January 2013

Gifford Park Association
General Membership Meeting
January 17, 2013

Those in Attendance
Deborah Allan, Krissy Palermo, Bill Decker, Dorie Alpha, Mary Ellen Barbezat, Barbara Evans, Chris and Karen Bach, Tom and Moe Lee, Tony Sanchez, Alicia Lykins, John and Carol Anderson, Ali Hallock, Bill Briska, Krista Anderson, Chuck Keysor, Jennifer Shroder, Mark and Glenna Preradovic, Dan and Pat Miller, Mary Shesgreen, Barb Counterman, Kari White, Keith Rauschenberger, Anna Moeller, Karen Schock, Donna Leetz

Approval of Minutes
A motion was made by Carol Anderson and seconded by John Anderson to approve the minutes of the November meeting as read. The motion passed unanimously.

Treasurer’s Report
Checking Account $9843.18
Money Market Account $9897.13
Four CD’s totaling $80,572.79
Grand Total $100,313.10

ROPE Officer Report
Eric reported that after the Sandy Creek tragedy the police will have a bigger presence in our schools. The neighborhood has been quiet. The Police Dept. is in the middle of some new initiatives and going in some new directions.

Vice President vacancy
Karen Bach reported that Ali Hallock has graciously stepped up to take the open Vice President position. A motion was made to accept Ali as a new Vice President and it passed unanimously.

Membership committee
Dorie Alpha reported that we have had two new families join GPA. John and Sara Boline and Chris and Sarah Hunt.

Program Committee
Donna Leetz passed around a handout listing possible ideas for programs for this year. She plans to have the Church Food Pantries come to talk to us about their programs and suggests that we start a program she called Adopt a Street in Elgin where people would go out every Monday night for an hour or so and pick up litter. If anyone has an idea for a guest speaker please contact Donna at [email protected]

Housewalk Committee
Bill Briska reported that the house tour planning is underway and the next steering committee meeting is March 4 at the Elgin History Museum at 7 PM.

Historic District Committee
Dan Miller reported that the St. Joe‘s salvage was a huge success saving hundreds of items from the landfill. Seventy –five people took part with one person coming from near Galena and one of the volunteers was form Huntley. $2700 was taken in with the net proceeds split with St. Joe’s. Dan thanked St. Joe’s for allowing us to do the salvage and especially Ted Kirpach for being the liaison between the church and GPA. Dan also gave a special thanks to his “right hand man”, Pat Miller who has helped with all 60 salvages over a period of thirty years. Dan added that he could not have done the salvage without her. Dan also thanked those that volunteered to oversee the salvage: Jodie Nord, Bill Briska, Tom Hokenson, Andrew Cuming, Mark Preradovic, Tom Lee, Chris and Karen Bach, Janel Davis, Tony Sanchez, John LaFleur, Chuck Keysor, Paul Durrenberger and Ali Hallock.

Historic District Signs
After seeing the prototype sign that was made for us, some had reservations about its reflectivity whose lines distract greatly from the beauty of the sign. Dan checked with the city and since the sign is not regulatory, it does not have to be reflective. The sign company is making us another prototype that is not reflective so we can make a decision. The city’s sign dept. has been very helpful and will put the signs up in May.

Winter Gazette
Dan reported that the Gazette was sent out on December 27 to 310 addresses. Within 24 hours 99 people had opened it. As of today, 151 out of 310 have opened it with only one opting out of receiving future Gazettes. 28% of the people opening the Gazette clicked on one or more of our links. The most popular was our houses for sale portion of the web site. Dan mentioned that he was initially disappointed that only 49 % of the people receiving the Gazette opened it but then read that Constant Contact, after studying hundreds of thousands of newsletters, reported that an open rate of 20% is expected for organizations. If anyone has an idea for an article for the Gazette or would like to write an article, please contact Dan Miller. A special thanks was given to Karen Bach for proofreading the Gazette and to Tom Hokenson for setting it up to be sent out by Constant Contact.

GPA Web site
Dan reported that over the last 30 days, there have been 416 visits to our web page by 338 unique visitors. There have been 1227 page views.

