Who Cleans Up The 11th Ward? Not The 11th Ward Office
While usually a quality source of fair-minded coverage about the 11th Ward, writer Casey Cora at DNAChicago made a small mistake with his photo yesterday.
It happens: doing local news well is a tough job, and sometimes a detail will slip.
But when a small mistake points to a big leadership problem in our community, it’s worth talking about the problem.
In Casey’s story “You Can Help Clean Up The 11th Ward,” as published Wednesday morning, he unwittingly spread confusion about who cleans up the 11th Ward’s streets — and who doesn’t.
It’s about the picture he used. Here’s how the story and original picture appeared at publication time:
(Above: Wednesday’s DNAChicago story mistakenly using photo of Maureen Sullivan and volunteer crew, 2012)
The problem is that the story talks about a cleanup event “co-hosted by the 11th Ward and the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department”. But the photo doesn’t show that event. It shows instead an entirely independent and effective, home-grown neighborhood operation. It shows the 2012 “Bridgeport Clean And Green” created, hosted and managed by Aldermanic candidate Maureen Sullivan and Rene Paquin of the Bridgeport Alliance. It shows the hundreds of pounds of garbage their team took off the streets and the crew of awesome volunteers they organized to do it.
This matters, because who you don’t see in this photo is anybody from the 11th Ward office. They were all no-shows. No Patrick Daley Thompson, no Alderman Balcer, no John Daley. Not even anybody from the South Loop Chamber of Commerce could be bothered to show up and lend a hand.
Which is par for the course, because they had nothing to do with it.
This photo reminds us that under Patrick Daley Thompson and Alderman Balcer, the 11th Ward office doesn’t actually get the streets cleaned up. It reminds us that real cleanup takes organization, community activism and hands-on work to accomplish, and that’s not what they do.
That’s what Maureen Sullivan does. And the picture Casey ran shows her just getting started, launching the first of a multi-year effort.
Again, this isn’t to bash Casey Cora. But it is time we all got clear about who actually works for the people of the 11th Ward, and who pretends to.
There’s A Right Way And A Wrong Way To Do It
On one hand, there’s activism — organizing, leading, following through. That’s what Maureen Sullivan does.
And on the other hand there’s what Patrick Daley Thompson and Alderman Jim Balcer prefer: inactivism.
At the 11th Ward office, “cleaning up” the neighborhood streets is a strictly hands-off process, and it shows. The 11th Ward office merely publishes a flyer, tells you to call 311 and then never follows up, never organizes volunteers, and most importantly, does not remove any trash.
This approach doesn’t clean garbage off the streets, and here’s the proof.
The last time they promoted a local cleanup was on August 23. We were paying attention, so we took pictures at the end of that day.
See the difference for yourself.
The choice is clear. Community organization and leading volunteers is what works.
Pretending to clean up the streets doesn’t.