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Ward remap problems with space and timing

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Community members come out to protest permit for canopy at New Parie Hotel.

An ongoing effort by a West Side church to close an unpopular hotel, which neighbors say attracts prostitutes and drug dealers, Tuesday found itself at the center of a redistricting debate over who represents whom in the aftermath of a city remap.

Parishioners from Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church told members of the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Way that the New Parie Hotel, on the 2800 block of West Washington Boulevard, should not be allowed to renew its permit for a canopy and should instead be completely shut down.

“I had an after school program and the kids that attended would get scared to go home when it got dark,” a woman who identified herself as a youth minister who works with another nearby church told aldermen on the committee.

Church members and neighbors have been frustrated with the city in general for not doing more to help the community remove the problematic hotel.

“We know you come around during election time, but we need you to come around now because we have a problem,” said the Rev. James Missick, associate minister at Mount Sinai. “We need to take the drugs and prostitution away from our school, children and community.”

No one representing New Parie Hotel attended the meeting. A woman answering the telephone at the hotel said that the manager would not be available until Wednesday.

Mount Sinai, 2841 W. Washington Blvd., is currently located in Ald. Robert Fioretti’s 2nd Ward.  Under the new ward map, printed in 2012, the church is in the 27th Ward where Walter Burnett Jr. is the alderman. There is a dispute over whether the new map should be used before the next citywide election in 2015.

Both Burnett and Fioretti were at Tuesday’s committee meeting and voiced support for the church’s efforts to close the hotel.

“I want to inherit this issue because I know these people,” said Burnett.  “ I have been to their church.”

Fioretti told the committee that he still represented the church and asked the committee to “vote no on all these (requests) for the hotel to renew permits for signs and awnings.”

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), the committee chair, heeded concerns from some aldermen about the legal ramifications of not renewing the permit and deferred the matter “until we get a legal opinion from the law department.”

After the meeting, Fioretti voiced his frustration with efforts by some committee chairs and aldermen who are in favor of using the new ward map before 2015.  “I represent this ward until 2015,” he said in an interview.  “I think the mayor had a big hand in the remapping issue.  It’s all about money.”

Fioretti said he was willing to work with Burnett to resolve the problems with the West Side hotel.  “We’re going to close that hotel one way or another; we all know what goes on there.”

This article was reported and written by the following journalism students at Columbia College Chicago: Jetesa Asani, Jordan Berry, Dorcy Castillo, Tom Moran, Sarah Tesfai, Briana Utria, and Tiffany Wilson.


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