Many of you have probably started receiving your W-2, 1099 and other tax forms from your employers. This means that tax season is once again right around the corner. I would like to inform everyone that the City of Chicago offers free tax preparation assistance to eligible working families to help you file your taxes and receive all of the deductions and tax credits to which you are entitled.
Last year, the City of Chicago’s free income tax assistance helped more than 20,000 families and individuals receive over $32 million in tax refunds and credits. This added income not only had a direct impact on the lives of Chicago residents, but it also infused millions of dollars into the local economy.
Families earning up to $50,000 or individuals earning up to $25,000 are eligible to take advantage of the City’s free and confidential income tax assistance at 20 sites across Chicago. Volunteer tax preparers certified through IRS-approved training will assist them with federal and state income tax returns for the 2014 tax year. Most sites will be open until April 15.
In addition to the tax filing assistance, the City will help you determine if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a benefit for working people who have low to moderate income. During the current tax season, eligible individuals and families with children can receive up to $6,750 in income tax credits, but many eligible Chicagoans may not claim all the income tax credits they deserve without the help of knowledgeable preparers.
For more information about how to access free tax assistance, please visit the City’s tax assistance website at www.TaxPrepChicago.org
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) just released a revised school year calendar to make up for the weather-related class cancellations earlier this month. School will now be in session on Friday, January 30 and Wednesday, June 17 – days which were not previously scheduled for student attendance.
As a result of this change, Wednesday, June 17 will now be the last day of school for CPS students and June 18 will be the official beginning of summer vacation.
On Wednesday, at the monthly City Council meeting, my colleagues and I passed a new ordinance that will make landlords more responsible for their properties and help eliminate problem buildings from our neighborhood and the rest of the City of Chicago.
The new ordinance, officially called the Eri’ana Patton Smith and Coleman/Clark Kids Tenant Protection Ordinance, is named after and dedicated to the memory of four precious children who were killed in a fire in a Roseland building without working smoke detectors. The death of these children was a horrible tragedy. Hopefully, this new ordinance will prevent this kind of senseless loss from occurring again in the future.
The new ordinance creates a publicly-viewable list of building code scofflaws and institutes stiff new penalties for the identified problem landlords. The first edition of the Problem Landlords List will be published on the Building Department’s website by this Monday, January 26. The City will also send letters to landlords that appear on the list to notify them of their violations and the new penalties they may face if they do not bring their buildings into compliance.
The list will identify residential building owners who are repeatedly cited for failing to provide tenants with basic services and protections, such as adequate heat, hot water, and working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Landlords will find themselves on the Problem Landlords List if they have been found liable in two or more Administrative Hearing cases within a 24-month period and they have three or more serious building code violations.
In addition to the public list, the ordinance provides for a number of penalties against identified landlords that will force them to shore up their properties and bring them into compliance with the law. Building owners who appear on the list will not be able to obtain business licenses, receive zoning changes, acquire city land or receive financial assistance like Tax Increment Financing (TIF), or obtain building permits not related to addressing their violations.
The most serious offenders, who have already been found liable by a hearing officer or a judge and have failed to comply, could be subject to forfeiture or receivership to third parties who can provide for the safety and welfare of the residents in their buildings.
In 2014 alone, the Building’s Department issued thousands of violations for potentially life threatening building code infractions throughout the city. This new ordinance is an important step in stemming this tide and making problem landlords responsible for their properties.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Debra L. Silverstein
Alderman, 50th Ward
Municipal Election Update
A Municipal Election will be held on February 24, 2015. The deadline to register to vote is this Tuesday, January 27. If you are not registered, you can do so online here
. You can also register in person at the Board of Elections at 69 W. Washington Street on the 6th Floor. Make sure to bring two forms of ID with you, at least one of which shows your current address.
Your voting options are as follows:
- Vote Early
- Vote by Mail / Absentee Ballot
- Grace Period Voting
- Vote on Election Day: Tuesday, February 24
Residents can vote at any of the city’s 51 early voting locations from February 9 through February 21. The early voting hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Select locations have Sunday and evening hours. Please click here
for a complete list of early voting locations.
The early voting location for the 50th Ward is Warren Park – 6601 N. Western Ave.
