rock Island Public House)" /><strong>Blue Island roots</strong></div><p>The outcome doesn&rsquo;t surprise Richard Bauer. The 83-year-old comes from a family whose roots in Blue Island run deep. He&rsquo;s a direct descendent of Henry Bauer, who <a href="http://www.blueisland.org/landmarks/33-bauer/" target="_blank">opened a brewery in Blue Island in 1858</a>. Richard Bauer was born 15 years after the annexation vote, but remembers plenty of stories about why it failed.</p><p>&ldquo;There were certain businesses and politicians that were very prominent and it wouldn&rsquo;t be any advantage to them at all,&rdquo; Richard said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;d be out. Naturally they&rsquo;d want to stay the way it was.&rdquo;</p><p>Richard said he never heard anyone in Blue Island consider joining Chicago again.</p><p>&ldquo;If there had been any talk it wasn&rsquo;t serious talk,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Jason Berry is a city planner and history buff who loves Blue Island so much he braved a blizzard to come out and talk about it.</p><p>&ldquo;We have our own identity,&rdquo; Berry said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a shock to me that in 1915 Blue Islanders also felt the same way &mdash; growing up in the shadow of Chicago doesn&rsquo;t mean you have to give up who you were. The pride that Blue Islanders have today you see echoed in these old papers. Blue Islanders always felt strongly about their place in history and I&rsquo;m glad that they were able to hold onto it.&rdquo;</p><p>Identity. That word keeps popping up. Sure, taxes, politics and plenty of other things factored into Blue Island&rsquo;s fear of annexation. But it seems that &mdash; for most folks I talked to &mdash; it&rsquo;s about identity.</p><p><strong>Identity and infrastructure</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s one thing to have a strong community identity. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-are-chicago-neighborhoods-formed-103831" target="_blank">Plenty of Chicago neighborhoods do.</a></p><p>Shoot, Hyde Park was annexed into the city way back in 1899, but if you ask someone at 55th and Woodlawn where they live, odds are good the first words out of their mouth aren&rsquo;t &ldquo;Chicago,&rdquo; but &ldquo;Hyde Park.&rdquo;</p><p>So the warm fuzzy feeling of a Blue Island identity wasn&rsquo;t enough to fight off annexation. It had to have city services good enough to make Chicago&rsquo;s offers of infrastructure unconvincing.</p><p>A big part of it was that Blue Island had already secured a way of getting fresh water from Lake Michigan without Chicago&rsquo;s infrastructure.</p><p>&ldquo;They didn&rsquo;t need Chicago to come in and say, &lsquo;Hey, you&rsquo;re going to get water, you&rsquo;re going to get this and this &mdash; we&rsquo;ve already got it,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kaliski said. &ldquo;We got a contract and they already secured the water. So you gotta understand their attitude was we don&rsquo;t need you. We don&rsquo;t want to be part of Chicago. There&rsquo;s nothing Chicago could offer except higher taxes.&rdquo;</p><p>Blue Island was also bolstered by its connection to the railways and had diverse industry. It made everything from bricks to beer.</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/rockislandpublichouse_elliott.PNG" style="float: right; height: 200px; width: 350px;" title="Blue Island’s Bauer brewery opened in 1858 but didn’t survive until today. The the beer-loving tradition continues with a new business: Rock Island Public House. (WBEZ/file)" /><strong>Depending on diversity for future growth</strong></div><p>The only thing more diverse than the industry in Blue Island&rsquo;s past is its people. The <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1706704.html" target="_blank">latest U.S. Census numbers</a> show residents are:</p><ul dir="ltr"><li>41.3% white</li><li>47% Latino (can include other categories)</li><li>30.8% African-American</li></ul><p>The city just elected its first Latino mayor: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBsnlL7YcVc" target="_blank">Domingo Vargas</a>. He says Blue Island&rsquo;s diversity still keeps it distinct from Chicago and newer suburban sprawl to its west.</p><p>Blue Island businesses struggled in the 20th century to compete against suburban malls.</p><p>But Vargas &mdash; whose own family has lived in Blue Island since 1914 &mdash; says the suburb is poised to grow again. They&rsquo;re not making bricks anymore, but they are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883" target="_blank">brewing again</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Blue Island&rsquo;s basically been a community of churches. As well as the breweries. So from one extreme to the other,&rdquo; Vargas said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re coming back. The churches are coming back, the breweries are coming back, and eventually hopefully more of the small businesses will be the unique niches here again.&rdquo;</p><p>There&rsquo;s even talk now in Blue Island of making room for newcomers by snapping up a few bits of available land in the surrounding area.