Rebuilding the Ward, Developing Bustling Retail
Since 2009, Ald. Maldonado has accelerated the rebuilding of the 26th Ward, which started when residents united to counteract the lack of city services in the Ward. He has sunk over $10 Million into the Ward, building safe streets, bringing schools near-by and good businesses that serve residents' needs.
Urban decay started in the 1950s when some Aldermen wouldn't spend neighborhood tax dollars in their wards. Instead, these tax dollars were sunk into downtown, the expressways, and O'Hare airport. This resulted in dwindling city services and crumbling streets.
This neglect continued as Puerto Ricans and Blacks took up residence in the 26th Ward because the Machine Alderman wouldn't represent the diverse residents or the businesses located there. "Streets, alleys, and light poles only have about a 30 year lifespan," said Maldonado. "When I moved to the Ward 40 years ago, Division Street was dilapidated. The sidewalks had collapsed into pot holes that were so dangerous pedestrians walked in the street instead."
Maldonado has spent over $10 Million to re-build the 26th Ward with freshly paved streets and alleys, brighter lightening and security cameras--all in an effort to prevent crime. "Blighted streets attract criminal elements," he explained.
Improving and Expanding Public Education. When Maldonado first took office in 2009, there was only one Level 1 public school in the 26th Ward. By working diligently with community leaders and CPS, six out of eleven grade schools in the Ward achieved a Level 1 rating by 2013. In 2010, Maldonado used TIF money to renovate all 11 grade school playgrounds and neighborhood playlots in the Ward.
But he didn't stop there. He was able to bring two top rated high schools to the ward, Marine Leadership Academy and Chicago High School for the Arts. "The backbone of any community is good schools," explain Maldonado. "Good high schools keep students in class and graduating at high rates. This prevents petty crimes and inhibits gang recruitment. Essentially, good schools protect our children from gangs."
Businesses Rebuilt for Bustling Retail. "As a neighborhood businessman, I know the value of an attractive storefront," said Maldonado. He has promoted city grant programs in the Ward that help keep retail streets attractive and bustling by re-modeling, modernizing, and even starting businesses. "Busy Beaver Button Company used funding to install solar panels, a geothermal HVAC system, build offices in their new home at 3407-09 W. Armitage, and then refurbish the front of their building." In 2017, Maldonado was able to add $1 Million more for the Pulaski area and $400,000 for the Division/ Homan area.
Removing Eyesores. Maldonado moved to eliminate abandoned houses in the ward by taking property owners to housing court, forcing them to repair these houses or tear them down. "Not only are abandoned homes unsafe and unsanitary, criminal gangs may hide there and sometimes stash illegal guns there, " Maldonado explained further.
Streets Brightly Lit, Paved, and Free from Graffiti. After tackling graffiti in the Ward, Maldonado moved swiftly to fill pot holes. In 2010, he directed his staff to comb the Ward to identify pot holes, reporting 460 pot holes in only one month. Since then, almost 4,000 pot holes have been filled in the Ward. Maldonado said, "Being pro-actively aggressive on the pothole complaints we have received has conveyed to the City that we are serious about repairing our ward."
Homeowners had flooded basements after heavy rains. The Alderman worked with homeowners, sometimes by regrading the street or by installing "Rain Blockers" that slows the rain flowing into the sewers.
Maldonado installed brighter lighting and security cameras throughout the Ward because they prevent crime. A 2011 study in the Humboldt Park are reported that cameras were responsible for a 12% drop in crime. For every dollar spent on cameras, the city saves more than four dollars.
Jobs Are Part of Rebuilding the Ward. Maldonado hosted 5 Job Fairs in 2018 so Puerto Rican Hurricane victims and Ward residents could learn about job opportunities. Many employers at these Job Fairs hired on the spot.