Abandoned properties and crime were the hot-button topics on the minds of nearly 100 residents who packed a LaSalle University conference room to meet with Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and various city officials Tuesday night.
The gathering, which Bass spokesman Joe Corrigan called “the largest meeting we’ve had since we’ve been in office,” was structured as introductions prior to a Q-and-A session.
Those plans quickly changed when the first panelist to introduce himself – Deputy Managing Director Tom Conway from Community Life Improvement Programs (CLIP) – delved into a quality-of-life issue.
“If you see graffiti please let us know about it,” he said, “After a few days, it’s usually gone.”
“No one has helped us”
That immediately sparked a back-and-forth between the panel and residents who wanted to hear that same answer applied to the abandoned properties with which they’re dealing.
“I have been taking care of my neighbor’s property since she has passed away five years ago,” said Darlena Graves. “I need help.”
Others noted that they’ve called the city’s 311 hotline, Licenses and Inspection and even banks, but “no one has helped us.”
“Are there any efforts to accelerate the process of getting rid of abandoned buildings?” asked Nathan Thomas, a committee person in the 17th ward.
“We have the funding to clean about 2,000 vacant lots,” answered Conway, who told residents he planned to follow the issue up.
For her part, Bass noted that, “with new city councilmembers in office, you should see major progress in about four-to-eight years throughout the city.”
More police presence requested
Crime was the other major issue of the night.
Shortly after 35th Police District Capt. John McCloskey took the microphone, resident Joyce Mayo mentioned an issue in her neighborhood.
“We need more police presence in West Oak Lane,” said Mayo.
McCloskey noted that, at one point, eight bicycle officers patrolled the area but have been moved to more dangerous spots.
“I agree there should be more presence,” he said, “and I will move bike cops back up there.”
Complaints about residents’ relationships with La Salle University students were also raised.
Faith Whitehead, a resident and member of the police district’s advisory council member, said living in between college rentals is a growing frustration.
“I came home one day from work to a firecracker sitting on my steps,” said Whitehead, who cited loud noises and partying.
“I am aware of the issues with La Salle students and we have made arrests in the past,” McCloskey said. “They need to respect the quality-of-life of everyone who lives in this neighborhood. … I depend on the community to be my eyes and ears.”
Said Councilwoman Bass, “We try to get you what you need in order to get all of your [concerns] resolved.”
As the meeting was coming to a close, resident Evelyn Carter quickly retorted, “Just like you help us Cindy, we need to help you.”