Voting by Mail / Absentee Ballot:
Anyone can vote by mail. To receive an absentee ballot, please download an application here
. Completed applications must be mailed or returned in person to the Board of Election Commissioners, 69 W. Washington, by February 19 (January 27 for overseas voters).
The Board of Election Commissioners will then mail a ballot to the address listed on the application. Follow the instructions on the ballot to mail it back.
Grace Period Voting:
If you miss the January 27 deadline to register, you can still take advantage of Grace Period voting. From January 28 through February 21, voters may register, update their address or file name changes during the Grace Period.
To take advantage of this option, you can register at any of the 51 Early Voting locations throughout the city. You will then be required to immediately vote during that same visit.
Voting on Election Day:
The Municipal Election will be held on Tuesday, February 24. You can vote at your home polling place between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. To find your polling place, please click here
for a map of the 50th Ward with all of the election precincts.
Chicago Blackhawks Hockey Clinic
Children ages 6-12 are invited to participate in a free ice hockey skills clinic sponsored by the Chicago Blackhawks. Ice skates, equipment (sticks, gloves, shin and elbow pads and helmet) and instruction will be provided at no cost. No prior ice skating experience is required.
Registration is in-person at the clinic. Dates are subject to change based on the NHL’s schedule. The schedule is as follows:
Saturday, January 24
11 a.m. - noon (ages 6-9)
noon - 1 p.m. (ages 10-12)
For more information, please visit the Chicago Blackhawks website here
Ice Skating at Warren Park
Get ready for a fun winter of skating in the parks! Work off that extra winter weight by visiting the Chicago Park District’s (CPD) outdoor ice skating rinks at Warren Park and throughout the city. Skating season runs through March 1.
In addition to open skating, the park also offers fun programming for the entire family, including introductory skating lessons, Pond Hockey games for all ages and more competitive pick-up Rat Hockey games for adults.
For a complete schedule of skating hours and programs, please visit the Park District’s website here
Polar Adventure Days
It is winter in Chicago – come out and enjoy it! Have fun while enjoying all the wonders of nature at the tenth annual Polar Adventures Days at Northerly Island.
Explore Northerly Island and come face-to-face with live animals, engage in winter activities and create nature-inspired crafts. Dress for the weather as events take place both outdoors and inside the visitor center.
The free events this year are on three Saturdays during the winter, from noon to 4 p.m. One day has already passed, but there are still two more great opportunities to experience this fun and free event. The two remaining dates are January 24 and February 21.
Northerly Island is located at 1521 S. Linn White Drive, on the Museum Campus. Limited parking is available for $3, cash only, during Polar Adventure Days. For more information, call (312) 742-PLAY (7529).
Holiday Donation Drive
The 50th Ward Office will serve as a drop off location for Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer’s Holiday Donation Drive. All donations dropped off between now and January 30 will help women in the Cook County criminal justice system.
The 50th Ward Office can accept the following items: travel size shampoo, conditioner or lotion; full bars of soap; small combs; white socks, composition books; and Christmas cards with stamped envelopes.
For more information, please contact Commissioner Gainer’s office at (312) 603-4210 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Parent Leadership Workshops
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will be holding a series of parent leadership workshops on Saturday, January 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The workshops are open to all CPS parents, and lunch will be provided.
These workshops will be your opportunity to learn about the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP), Student Based Budgeting (SBB), Student Assessments, English Learner Supports, Early Childhood Education and the We Day for Service Learning.
The workshops will be at Jahn Elementary, 3149 N. Wolcott. For more information, please contact Jane Norton at (773) 456-9703 or email@example.com, or Les Kniskern at (773) 230-4084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior Safety Seminar
The Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Fire Department, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) and the Department of Family services will be hosting a special Senior Safety Seminar.
At this event, experts from many city agencies will discuss both personal safety and safety in the home. Senior Safety Ambassador Handbooks will also be distributed.
The Senior Safety Seminar will be on Wednesday, February 4 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway.
Winter Energy Assistance Resource Fairs
Winter can be difficult for many Chicago residents, especially those struggling to pay their heating bills. To help you through this time, Peoples Gas, ComEd and many other agencies will participate in a series of resource fairs this winter for customers struggling to pay their heating bills.
