By Domingo Vargas, Mayor of Blue Island
March is here and I am sure you join me in soon hoping for winter to be gone and for the warmth of spring to arrive. As we look ahead to getting back outside and enjoying everything our community has to offer, I wanted to use this month’s column to look at how far we’ve come.
Nearly two years ago, I took over as mayor with our city facing some major challenges. Some of those remain today, as we try to repair and reopen bridges, revive our business districts and restore health to our budget. We cannot let up as we take on these challenges.
Yet, we often do not notice the progress we are making. Working hand in hand with our aldermen and our administrative team at City Hall, we are Building a Better Blue Island each day. Some of our highlights are:
· Returning the Fire Department to full staffing and presenting Firefighter William MacDonald with the 2014 Firefighter of the Year Award
· Using part-time staff to significantly reduce the overtime budget of the 911 Center
· Coordinating a city website, community calendar and several environmentally friendly initiatives through the Marketing Department
· Reworking Blue Island TV to provide community news and business profiles
· Creating a Blue Island Police Department Facebook page to communicate better with the community and building relationships with other departments and the Park District in the battle against crime, with noticeable reductions in everything from robberies and burglaries to sex crimes and thefts
· Welcoming new businesses such as Blue Island Beer Company and laying the groundwork for future economic development
· Winning awards and earning grants for environmentally smart policies and healthy worksites
· Moving ahead with plans to purchase blighted properties and make infrastructure improvements that will make Blue Island more friendly to businesses and families
· Turning around our imbalanced budget through belt-tightening and doing more with less
I want to sincerely thank our committed City Council: Aldermen Buckner, Hawley, Vieyra, Bilotto, Rita, Donahue, Stone, Carr, Ostling, Pittman, Johnson, Frausto, Thompson, Johanson. We are true partners on this turnaround mission and we could not do this without them. Our city agency directors and city employees deserve credit for working through tough times and buying into our vision to bring better days to Blue Island.
We appreciate your support and trust on this journey. It’s easy to focus sometimes on the problems and get discouraged. We know we have a long way to go these next few years. But we have come a long way in a short time and I can’t wait to share more good news about the results we are bringing for Blue Island in the months to come. Have a great start to spring and know that hope springs eternal here.
ON THE BEAT!
February 2015, Officer Jason Slattery
It’s that time of year when the radio and television airways will be littered with political campaign slogans. The media will no doubt weigh on the issues they believe will most affect the general population, in order to fight for your attention. APRIL 7th is Election Day and they will be doing their best to inform you of the issues.
I always feel bad for the men and woman who run for political office at the local level. These people will be out after a hard day’s work, in their personal jobs. They will be knocking on doors, attending local coffee meetings, and making phone calls to capture our vote. All of this done just to get a chance to serve this community. It’s a thankless job on both sides and I for one, appreciate it. It’s what makes this country and the City of Blue Island great!
April 7th is Election Day and I hope to see all of you at the polls. It’s the time of year when we get a chance to tell elected people what we think of their progress thus far in office. It’s also a chance for us to shed light on issues concerning us, as this is the time when they (Elected Officials) are most willing to listen to us. Need a stop sign, have a school problem, or perhaps a flooding issue, this is your time to bring it up. This is the time of year when you can let the elected or the person running for Alderman, School Board, or Park District know how you feel about a specific subject effecting you, your family, or your neighborhood. I assure you the candidates will be in your community knocking on doors so ask them their position on issues affecting you. This is when you can have questions answered or your own position on issues brought to the attention of the candidate for future use. Don’t be afraid to ask what their position is on:
District #130 D.A.R.E. program Education
Economic Growth Infrastructure (Bridges, Sewage, Streets, etc)
just to name a few issues.
Now we as voters have a basic responsibility to get actively involved. How can we do that you ask. We do that by first learning who the individuals are who are running for Office, and then voting on the issues. If you want to get further involved contact the Office of Elections and become a polling judge. Or contact your local political party that you believe in and become a volunteer. If they’re going to take the time to run for office then we should take the time to learn what they are about, and what they stand for. After all, this is our community.
BUILDING A BETTER BLUE ISLAND
February 2015, Mayor Domingo F. Vargas
The New Year is bringing a wonderful air of optimism to Blue Island. Today, I feel very optimistic about our future. Why?
Over the past year and a half, our team here at City Hall has worked diligently toward “Building a Better Blue Island.” It starts with a good plan, then good people and a belief we could make it happen. My enthusiasm today is tied to the excitement I have that our hard work is paying off through action.
