Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Basketball Controversy Goes On and On

A couple weeks ago, we noticed that the basketball rims at Broncho Billy Playlot were back up on the backboards.  A couple days later, we heard from moms about little kids who who were being forced out by the rough play of the big kids at the 12-and-under playlot.

The Reader now reports on the story of the rims coming back, with the new tidbits that (1) if you are a "new resident" of Uptown and white, you shouldn't have the right to criticize black kids playing in a playlot they're too old for, because every objection is about race, rather than gangs and crime, and (2) that "long-time residents" petitioned the Park District to get the hoops restored, using last month's Reader article as ammo.  You can read the new Reader editorial story here:  "Return of the Basketball Rims."

A couple days ago, we got this email:

"If you haven't been alerted yet, the hoops and nets are back at Bronco Billy, and so are the gangs. I noticed them Sunday and called Alderman Cappleman's office Monday.

The person at the Alderman's office said a neighborhood group went directly to the Park District and had them put back. Alderman Cappleman is against this and is working to have them removed again. My observation about the hoops: I've seen more of the regular gang members on Magnolia in the past week with the hoops up than I've seen in the last two months with the hoops gone.

The Alderman's office asked that I email them supporting the hoop removal. I'm sure they'd like to hear from others supporting or opposing hoop removal."

The alderman's email address is

Our comment is:  We've seen basketball hoops removed in the past all over Uptown -- at the Christopher House playlot, at Stockton School, at Challenger Park, and at Disney School.  All this was done during the reign of Ald. Shiller and no one yelled that she was a racist (in fact, she was usually the one playing the race card).  Why is another hoops removal at a known gang hangout, which was never intended for teenagers, such a cause celebre?  Why is the race card being played, as well as the tired old "we've lived here longer so we have more rights than you do" canard? 

Seems to us that those who are screaming are actually throwing a tantrum that change is here in the 46th Ward and they feel very, very threatened that it is.


  1. I noticed that you have not addressed the Reader's assertion that there is no statistical correlation between crime and basketball hoops at Broncho Billy.

    I also couldn't help but notice that this post complained about the opinions of the newer residents not being as valued, while, at the same time, dismissing the opinions of older residents as being "against change." The equal value of opinions is a two-way street.

    (I will try to write up a more thoughtful response later. Those are just my initial impressions)

  2. I'll say what everyone else seems to be afraid to say. Gangs play basketball. I've worked for a very well known community service center(which shall remain nameless) here in the city for about five years and our open basketball times are consistently the most difficult times when we contract the most amount of violence, anger, and adrenaline all fused into a violent sport. Two real distinctions need to be made here:
    1. Nobody complains about soccer nets being put up or taken down. Basketball is a violent sport.
    2. Gangs = gangs. Not blacks, or whites, or latinos. Gangs have nothing to do with race and everything to do with violence. And unsupervised public places where competitive violence is regularly documented is cause for any place to be addressed. Whether it be basketball, soccer, softball, or lawn bowling.

  3. I've worked for a very well known international community center for over 5 years and our open basketball times show a consistent uptick in violence with heated arguments and physical fights with participants and even non-participating staff. There are two distinctions that need to be made here.
    1. Basketball is a violent sport. It is filled with adrenaline infused competition where the values of strength and individual prowess supersede teamwork and self control. Nobody complains about soccer nets.
    2. Gangs = Gangs. Not blacks, not whites, not latinos. Race has nothing to do with it. And when you have public unsupervised places where this friendly competition consistently has documented reports of resulting in gang violence, something must be done. I don't care it it's basketball, softball, or lawn bowling. Nobody complains about the tennis courts.

  4. Strannik, the Reader pits one group against another so I have no trust in their reporting. Yes, it helps increase readership, but it's hardly ethical.

    However, here's what we do know:
    We know that this is a play lot for kids under 12.

    We know at CAPS meetings that issues related to the drug dealing and foul language used by the older kids came up many times.

    We know that this spot is labeled as a hotspot for high gang activity.

    We know that 2 gang members were killed just a block away from this play lot (one in 2010 and one in 2011)

    We know there was a Sugar Magnolia Drug Bust earlier this year.