</p><p>Because, as just about everyone we met there said: Who wouldn&rsquo;t want to live in Blue Island?</p><p><em>Tricia Bobeda is a WBEZ web producer. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> @triciabobeda</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-blue-island-fought-chicagos-annexation-attempt-109763 Echo of past to help with the Blue Island’s future? http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BlueIslandMain.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="775" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/March/BlueIsland/2013_03_06_BLUEISLAND_620_INTERACTIVE.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Dave Brown, the owner of Rock Island Public House in south suburban Blue Island, hopes to prove people wrong when it comes to getting good beer in his area.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason we actually opened this bar was in part because everybody said it couldn&rsquo;t be done,&rdquo; said Brown. &ldquo;Everybody said there&rsquo;s no room for craft beer on the South Side. We feel that Blue Island&rsquo;s kind of gotten lost or gets a bad reputation.&rdquo;</p><p>Selling craft beer is not novel, of course, but it is part of what Brown sees as a new back-to-the future strategy of development along <a href="https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205386033664818854506.0004d74bb50b3198d595a&amp;msa=0&amp;ll=41.652689,-87.682421&amp;spn=0.006381,0.009645">his stretch of Blue Island&rsquo;s Olde Western Avenue and Broadway Street</a>.</p><p>His building, like many on the block, has historic value and hearkens back to a time when Blue Island was teeming with industry and a sense of community. Blue Island was once home to many blue collar workers, but industry in the region has struggled. Residents have recently tried to revitalize the city through environmental initiatives and artist outreach &mdash;&nbsp;all while cautioning against the label of &ldquo;hipster destination.&quot; The large Latino population is strongly blue collar, as is the ethos.</p><p>And when you meet Brown and other area business owners, they&rsquo;re not shy about telling you so.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to emphasize there&rsquo;s much more down here than public perception leads to,&rdquo; Brown said.</p><p>The 35-year-old former resident of New Orleans moved to Blue Island in 2005 with his wife, Jennifer, who has been a longtime resident. Brown is also a part-time firefighter for the city.</p><p>Jason Berry, a city planner for Blue Island, told WBEZ &ldquo;You have a chance to be pretty progressive. We&rsquo;ve tried to do that with active transportation stuff with environmental stuff with music and the arts.&rdquo; He added that the city&#39;s trying trying to push, and it&#39;s great that &quot;The community all along seems to be saying yeah, keep doing it.&rdquo;</p><p>Business operators told WBEZ that there will soon be an opportunity for Blue Island to consider playing up its past and rejuvenating the retail environment, as Republican Mayor Donald Peloquin is leaving after a tenure of nearly 30 years.</p><p>&ldquo;This area of Olde Western Avenue could be really something special in this town because it&rsquo;s a historic district,&rdquo; said Mario Mendez, a lifelong resident and owner of Mario&rsquo;s restaurant.</p><p>&ldquo;This building was built before Abraham Lincoln became president,&quot; he said. &quot;This area could be very special if it was taken care of if the city devoted money and time into making it something that no one has around here.&rdquo;</p><p>Mendez pointed out several historic photos on the wall of his Mexican restaurant. Such photos are also shown prominently at Brown&#39;s public house as well.</p><p>That kind of civic pride is also on display at neighboring Jeben&rsquo;s Hardware, where customers can stand beneath antique airplanes suspended from the ceiling. A whistle can surprise visitors, too. The source? A model train that circles the store shelves.</p><p>&ldquo;I hope to see a new mayor that comes in to all of the businesses because even the chamber of commerce. This is what makes this community,&rdquo; said Judy Tuma, the hardware store&#39;s manager.</p><p>Tuma and Mendez both think the city could do more for Olde Western Avenue to help increase local business.</p><p>&ldquo;What I see is we&rsquo;re down here cut off from main street Blue Island and sometimes this area can be more prosperous and buildings full compared to what&rsquo;s going on uptown&hellip;. We need to clean up,&rdquo; Tuma said.</p></p> Thu, 07 Mar 2013 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/echo-past-help-blue-island%E2%80%99s-future-105883 Does the rest of Illinois care about Chicago's race for mayor? http://www.wbez.org/story/blue-island/does-rest-illinois-care-about-chicagos-race-mayor <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Mayoral candidates ALL - AP PhotoPaul Beaty.