Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Street Smart

By Lori Rackl
Chicago Sun-Times

About 25 people milled around Goudy Elementary School in Uptown on a recent Tuesday evening.

A man in a business suit stood next to another wearing a turban and sweats. There were blacks, whites, Asians. Men, women, children.

The diverse group had gathered for the same reason: to improve their health -- and the health of their North Side neighborhood.

"All that walking was good exercise," said Cook, who used to tip the scales at more than 300 pounds. Then he had gastric bypass surgery and "something clicked."

"I wanted to help other people take control not only of their health, but of the streets," Cook said.

At 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Cook and his crew of community members convene at Goudy to hear a short talk on nutrition, fitness, street smarts -- the topics vary each week. Armed with clipboards, they then set off on a fitness walk around the neighborhood, jotting down the location of graffiti, overgrown trees blocking streetlights and other issues that need the city's attention.

The idea isn't just for them to spot problems, but for problems to spot them.

"It's kind of like taking back the streets," said Allen Turner, 38, a father of two who's lived in his Uptown townhouse for 13 years. "If we're out here, the thugs won't be."

He said as recently as last year, gangs, drugs and fights were getting out of control near his home on Winona.

"It got pretty crazy," said Turner, a video game designer. "We had a meeting with police, the alderman, the assistant principal at the school ... they heeded my call, so I felt the least I could do was do my part, too."

Turner and his family routinely turn out for the Tuesday night walks, which started informally last summer but became a full-fledged CAPS program this year.

CAPS Director Beth Ford said similar programs are springing up in other districts.

"The idea is really starting to catch on," she said. "There are a lot of neighborhoods where this kind of a walking program makes a lot of sense."

Local businesses pitch in to help make Uptown's Healthy People, Healthy Blocks work.

Galter LifeCenter, a medical fitness facility affiliated with Swedish Covenant Hospital, sends experts to the meetings to talk about diet and exercise. The fitness center outfitted everyone with pedometers at a recent Tuesday meeting so people could work toward a goal of 10,000 steps a day.

Jewel and Dominick's take turns donating fruit each week, and Flourish Bakery Cafe kicked in a gift certificate for a raffle.

Elizabeth Derrico, who lives on the border of Uptown and Edgewater, attended her first Tuesday night walk earlier this month.

"This is a great community-building activity -- and I get my exercise in," Derrico said.

"Let's face it: this is a neighborhood not without its problems," she said. "It's important to have a community presence out here."

Addis Clinton agrees. This single dad happened to be walking his young daughter in her stroller when he came across the group. He asked what they were up to.

"We need you all down there by Wilson," Clinton said.

"I'm a product of the streets myself," he added. "I wish we had something like this when I was growing up."


  1. Thanks for posting this wonderful , positive article.

    Being out on the streets, especially for productive helful reasons (as opposed to a protest), creates healthy lifestyles that benefit the people & neighborhood in many ways (as the article shows).

    Don't forget to post it on and the BPN message board -- and maybe see if IrishPirate & post it on his blog.

    Thanks again!

  2. jp do us all a favor and mind your business - frankly you are a goof ball who doesn't live in the area and are not a stake holder, start your own blog - you are an annoying booger

  3. In my opinion, JP has shown more interest and sincere concern in Uptown than probably 80% of our residents. Even if he doesn't "live here" must we constantly insult him like a bunch of 5th graders? No wonder Uptown residents have the tendency of being branded difficult. Can we just once try to keep a thread positive?

  4. JP is just another non-resident who wants to tell us how Uptown should be run so their own neighborhoods don't turn into ours.

    Social services are great as long as they stay here.

  5. Exactly why these blogs are useless.

    We need one group that meets in person to discuss what can be done about Uptown.

    I do live here by the way

  6. If you want to know just how much "good" JP did when he lived in Uptown, talk to some long-timers in Truman Square.

    JP and the Catholic Worker house there decided that some empty lots on the corner of Kenmore and Leland shouldn't be turned into market rate homes, despite support of the plan and approval of the drawings by the Truman Square block club.

    So what did JP do? He brought in ONE and COURAJ to "take over" the block club, in spite of the fact that those people didn't live in Truman Square and were one-trick-ponies whose only reason for getting involved was to keep out the dreaded, horrible condo owners.

    The result? The block club disbanded and became a "homeowners association" solely to keep it from being taken over by out-of-towners again. The unfortunate by-product was that renters, including CHA residents, many long-time residents, and even JP himself, then became ineligible to take part in block club activities because they weren't homeonwners. It's only recently, since JP moved out, that the homeowners association has once again become a true block association for all the residents.

    As for the low-income housing that JP and his non-Truman-Square cronies wanted? Didn't happen. Condos were built, but instead of the beautiful ones that had been approved by the block club prior to all the shenanigans, a new owner built square buildings that go clear to the property line with no set-back, no lawn, no flowers, no beauty.

    So those who herald JP's "interest and sincere concern" for Uptown: Good luck to you. You don't have to live with the results of it. I do, every day. A fractured block club that's taken five years to get back in the right direction. A bunch of condos which have great neighbors, but look like a prison block.