    Did Dumke know about this. He would have if he bothered to attend any of the CAPS meetings.

    Did he report it? Of course not. It doesn't support his own agenda.

  5. I agree Strannik the Reader did make an assertion about crime and the hoops return. An assertion "is a statement or declaration, often without support or reason." Which is exactly what they did, give info with no basis of where it came from or if it was accurate. On the other hand the alderman and 23rd police leaders gave a long list of crimes related to people hanging out in and around those courts before the decision was made to remove them.

    I find it interesting that the Alderman made a request to remove the rims and then they were replaced several months later with brand new parts without any contact from his office. If the park district is really behind this action why would they not check in with the alderman first? I wonder if the Park District was even behind the return of the rims? Not that the reader really looking into it. Clearly, after reading both articles, the authors think the rims should remain.

    I am glad the Alderman and Police commander however see it the other way.

  6. Kudos Strannik. I agree with you 100%. It feels like the opinions of the more veteran residents are being dismissed. I have talked to a few newer residents and our conversations always ends up on the subject of property value. It makes me think: Are these concerns really about the wellness of the community or concerns about real estate values? I do not think removing the rims will solve the crime issue. We need to focus on outreach programs and community involvment, from the residents, police department, and the alderman's office. Why should we penalize the neighborhood children and residents that want the rims?

  7. "If you haven't been alerted yet, the hoops and nets are back at Bronco Billy, and so are the gangs. I noticed them Sunday and called Alderman Cappleman's office Monday"

    How did you know the teenagers were gangs? And were they doing something illegal? Or just playing basketball?

  8. It makes me think: Are these concerns really about the wellness of the community or concerns about real estate values?

    The two are not mutually exclusive, by any means.

    Low property values are bad news for everyone: poor, middle and upper class alike.

    As the tax base shrinks, the city isn't able to generate the revenues needed to maintain the neighborhood and/or fund the programs that you mentioned (which, yes, are valuable).

    Also, as property values decline, the willingness of the community to get involved, and to involve a broad base of the community, also shrinks as those who can leave, do.

    Look to the south side if you'd like a practical example of what happens when folks stop caring about property values.

  9. I can't bring myself to read the Reader article - as their bias articles filled with lies are more like reading fiction.

    I live next to park and the hoops have been up for a couple of weeks and it's more of the same. Neighborhood parents can no longer bring their young children to the park. And it's not just the gangs... the behavior of the children without guardians in tow is out of control. You can't bring your children there if you want to keep them safe. The police need to round these kids up and bring them home and fine the parents.

    I called the alderman's office immediately upon seeing the hoops up. According to the alderman's office, the CEO of the Park District made a unilateral decision to put them back up. I live here and have kids and know quite a few other parents - no one asked us what we thought. Funny how we can be driven out of our own playlot but no one is writing articles about that. God-forbid if we drive out bangers... let's write articles about race issues and get community groups involved and start throwing around the word “race”.

    These "community groups" and the reader don't live here and don't frequent the park. They need to stay out of our neighborhood. And I dare this CEO needs to come here some day after school and hang out for a bit.

  10. As somebody that lives adjacent to the park, and a person of color, I have to say that it's not the race of the people that I'm concerned with. What concerns me the most is the noise pollution, loitering and increased foot-traffic through the alleys.
    If the people playing hoops refrained from calling each other "b***ch" and "ni**er" and stopped using other profanities it wouldn't be such an issue. However, since the hoops have been put back these words, among others, are being constantly hurled at one another. Regardless of age, or race, words like these are not acceptable around young children; and we should remember that the park is intended for those 12 and younger.
    The loitering and foot-traffic have become more of an issue over the past few weeks; more young adults have been congregating after the park has closed and then continue to linger in the alley way. In my opinion, that's not a good place to "hang out" when the park closes... It's dark and poorly lit; a scenario just waiting to get worse.
    I'm all for giving it back to the kids 12 and younger, that way, they will (hopefully) be supervised by responsible adults that will keep their kids in line.

  11. I think that removing basketball courts is a bandage on the real issue. And if it won't stick long term, what's the point?

    I say that because any benefits outweigh the negatives. What can be more productive than playing sports for kids?