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>With only a week left until the election, Chicagoans are really focused on the race for mayor. So are - it turns out - people around Illinois. That's despite the sometimes combative relationship between the city and the rest of the state.<br /><br />You can't get farther from Chicago, but still be in Illinois, than the Mississippi River town of Cairo. It's straight south on I-57 until there's just no Illinois left.<br /><br />WILSON: My name is Barbara Wilson, and I'm the editor of the <em>Cairo Citizen</em> newspaper.<br /><br />The offices of this weekly paper are a 374-mile drive from Chicago's City Hall and, if you listen to Wilson, a million miles from caring about Chicago politics.<br /><br />WILSON: There are other issues down here more pressing to us down here than what Mayor Daley does, or who's going to be crowned to succeed Mayor Daley.<br /><br />If you hear resentment in Wilson's voice, it's because she thinks Chicago has too much influence on her part of the state.<br /><br />WILSON: We have Chicago politicians making laws for Southern Illinois, and you know that's really not right.<br />HUDZIK: Any particular laws stick out - recent laws?<br />WILSON: The no smoking law. That's the big one down here. The no smoking law.<br /><br />There's no doubt Chicago does have a lot of muscle in the General Assembly. A third of the state's legislative districts include at least some Chicago voters.<br /><br />RIGHTER: It's not unusual to see here in the General Assembly when it's announced that the City of Chicago - which, obviously, Mayor Daley is the other word for that, is opposed to something, that moves a lot of votes.<br /><br />Dale Righter is a Republican state senator from Charleston, in east central Illinois. He claims some members of the legislature give the impression they answer directly to the mayor.<br /><br />Of course, mayoral opposition doesn't mean a bill is dead. Daley recently lobbied against a pension reform bill he said would force Chicago to raise property taxes. But it passed.<br /><br />HUDZIK: My guess would be you wouldn't be the target of those lobbying efforts anyway.<br />RIGHTER: You might be surprised how often representatives from the City of Chicago come and see me. And I appreciate when they do. Because...the city of Chicago is a pretty important entity in the state of Illinois. It affects my constituents.<br /><br />For example, Righter says, if a Chicago business shuts down...<br /><br />RIGHTER: There very well could be, and likely is, some entity in my district that has an economic connection to that business and that will be detrimental to that entity in my district as well.<br /><br />That same point was made by Rick Baker. He leads the chamber of commerce in the Quad Cities, in Western Illinois.<br /><br />BAKER: Any time you have a dominant economy like that - whether it's a business in a local region or if it's a city like Chicago in the state, they, I guess, they have the right to demand some of the special attention perhaps.<br /><br />Plus, Baker adds, the importance of Chicago's mayoral election isn't just economic; it's about quality of life. He visits friends in Chicago.<br /><br />BAKER: Make even just a day trip up occasionally to do some shopping. Or enjoy a concert or a play. It's only about a 2-and-a-half hour drive from my doorstep to the Loop.<br /><br />Don Peloquin has a much shorter drive downtown. He's the longtime mayor of Blue Island.<br /><br />PELOQUIN: The City of Blue Island is on the South border of Chicago at 119th and Western. We abut the Morgan Park, the Beverley, the Roseland neighborhoods.<br /><br />That means that just about everything that happens in those neighborhoods, in Chicago, spills over into his town. So if a new Chicago mayor can improve public transit - great - that'll help Blue island, too. If the mayor can help property values rebound, Blue Island stand to benefit.<br /><br />Of course, gains for Chicago don't always boost Blue Island.<br /><br />PELOQUIN: We had a Jewel store in our town. They closed to move into Chicago, so they closed our store, so now our people don't have a Jewel store.<br />HUDZIK: I guess that's a hard thing to complain to the mayor about he's probably happy that it's in Chicago.<br />PELOQUIN: Yeah. Yeah.<br /><br />Not that he's been able to have regular conversations with Mayor Daley. Peloquin says he hopes he'll have a better chance of getting appointments with the new mayor.<br /><br />PELOQUIN: Yeah, it's got to be easier than Mayor Daley.<br /><br />Peloquin says he's keeping a close eye on the mayor's race because he considers his town practically a neighborhood of Chicago.<br /><br />Other nearby residents are apparently interested in the outcome, as well. Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico - the top-fundraising candidates for mayor - got big contributions from people and business in the suburbs: a total of more than 3-and-a-half million dollars worth.</p><p><em>Music Button: Michael Bloomfield, &quot;Carmelita Skiffle&quot;, from the CD Don't Say I Ain't Your Man!, (Columbia) </em></p></p> Tue, 15 Feb 2011 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/blue-island/does-rest-illinois-care-about-chicagos-race-mayor