Charter School Initiative
Karen Bach introduced members of the Charter School Design team which included:
Keith Rauschenberger, Anna Moeller, Kari White, Karen Schock, and Krissy Palermo. They presented a Power Point slide show to provide a general overview of what a Charter School is and their dream of what it should be. The main points were:

  • A Charter School is a contractual relationship between the charter holder and the school district which is renewed every five years and is based on state law in Illinois
  • There are no admission requirements other than residence in District U-46.
  • We are still designing our plan for Elgin’s first charter school.
  • The charter holder is highly accountable to the school district.
  • Illinois school code states that a charter school can be innovative and flexible to accommodate its students.
  • They have been around since the late 1990’s with the largest number in Chicago but they are found in many other cities in Illinois.
  • Our charter school will be math and science based, college prep and K-8
  • It should be financially positive for U-46. The first goal is to do no harm and be supportive of U-46 .
  • The school is to be a center of innovation with specialized curriculum free from constraints of a large district.
  • An extended school day is proposed with students being a reflection of the city’s demographics
  • We anticipate starting with Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades our first year. We will add an additional grade each year until we have a complete school with grades K-8.
  • The Elgin Charter School Initiative started meeting over a year ago, with five members. Now we are up to 11 members on our design team. We are definitely looking for more members!
  • Illinois state code requires that school districts give authorized charter schools between 75% and 125% of the per diem amount paid by the state for each district student enrolled in the charter. Most charters in Illinois receive 75-80% per student.
  • The school will be filled on a first come-first served basis. If necessary a lottery system will be initiated.
  • The specifics of the teacher pay schedule and union issues will be determined once we have selected a charter management organization (cmo).
  • In Chicago the school district leases parts of their buildings to the charter schools.
  • If a student has a behavior disorder or a slow learner there would be lots of one on one teaching based on the student’s needs. Many charter schools have Special Ed. Teachers.
  • Being not-for-profit is high on the list of goals.
  • The Design Team will not be the board although two or three might end up being on it. Parental involvement is the key.
  • A goal is to keep class sizes low.
  • The school will have a principal which will be spelled out in the charter. Good leadership is the key to it’s success
  • The Design Team has been working closely with the legal dept. of U-46.

For more info on the proposed Charter School and a chance to give your opinion, go to their web site at http://elginmathandscience.org/

Liberty Street in Crisis

Speaking on the issue of Liberty St. traffic problems, Mary Ellen Barbezat, a Liberty St. resident since 1974, and fellow GPA members and residents of Liberty, Bill Decker and Dorie Alpha informed the meeting that they are working with a group of concerned residents/citizens . Their goals are to limit the truck traffic and calm all traffic on Liberty. Mary Ellen distributed a handout entitled ”Liberty St. In Crisis.” –attached.

Below are some of the comments made by Mary Ellen, Bill and Dorie:

  • We are here tonight to ask for GPA’s help. We need help from the larger community. We want to stay in our houses but feel threatened.
  • If we continue to have heavy truck volume our housing stock will deteriorate.
  • We first wrote a letter to Mayor Schock in 2009. In May, 2011, we finally got a speed trailer placed in front of our house and began gathering statistics. In June, 2011, Aaron Cosentino with the city got involved at the residents’ request.
  • There are 290 residential buildings on Liberty Street. There are many old homes, some even plaqued, dome duplexes but mainly single family. We have been told time and again that this is not residential and that it is a state route.
  • With the city we ran a possible reroute of Rt. 25 by IDOT, only to be refused. We have learned that IT IS THE CITY WHICH MUST CREATE A PLAN AND NEGOTIATE WITH IDOT TO ACHIEVE IT. It is only through Elgin city gov’t. that a solution can be reached. We ask for their commitment. (We think we have reasonable suggestions/alternatives proposed with Tom Armstrong’s help on the handout.)
  • Route 25 is currently bearing the brunt of the city’s north/south traffic. The changing of the route from St. Charles/Villa/Center/Dundee (my understanding of that history) years ago to residential Liberty was not a good decision.
  • Trucks have pushed our tolerance over the edge, particularly with noise pollution.
  • Two Huff School crossing guards have been hit on Liberty. In a recent article in the Herald it was mentioned that “to cut city expenses” there is a cutting back on school crossing guards. Liberty St., Comdr. Theriault said, was determined to have “an intersection (which) was simply too dangerous to cross even with a human guard. Where Huff School children cross Liberty Street, traffic speeds and visibility are so bad that two crossing guards themselves have been hit by cars there. So District U46 has agreed to let those kids ride buses.” The Liberty St. Residents Group is hoping to work with the city to find ways to calm traffic, such as bike lanes to narrow the road.