    In this neighborhood there are not that many hoops. If there were hoops on every corner, and the intent was to remove a few on troublesome corners, than that would be understandable.

    Sports give kids an outlet to release extra energy and tension, grow stronger, build self-esteem. Most importantly, it gives them something to do other than joining gangs in the first place (Or watching TV/playing video games all day).

    I say put back all the hoops. Build more hoops. Lets just do a better job of keeping our eyes on the good ones that just want to ball.

  12. So JLA, where are the younger kids and toddlers supposed to play? Would you take your toddlers to a playground in close proximity (about 20 ft) to a basketball court where teens and young adults are running around and yelling obscenities? Where there are local gang members dealing drugs and the inherent dangers associated with such activities? The older kids can get a little extra exercise by walking or biking to another basketball court.

  13. Mindy--The gang members are twenty-something year old adults. They used to hang out with these guys: (see The guys from Operation Sugar Magnolia will be back in a year or two and will be playing basketball while conducting business at Bronco Billy.

    People try to kill gang members because of their affiliation. Maybe they feel safer hanging out in a children's play lot, however children are shot: and

    In my time in Uptown I've heard the gun shots that have killed two people and sent another half dozen people to the hospital. I've seen families crying in the street because someone they love was shot. I've had to lie to my kids and tell them that gun shots were fireworks.

    Why would anyone create an environment that puts Children 12 and under at risk?

    JLA: You're right about removing the hoops being a bandage. The real problem is the gangs. There isn't an easy fix, but I do know with the hoops down, the gangs are not as prevalent on my block. As soon as the hoops were put back up, the gangs came back.

  14. Mindy,

    must you act like an overaged, naive Raggedy Ann Doll?

    I can picture you twisting your forefingers on your cheeks whilst asking "How did you know the teenagers were gangs?"

    It's relatively easy to tell the bangers from the non bangers if you've lived here awhile. Hell just watch UU for their mugshots after they get arrested for shooting up the hood. Watch them engage in drug deals as you walk by.

    Now that playlot is supposed to used by those age 12 and under. I know that rule has been scratched off the entrance, but you can still make out the outline.

    I have no problem with basketball. I played back in junior high. I had no talent, but I was taller than almost everyone so I did ok.

    Now it seems to be that separating teenagers from younger kids is just common sense. Again, this is Uptown though so I guess the normal rules of logic don't apply.

    Now I'm willing to predict that the basketball hoops will again disappear from Broncho Billy Park soon. To quote from the Tao of "The Dude":

    I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man.

    I'm already working on getting some incriminating photos of Rahm Emmanuel with certain meat products that observant Jews are not supposed to eat. Also I found out that he is actually the half brother of Richard M Daley. Rahm was secretly adopted back in December 1959 by the Emmanuels to help Richard J avoid the scandal. Now obviously he is smarter than all of the other Daley brothers put together. Rahm's IQ comes from his birth mother who moved near Bridgeport in the mid 1950's after the ChiComs kicked out General Chiang Kai-Shek and the nationalists from the Chinese mainland. She may actually have been the half sister of Madame Chiang. I'm working on that detail. In any case her liason with Richard J resulted in the birth of Rahm and the expansion of the Chinese community just north of Bridgeport.

    True story! Would I make something like that up?

    Also I scrounged the internet for some photos that highlight how to spot bangers then I mashed them up into a photographic potato salad. One dangerous character who likely hangs out at Broncho Billy is even shown in the photo potatotage.

  15. "How did you know the teenagers were gangs? And were they doing something illegal? Or just playing basketball?"

    They are all wearing "I am a gang Banger T-Shirts" silly. How else would we know.

    The hoops should be DOWN. That is a park for kids 12 and under. That is all. If they can't behave themselves take away the toy.

  16. the basketball hoops nonsense is so silly. Why can't we focus on real issues, any progress on licensing shelters or lessing the overwhelming social services burden carried by the neighborhood?

  17. IP- The story in the original post doesn't exactly portray a threat of violence, drug dealing, etc...
    "I saw gangs and called the alderman's office" is vague and doesn't seem to make for an alarming situation.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Mindy - Your mistake is that you took the Reader article as an unbiased factual and COMPLETE account of what happens at that park. That is not what the Reader is about. I encourage you to spend some time at the park from 4pm-7pm some evening to get a really good sense of what goes on. Then perhaps you will get an unbiased factual and complete picture of the park.

