By LINDSAY WELBERS
Fifth Ward residents will be the first South Siders to have a voice on how their alderman spends her discretionary menu money.
Any Fifth Ward resident aged 16 years or older has the opportunity vote on a variety of proposals that would repair streets, paint murals, alleviate traffic hazards or create a safer place for pedestrians.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is the first South Side alderman in Chicago to use participatory budgeting. Each year, every alderman in the city is given $1.3 million to spend at their discretion on infrastructure improvements within the ward.
The participatory budgeting process began last fall with a series of public brainstorming sessions. Afterwards, committees formed to research the costs and plausibility of each idea. The public will then have the opportunity to vote on which projects it would like to see happen.
Hyde Parkers who live in the Fifth Ward can vote to fund a proposal that would put a mural over the blank and damaged panels under the viaduct at 56th Street.
The north side wall is bare and damaged. The south side wall is in good shape but blank. The Fifth Ward participatory budgeting arts and culture committee estimates that it would cost $15,000 to just paint the south wall, and $25,000 to repair and paint the north wall.
The committee has no plans for what murals would go in the panels if the project were funded, except that they should be thematically and aesthetically complimentary to existing panels nearby that are in good condition.
Another proposal would repaint lines and add reflectors to the stretch of Cornell Drive from 57th Avenue to Lake Shore Drive.
Sharoyn Franklin, who participated on the streets committee, said the area is very dark, not well lit and curvy. Drivers will sometimes take wide turns around the curves, leading to auto accidents that have included fatalities.
The streets committee also would like to see University Avenue repaved from 55th to 57th streets.
The public safety committee would like to add and improve lighting under Metra stations at 54th Street, 57th Street and at 59th Street and Harper Avenue, among other locations in the Fifth Ward.
Any person who has an address in the Fifth Ward and is at least 16 years old is eligible to participate. Each voter is given up to six votes that they can give to any number of projects in the neighborhood. Projects will be funded until the money runs out.
A second exposition of the proposals, including projects outside of Hyde Park, will take place from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday April 20 at the Catholic Theological Union, 5416 S. Cornell Ave.
Early voting begins at 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30, and Wednesday, May 1, at the Fifth Ward Service Office, 2323 E. 71st St.
The official election day and final exposition will happen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday may 4 at Gary Comer College Prep, 7131 S. South Chicago Avenue.