    Thanks, JP. You've left your legend in Uptown, but probably not the way you'd like to think.

  7. From the website of one JP Paulus:


    * Seeing the kids in Uptown (and my future new neighborhood) graduate high school and go on to become leaders in the community and at college
    * seeing my own child in the summer of 2005 (our very first!!!)
    * Looking to be a "professional networker",
    * At some point moving to an Inner City neighborhood that is not falling as fast due to gentrification, and rebuilding that neighborhood spiritually & economically "

    I pulled that off his "ME ME ME" page.

    I'm not a psychologist, but I play one on TV, and Imagonna guess there are some "issues" there.


    NUT JOB JP IT'S OFFICIAL. Man I just moved and purchased in Uptown last year. I never dreamed in my wildest imagination that so many nut jobs have had a hand screwing up Uptown. No wonder all the neighboring wards have changed but not Uptown. Him and Helen are probably tight!

  9. by the way is Uptown Baptist the church with that big sign Jesus Saves!

    I wonder if that meets the zoning requirements. I for one would like to see it taken down.

  10. I've got no beef with Uptown Baptist, not even with their sign. While I don't agree with some of their religious philosophies, a lot of my good neighbors attend services there.

    UBC's new-ish pastor has a community activist bent, which is a welcome change from many of the local churches' attitudes, which seems to be a combination of chastising anyone who wants Uptown to change and turning their collective backs on anything that happens outside the church walls. UBC has focused recently on how to improve their corner of Uptown and has interacted with the community in many positive ways.

    I would urge you not to judge the church only by the representations of one of its most vocal members.

  11. Thank you, caring neighbor, for your comments.

    Everyone is free to call the church at 773-784-2922 if you have suggestions how UBC can improve, and in particular, how you feel they can best serve the neighborhood.

    They will be at Uptown Fest giving out free water.

    Regarding my history with Truman Square, obviously i have a different version. i will post it when i have opportunity.

    For those who seem to know a lot about it, if you were personally a part of it, then we need to talk. My phone is 312-282-2809 or you can e-mail me at

    i approached Jay & Carrie Schwetz a while back about this issue. They were gracious enough to sit down & talk about it. We were able to forgive each other of hurts, and now honestly be able to bless each other when we see each other. We don't agree on everything, but we definitely respect each other.

    If you respect Jay & Carrie (who were there through the whole thing), then run your version of events by them. i would like to hear their reaction. Even if you don't care about my perspective, surely you respect theirs.

  12. my judgement is Uptown needs a big enema to get rid of all the wacko's.

    the sign on the church needs to go it doesn't meet zoning i am sure and is a hazard in hight winds.

    it's amazing how blighted uptown really is

  13. jp - go sit in the corner now...
    you are very annoying ... please get a life

  14. "It's only recently, since JP moved out, that the homeowners association has once again become a true block association for all the residents."

    I'm encouraged to see this, but doesn't this overstate things? When, if ever, has Truman Square Neighbors had a meeting? (The multi-club mixer at Nick's is the closest thing I've heard to one in two years.) When will the association have its next meeting?

  15. I don't understand JP's interest in Uptown? It's beyond me unless he owns property here or is a front for someone else? I recently moved here purchased and don't get a lot of this stuff. I have a feeling a lot of other new condo owners are in the same boat as I am. Not aware of people causing problems from outside the ward.
    JP what's your interest in Uptown? Why do you care if you don't live in our ward? Do you think you have a chance at being Alderman? Are you one of the people that used to live here in a half way house or a SRO? Did you start living in Uptown as one of the homeless that also claim Uptown but have no physical address here? I don't get it?

  16. JP gets his jollys out of attacking everything and everyone who attempts any change in Uptown. Recent blogs attacks are nothing new for him. He has harassed every blog that attempts to discuss Uptown issues.

    See JP's pattern? He labels persons wanting changes as racitst gentrifiers. He labels anyone associated with the status quo as heros. Yet, he never deals with issues or offers constructive solutions while he nitpicks on everyone else.

    By the way, JP is being a hypocrite in this post. He is railing against protesters yet he has been at plenty of Shillers anti-condo protests over the years.

  17. JP, I lived through your little tantrum, so I don't need to check with anyone about what happened. I was there; I lived through it. Not in the spotlight, but I too was affected, as was most of Truman Square.

    While I'm glad you were able to patch things up with Jay and Carrie, you affected an entire neighborhood. You are the reason we have such butt-ugly condos where pretty ones were planned. You are the reason my CHA neighbors couldn't belong to the homeowners association. Feel better about getting Jay and Carrie's foregiveness, but I hope you don't "help out" your Rogers Park neighbors the same way you "helped" Truman Square.

  18. Let's hope he stays in Rogers Park. Maybe he can take some of our homeless and mentally ill to Rogers Park. JP you have found your hood, stay there. It seems weird being a new owner in Uptown he would need forgiveness from anyone or he would really care that much. This guy is an odd duck!