    JLA - If you want hoops in your neighborhood playlot, then put them there. Just keep your nose out of our playlot. We have kids and we have been driven out the playlot for gangers and unsupervised children and teens that have no respect for the neighborhood, the neighbors, or the park. Read Uptown Guys post if you want an idea of the neighborhood with these hoops up.

    The people who have NO experience with this park, don't live here, and don't have kids have no information on this situation need to keep their uneducated uninformed opinions out of this debate. Once you have had heard gunshots and had a dead body in front of your house then maybe you'll have a better idea of what is really happening.

  20. @Trishers & UptownGuy: Well put.

  21. Trishers-

    I wasn't referring to the Reader article. I was responding to the actual UU post.

  22. So Mindy, your entire scope of knowledge on this issue is what you read in this post? Thats a pretty small scope of knowledge.

    I'm not trying to pile on here. I admit, if all I knew about the issue was reading this post and/or the Reader article, I would probably wonder why the hoops are being taken down, too.

    But a few of us posting here live right by the park. We see what goes on when the hoops are up. We see the problems that exist and we are trying to deal with them as best as possible.

    Taking rims down won't solve any larger problems. But it will give the little children and toddlers a safe place to play. The park was intended for kids 12 and under. Bigger kids can walk or ride a bike to another basketball court.

  23. Mindy - Come check out how pleasant it is living next door to the park..... (sarcasm) Regardless of the post it's pretty accurate.

  24. Ray-

    I am not wondering why the hoops were taken down nor am I wondering why they were put back up. I was simply asking the person who wrote the original UU post a question...I basically wanted to know if the gang kids she saw on Sunday afternoon were doing something illegal.

    I am aware of the entire scope of the issue. I've heard booth sides, read the article(s), read the UU posts, etc...

    The UU post "Basketball Controversy Goes On and On" did not address what the teenagers in the park were doing that was illegal or dangerous. It simply stated that gangs were hanging out in the park. My question to the author was "What were the teenagers doing in the park that was illegal or harmful to the neighborhood on Sunday October 23, 2011 that made you call the alderman's office out of concern the following day?"

    That was my original question. Still no answer from the author.

  25. Mindy - Read some of the posts from those of us who live here and you'll know what's going on here. I've noted some and Uptown Guy noted some. Or, as I have repeatedly suggested, why don't you check it out yourself. Even without the gangs, the kids are all typically without guardians and "rowdy" is a nice way to explain their behavior. Here's one example: A few days ago some kids were trying to tear down the fence...apparantly, it's just too much work to walk around to the gate. I suggested that wasn't such the best idea and was basically told where to go. Sure, I don't want my kids to hear or pick up on that type of language but, even more, I don't want the fence down.

  26. My $0.02: if the teenagers in question were gang members, one might argue that alone is harmful to the neighborhood.

    As unfortunate as it may be, history has demonstrated that with gang loitering, it is not a matter of "if" something harmful is going to happen, but "when".

    Probably the best thing to do on this matter is for the alderman to host a meeting with those living in the immediate area, only those living in the immediate area, and hash it out.

    When that's done, put it to a vote and then abide by the will of the people.

    With contested issues such as this, allowing anyone not directly affected have any influence, or make any sort of decision on the matter is unacceptable.

  27. @Mindy. My fault. I didn't catch your original question. And from your angle it seemed like you weren't aware of all the issues. That was just my assumption, obviously incorrect.

    I can't say what the original author saw on that particular day. I can however tell you what I see happen in the park on a regular day to day basis. But, I think I already have.

  28. I like the idea of having a community meeting as Yo said.

    Maybe we can do it, maybe not.

    I have an idea.....

