By LINDSAY WELBERS
Approximately 100 Fifth Ward residents chose to spend Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5th) menu money on a community garden and improved street lighting.
Kim Webb, Hairston’s chief of staff, said an urban garden at 2301 E. 71st St., received the most votes, 78. The garden would be a self-sustaining place for residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
“That wasn’t a surprise,” Webb said. The team that proposed the project estimated that it would cost $120,000.
The second highest-voted project would put new streetlights at 68th Street and East End, Oglesby from 71st Street to 74th Street, Ingleside Avenue from 71st Street to 73rd Street, and at 71st Street and Cottage Grove.
The project received 72 votes and will cost an estimated $448,000.
The third-highest voted project would improve street lighting at Metra viaducts and other underpasses at 59th Street and Harper Avenue, 57th Street and Lake Park Avenue, and at 75th Street and South Chicago Avenue. That project received 64 votes and will cost an estimated $45,000.
Webb said those three projects, totaling an estimated $613,000, are the most likely to be completed, and the remaining projects, including murals on the viaducts at 67th Street and Dorchester Avenue, would be funded if there were money left over.
A proposed mural at 56th Street was the 10th-highest voted project with 27 votes.
Project cost estimates, Webb said, are not written in stone. Ald. Joe Moore’s (49th) office has done participatory budgeting several times in the past and that office provided some guidance to the Fifth Ward Office.
“Ald. Moore’s office told all of us to get an estimate but know that estimate is more than likely going to change once the actual work starts,” Webb said. “The urban garden estimated to be $120,000, it may turn out to be $250,000 or $300,000. We don’t really know. … If there is enough money to go to the fourth, fifth, sixth project, fantastic. If not, we’re at least going to [get] to the top three.”
Each year every Chicago alderman receives $1.3 million in menu money to be spent at the alderman’s discretion on infrastructure improvements in the ward. Hairston is among the first Chicago aldermen, and the first on the South Side, to use participatory budgeting to allow residents to choose the improvements.
Residents age 16 or older were able to cast up to six votes for projects in the ward. Early voting ran from April 30 to May 2 at the Fifth Ward Office, 2325 E. 71st St., and official voting occurred at Gary Comer College Prep, 7131 S. Chicago Ave., on Saturday, May 4.
Hyde Parker Alice Mulberry voted on Thursday at the ward office.
“[I] voted for the community garden,” Mulberry said. “We were very impressed with the man who was promoting it. We were very impressed with the garden.”
Mulberry also voted for a project that would have put murals at the viaduct on 56th Street.
“I think it was really very admirable for the alderman to decide to follow this approach and I think it was wonderful that the people in the community rose to the occasion and came up with these suggestions and researched them,” Mulberry said.