2015 will be the year of “Business in Progress” as we work to transform our fine city. Here is what you will see as the year progresses:
- Division Street bridge construction – summer 2015
- Chatham Street bridge and Cal-Sag Trail construction – late 2015 or early 2016
- Cal-Sag trail construction – summer 2015
- Lyric Theatre – reopening in fall 2015
- Jewel property groundbreaking – early summer 2015
- Public Works repainting planters, crosswalks and curbs – spring 2015
- Shop Local initiative to support local businesses – every Saturday throughout the year
A focal point for our continued growth will be efforts behind a Business District development and redevelopment plan. The proposed district boundaries are approximately 125 acres, primarily fronting the Western Avenue commercial corridor beginning at 119th Street on the north to 135th Street on the south. The district contains 749 property tax parcels with a mix of commercial, historic and transit-oriented property.
This plan for growth will give Western Avenue a long-needed facelift, boost business and give our city the ambiance and presence it deserves. We think it will also entice new businesses to think of Blue Island – our rich history, our great location in the south suburbs and our unique transportation, health care and environmentally smart assets to encourage success.
We are working now to complete all of the necessary steps to move ahead with the project. I look forward to sharing more with you as we use this Business District to move our city forward.
We now must move past the talk and start to meet these high expectations with action this year. I sincerely hope that you can see the same exciting path that I and the city council and leadership do, and that what lies ahead exceeds all of our expectations. Together, we are working every day to Build a Better Blue Island, so let’s get to work.
ON THE BEAT!
February 2015, Officer Jason Slattery
Recently the Blue Island Police Department and the Metra Railroad Police have teamed up together to increase public awareness of rail safety. In doing so, the Blue Island Police Department and Metra Railroad Police Department are teaching, Operation Life Saver, in our schools. The kids have been very receptive to the program, and now, we want to reach out to the rest of the community and review some basic railroad safety, and information.
- About every 3 hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train;
- Railroad rights-of-way and tracks are private property and should only be crossed at authorized crossings.
- You can be arrested if you are caught walking on a railroad track, bridge, or yard.
- The fine for going around a railroad gate is $500.
- All school buses and vehicles transporting hazardous chemicals are required to make a complete stop at a railroad grade crossing.
- It is only legal to drive around lowered gates if instructed by a police officer or railroad employee.
- If driving on a gravel road and there is no Pavement Markings (Railroad Crossing Sign) or Stop Lines, the driver must stop no closer than 15 feet.
- In the City of Blue Island, it is unlawful to park within 50 feet of a railroad grade,
- EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION signs are posted near intersections, should your car stall on the track. Immediately exit the vehicle to a safe location and call 911, then the number on the sign, this will assure that the railroad has been notified of the situation.
- After one train has passed at a crossing, look and listen for another train coming from either direction.
- It would take approximately 18 football fields to stop a freight train traveling at 55mph.
- You’re 40-times more likely to die in a crash with a train than you are to die in an automobile crash.
- The majority of highway-rail crashes occur when the train is traveling less than 30mph.
- Trains overhang the tracks by at least three feet on both sides of the train.
- The City of Blue Island has approximately 23 railroad grade crossings, 6 Metra train stops, 1 Robbins train stop, (which is located just outside the city limits), and 3 railroad yards.
- The City of Blue Island has one of the largest train junctions in the state.
These are just a couple of facts and tips to think about when you’re out. Remember when you’re near a railroad track to always LOOK, LISTEN, and LIVE!
ON THE BEAT!
January 2015, Officer Jason Slattery
The holiday season is finally over, and I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. January means the heart of winter and extreme cold as we are already experiencing early in the month. We are enforcing snow routes, when there are two or more inches of snow.
Temperatures can hit zero below, creating very dangerous conditions for public – and especially our seniors and beloved pets. So let’s review these 10 tips from the American Red Cross to keep everyone safe during the harsh winter:
- Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing your body heat.
- Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
- Protect your pipes – run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
- Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
- If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs.
- Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
- Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
- If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
- Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
- Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
Our department is committed to keeping you safe this winter. Director John Rita, Deputy Chief Michael Cornell and Corporal Christopher Connors have put together an Inclement Weather Incident Plan for our community. The Blue Island Police Department utilizes an extensive list of warming centers that can be opened in an emergency. The Inclement Weather Incident Plan has a number of action steps, including your Community Policing Officer conducting well-being checks on the elderly during times of extreme cold.
If you are a senior or know of a senior that lives in town and you want the Blue Island Police Department to check on them, please contact me at my email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — so that they can be placed on the Inclement Weather Incident Plan list. Stay safe out there.