Representatives from Peoples Gas, the Community Economic and Development Association (CEDA), ComEd and human services agencies will provide residents with information on energy assistance and other resources. CEDA will take applications for energy assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Share the Warmth program.
Customers also can learn about rebates for high-efficiency products and sign up for the Peoples Gas Home Energy Jumpstart Program, which provides free energy-saving products such as programmable thermostats, showerheads, faucet aerators, pipe insulation and CFLs.
The resource fairs will be on the following dates:
February 7, 2015
Iglesia Cristiana La Casa del Carpintero
1651 N. Kedzie Avenue
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
March 14, 2015
Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences
3857 W. 111th Street
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Residents who are unable to attend a fair can apply at a CEDA intake site. To find a location near you, please click here
or call (800) 571-2332.
Senior Enrichment Seminar - Landlord/Tenant Matters
Join the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Elder Justice Center for a senior enrichment seminar to learn about landlord-tenant matters and how to effectively manage the court process. This free event will feature lectures by the Honorable Leonard Murray of the Cook County Circuit Court, Lawrence Wood of the Legal Assistance Foundation and Taft W. West of the Community Investment Corporation.
The event will be on Tuesday, February 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 W. Washington Street, Courtroom 2005.
To register for the event, please contact the Elder Justice Center at (312) 603-9233.
Nature and Garden Arts and Crafts Fair
The Northtown Garden Society is holding a Nature and Garden Arts and Crafts Fair in May to raise funds for its community service and educational programs. The Society is currently seeking artists and crafters to sell their creations at the fair. If you are interested in participating, the deadline to apply is February 28.
The fair will be held indoors in the gymnasium at the Warren Park Field House, 6601 N. Western, on Saturday, May 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The theme of the fair is Nature and Gardening, so all art works need to depict gardening or nature or, in the case of soaps, candles, jewelry or foods, be made of natural products. The fair will feature all media, including paintings, woodworking, textiles, soaps, ceramics, mosaics, photography and jewelry.
For more information, please visit www.northtowngardensociety.org
Help Fight Crime Anonymously Via Text Message
The Chicago Police Department created the TXT2TIP program so that you can anonymously and safely help rid your community of crime by sending information to the police via a text message from your cellular phone.
TXT2TIP allows the public to send tips (including pictures, video or audio) via text message about criminal activity to the Chicago Police Department from any cell phone. Cook County Crime Stoppers is offering rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to arrests.
To submit a tip via text message, simply text 274637 (CRIMES). In the message box, type the word CPD, a space, and then your crime tip information. You will automatically receive a system generated message back acknowledging your tip. Your identity will not be sent to the Chicago Police Department.
If you see a crime in progress or need to report an emergency, call 911 – do not use the TXT2TIP program.
For more information, please visit www.chicagopolice.org/TXT2TIP.
ComEd Help For Veterans and Active Military Personnel
In addition to its regular financial assistance programs, ComEd has funds dedicated exclusively for Veterans and active military personnel.
ComEd’s CHAMP (ComEd Helps Activated/Veteran Military Personnel) program provides bill-payment assistance to deployed members of the military and veterans who reside within ComEd’s northern Illinois service area and demonstrate a need.
CHAMP offers a package of benefits, including bill payment assistance of up to $1,000 while funds are available, deferred payment plans, extended payment due dates, cancellation of late charges, deposit reduction/or refund and budget payment plans.
For more information, please visit ComEd’s website here
. For information about the rest of ComEd’s assistance programs please visit www.ComEd.com/CARE
or call (888) 806-CARE (2273).
Monday, January 26
WhenMon, January 26, 5pm – 7pm
Where2949 W. Devon ()
DescriptionOpen office hours to meet the Alderman. Please call 773-262-1050 to confirm the Alderman will be available.
Thursday, January 29
WhenThu, January 29, 5pm – 8pm
Where111 S. Michigan Avenue Chicago IL 60603 ()
DescriptionThe Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. http://www.artic.edu/aic/
WhenThu, January 29, 5pm – 8pm
WhereNavy Pier -- 700 East Grand Avenue ()
DescriptionThe Chicago Children's Museum is free to all visitors every Thursday evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Target Free Family Nights. For more info, visit www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org