  29. And for MY $0.02....

    JLA has a good point that removing the basketball court [rims] is just putting a band-aid on the real issue. Why? Because all the atrocious behavior and gang activity simply left Broncho Billy for a few months to migrate a couple of blocks away to the corner of Clifton and Sunnyside. While the neighbors around Broncho Billy had a relatively peaceful summer, Clifton and Sunnyside turned into a war zone, with shootings, a murder, unsupervised kids of all ages, fights between teenaged girls, kids vandalizing cars and jumping on top of them, kids refusing to move out of the street for traffic to pass, teenaged girls grabbing (slightly) younger boys by the b*lls in plain sight, drug dealing, street football, vandalism to Truman's new building...I could go on and on. And no one cares. The Alderman came close to accusing the neighbors of expecting him to do everything FOR us (far from the reality); Truman College literally turns its back to us by having nothing but a big wall, a entry they won't use, and surveillance cameras broken by the kids for its "presence" on Sunnyside; the three condo buildings on Clifton are a minority of the residents when compared to the huge number of Section 8 (VOICE) and scattered-site CHA residents who are either part of the problem or afraid to be part of solution because of the threat of we have only a fraction of the all-important "eyes-on-the-street" that other parts of the neighborhood can legitimately boast about. It's convenient to simply push the problems over our way, since we can't keep the problems in high-enough profile for anyone else to give a hoot about.

    So, in some respects, I'm happy to have the problems back over at Broncho Billy--it's quiet for us again. The answer, then, seems to be one of putting the responsibility for solving this where it belongs: with CHA, Voice of the People, and their management companies. THEY are the ones who have marketed their properties to a neighborhood with few recreational choices to keep their child/teen residents busy, off the streets, and out of trouble. It should NOT have to be the responsibility of the neighborhood or the Park District to find options to keep these kids busy...with the millions of dollars given away by Shiller from the Wilson Yard TIF, we've already paid for their Taj Mahal Section 8 housing. Voice and CHA certainly ought to be able to scrape together enough money to put basketball hoops on their own property (the building on the east side of Clifton has a huge back yard that is used for n-o-t-h-i-n-g)...they ought to have enough resources with all our millions we shelled out to put together spaces in their neighborhood buildings and resource centers to offer supervised after-school and summer programs for their resident kids. So where are these programs, and why haven't they happened? Why isn't anyone putting the responsibility where it really belongs?

  30. Yo - Good idea but unfortunately not realistic - the CEO of the park district is in charge of the hoops and made the decision to put them backup despite the alderman's objections.

  31. Yo- Not a good idea. It would only result in a shouting match. This is a very heated issue for those that live around the park.

    The issue with seeing the gang bangers in the park is that they are targets. It would be easy for a rival gang to drive by and shoot at them and an innocent child get hurt. They don't have to be doing anything wrong except that being in the gang makes them targets. There have been numerous murders and shootings within 100 yards of the park in the past 2 years.

    Also, anyway that we can make the neighborhood less appealing to the gangmembers then I'm all for it. Why should they have a place to play basketball? The other part of that is how do you differentiate between the gang members and regular teenage kids and how do you get the police to make that distinction if you call to complain. Removing the rims is the only solution that is guaranteed to work and is the cheapest solution (compared to calling 911 all the time and using police resources). When the rims were down the gang presence on Magnolia was considerably lower. If the kids want to play basketball then work with the Alderman to open up Truman or just go over to Chase Park and play on their outside court (a different gang). If you're not in a gang then you should be able to play there.

  32. the CEO of the park district is in charge of the hoops and made the decision to put them backup despite the alderman's objections.

    That's part of my point. The fact that an appointee over-ruled the decision of an elected official is simply outrageous and flatly unacceptable.

    And yes, this meeting could very well turn into a shouting match. Which, too, would be unacceptable.

    People seriously need to grow the f*** up and realize the value of civil discourse.

    Like Cap did during the Maryville meeting: act like a douchebag, get politely escorted out of the meeting.

    Regardless, a decision which affects the people should be decided by the people who it affects.


    Not by some political stooge sitting all the way downtown who probably had no idea Bronco Billy existed until a few weeks ago when presented with an article from a newspaper he probably never reads.

  33. "Regardless, a decision which affects the people should be decided by the people who it affects."

    I completely agree.

  34. A community meeting would be a great way to move forward on this. If the hoops are up for good we need to find a way to deal with it.

