It’s very confusing to see residents of other areas of the City come out against the new proposed police/fire academy on the West Side. West Side aldermen and residents in the area where it’s to be built are overwhelmingly in favor, yet others from across Chicago object. They contend that the money going toward this construction could be used for many other decent purposes, but the fact remains that a new facility is necessary (as per the agreement with the DOJ), and the West Chicago Avenue location would do much to revive the area in general.

A new facility, first of all, would provide the improved training for police that citizens have been requesting for years. Secondly, a West Side location (together with another new project on the South Side, as well as the Obama Center) would give construction jobs to area residents and improve the neighborhood from a safety point of view and bring about better living conditions for all in these areas.

The moneyfor long-term economic gains, as opponents have stated, must be from a reoccurring source, not a one-time fund. These well-meaning opponents such as Chance the Rapper should use their efforts for long-term state, federal, and city funds. Projects such as the Amazon Headquarters is another place where their voices could be helpful.

While I have now lived in Oak Park for the last 40 years, I grew up around the Garfield Park area, Chicago and Pulaski in particular. We were a poor and working middle-class area with many of the same issues that current residents now face. Projects such as UIC in the 1960s, considered for a West Side location, went instead to areas closer to downtown Chicago even if it meant Daley Sr. had to destroy a solid existing community. It appeared that every time a new development was considered, it went to the near Loop area, and the neighborhoods suffered while the real estate people close to city government grew rich.

Chicago now has the opportunity to improve the West and South sides; please do not make the mistakes of the past. Whether you appreciate the job our current mayor does or not, at least he’s attempting to help citizens across the city and not just the central business district. 

As an Oak Park resident I have no dog in the mayor’s election battle, but I still possess a great deal of pride in my West Side background and do love the city I was born in and only want the best for my current neighbors to the east.

Jim Agin is a longtime resident of Oak Park.

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