Alycia Lykins noted that when her family walks to Lord’s Park it takes ten minutes just to cross Liberty St.

Council person Anna Moeller added that the city is as frustrated as the residents are. “We are here to work with you.” She is under the impression that IDOT is opposed to rerouting route 25.

Barbara Evans moved to add the GPA name to petitions or letters from the Liberty St. residents group. Dan Miller seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. Dan added that the group should let Karen read anything with our name on it before sending.

Pat Miller added that the decline of St. Charles St. is evident and high truck traffic is probably a factor. She also stated that it is an absolute crime that a subdivision was allowed to be built blocking the extension of Shales Parkway.

Dorie Alpha added that the change of weight limits on trucks in Illinois has really contributed to the problem. There are truck routes all over the nation. We need a truck route to get them off of Liberty St.

Mary Ellen added that the city has to have the will to negotiate with IDOT.

Secretary’s note: Since our meeting it has come to my attention that Aaron Cosentino with the city is going to address the City Council this Wednesday, the 23rd at 6:00 pm regarding the Liberty St. problem. Mary Ellen will also get a chance to speak.

SWAN candidate Forum
Crysta Anderson, the current President of SWAN addressed the group informing them of the upcoming Council Candidate Forum they are holding. She would like GPA to co sponsor the event and was looking for volunteers to help out. The Forum is scheduled for Saturday, March 9 at 2:00 pm at Zion Lutheran Church, 330 Griswold Street. There will be two or three organizational meetings held before the event. The focus of the Forum is on issues important to neighborhoods. The church where the Forum is being held is having a spaghetti dinner that evening so it would be a good chance to speak with candidates informally. An invitation to the candidates has been sent out and nine have responded. Crysta wants a few GPA members to be on the committee to help select the questions that will be asked of the candidates. Candidates will pick a question from a bowl instead of each one answering the same question. Barbara Evans, Carol Anderson, Mark Preradovic and Deborah Allan expressed an interest in helping out.

Chuck Keysor addressed the group on the topic of City Council Candidate forums. He was the President of the Near West Neighbors Association/NWNA for seven years and he moderated their forums for 10 years. He said that the NWNA forums were of great use, specifically as part of getting Fire Station number 6, resolving issues they have had with the group home in their neighborhood, getting a ROPE house for our neighborhood, and getting support for our painting the bridge over W. Chicago St.

Chuck added that he has hinted for years that the GPA should hold its own City Council Candidate Forum because he feels a GPA candidate forum would have great value. It would allow the candidates to learn the GPA’s issues, it would allow the GPA to learn which candidates best match the views of your neighborhood, it would help the candidates and ultimately the council, to recognize that the GPA is active and organized and willing to hold the candidate’s
feet to the fire.

Chuck feels that GPA has huge issues of its own and that some current council members would dissolve Historic Districts if they could. “You folks need to hold candidates feet to the fire regarding things like cuts to the grant programs and maintaining your historic district status” He said that if the GPA were to partner with another group for a forum, that it would dilute the focus on the GPA, which would be unfortunate, because the GPA has unique and significant issues. With the huge number of candidates in the 2013 election, there will only be time in a typical 2 hour forum to ask 3 or 4 questions, and that is with one minute answers. If you partner, then maybe you can have one or two questions.

Chuck offered a document that he had written outlining the procedures for holding a Candidates Forum. He volunteered to help us organize one. He also offered that even if the GPA would choose to not have a candidate forum of its own this year, that he would be willing to help for a forum in the City Council/Mayoral election of 2015.

Krista added there are seven official forums registered with the city clerk so far. Carol Anderson added that she feels that this year we should partner with SWAN and perhaps do our own in the future.

Pocket Park
Karen reported that she continues to be in talks with The Crisis Center regarding their taking over our pocket park at Chicago and Geneva.

John Anderson moved and Dorie Alpha seconded a motion to adjourn. The motion passed unanimously.