    As far as a shouting match breaking out that won't happen. The first person that shouts gets escorted out and it tales two to Tango.

    I agree with Yo on the absurdity of downtown appointees making heavy-handed/ill-informed decisions for Uptown.

    However.......appointees are appointed by elected officials. So any decisions they make are in the name of that elected official.

    In this case I reckon that would be da Mayor Rahm.

  35. Is there any way possible to get video of the activity going on. Video speaks louder than words. Obviously cant be obvious, but a couple different exsmples should put the matter to rest one way or the other.

  36. So - you will bring your children to the playlot when the basket ball rims aren't there, but feel driven out of the playground when they are there? You feel safer when the rims aren't there, even though those same gang members live across the street? Insane!

  37. BYU, I wonder what you don't possibly get about this.

    basketball hoops = gangs recruiting, foul language within play lot

    no basketball hoops = no gang recruiting, no foul language within play lot

  38. Is the violent crime really a huge problem or is it more the annoyance of having rowdy kids (all kids are like this) near your home.

    Consider these two trends:

    Chicago's murder rate for 2010 was the lowest in 45 years, with 435 recorded homicides, the Chicago Police Department said. (source:

    Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. (source:

    What's the larger problem?

  39. I'm so passionate about keeping these hoops that I'd consider organizing a group of volunteers that stand guard at the courts to make sure there is basketball -- and basketball only -- being played.

    Would anyone be interested in this sort of initiative beginning next spring?

  40. JLA..if you are so passionate, why dont you stand out there all fall and winter too? Waiting for good weather is not what the gangbangers do, so your offer is really just a smokescreen that encourages gang activity..

  41. Soon we'll all be up to our backsides in snow and we can complain about something else

    I took my one year old to broncho billy many times this summer and never saw any bad behavior, let alone illegal behavior. In fact, in many ways i think its a much safer play space than chase park, which we also frequent

    However, if the rules restricting the use of the park to younger kids isnt being enforced, lets figure out whose job it is and get on their case. While were at it, lets be fair and get the dogs out of the park at leland and beacon so that my son and i can play safely there.

    Finally, i hope this is a starting point for a discussion of the paucity of public parks sering uptown specifically and chicago generally. Despite the fact that the chicago park district has a budget that dwarfs any national park in america, chicago has less public park space than any other major city in america.

    Ive long suggested that chicago should follow the lead of every other municipality in illinois and replace its appointed park district board with one elected by the voters, with each board member representing two wards

    And then while were on a roll, lets answer the $64,000 question: why does the chicago park district

  42. Davey,

    Davey Clarkin,

    King of the political consultants!

    Which of course is sung to the Davy Crockett theme song.

    So you want to add 25 elected officials?

    Not surprising, huh.

    Since unlike me you're now using your real name and retired your barking nom de guerre, at least on this site, I will be nice to you.

    At least for the moment.

    Don't cross me.


  43. Dave Clarkin, you ole' dog you, former Molly Phelan campaign guru?.. Imagine, you making negative comments towards something that Cappleman has done...LOL... Hey Dave, you know that snow you spoke about, make sure you stay away from the "Yellow" kind...

  44. It seems this whole "controversy" is just turning into a lot of BS.

    Ok...Bronco Billy is a PLAYLOT.

    The "problems" that can affect a playlot do not have to rise to the level of gang activity to make some parents of young children nervous.

    Why do we have age restricted playlots in the first place.

    @ Dave What makes Chase Park less safe then Bronco Billy? It isn't gang activity is it?

    No...Chase Park is all ages and has more traffic. No gang problem but it still made you nervous as a parent.

    Bronco B is a playlot but has a basketball court shoehorned in there, B-ball is a 12 and over sport largely so who is even going to try to enforce the 12 and under rule right?

    Maybe if there is enough energy to solve the issue before the snow melts again in spring is to set-up another playlot.

    If we can't take the B-ball out of a playlot lest take the playlot out of Bronco B. and set-up another space for the little kids.

    Some of the comments against the hoops are hyping up the problems no doubt......BUT......Sunnyside Mall needs a playlot....the natural rowdiness of B-Ball makes some parents that so wrong?

    Let the snow fall so we can star complaining about people who don't shovel.