Today, I am "loaning" my blog to a friend and South Loop neighbor, Connie Elaine Remkus, who has been "fighting City Hall,"--not to mention Columbia College Chicago--over the college's Manifest Urban Arts Festival that takes place every year in May. Connie lives right in the middle of the outdoor fest--and has to endure loud noise from early morning until late at night during that annual celebration. She writes below of her feelings and her experiences, as she tries to find a solution between Columbia's quest for a successful arts fest--and the needs and comfort of the surrounding community of residents/taxpayers. Bottom line: she says there's way too much noise for way too long in a 24-hour period. And she wants to change that.
by Connie Elaine Remkus
Do you believe you can't fight City Hall--or any entity bigger than yourself? Because of a problem in your community, you complain to everyone that you can about the problem, but don't take any action because you feel you can't fight City Hall. I am all about positive mental activity/action. I am not about complaining and negativizing my neighbors' environment. I try not to complain.
But I feel that I pay a lot of property taxes in Chicago, and there are some things that bug me about certain entities that don't pay any property taxes. But many of us feel that we may not be able to do anything about it.
So this is "my letter to the editor" about my experience in the South Loop.
I kind of have this thing about noise. Not the noise that we get used to hearing--honks, trains, cars, etc. But noise of entities that come out of nowhere, that you weren't aware were going to happen, noise that scares you out of your wits!
That happened to me one Friday morning in 2011, at 5:50 am, when a band started to play. I found out later it was Columbia College's Manifest Urban Arts Festival doing the sound check for their speaker system. That's what jarred me out of my bed at that early hour. It started again later, about 8:30 am, and it was non-stop loud music until well after 9pm. I spent the whole day trying to find out the sound regulations for events in the city of Chicago. I knew that Lollapalooza was not allowed to play this close to human occupancy and, to me, this event was no different.
Security at the event assured me that it would finish at 9 pm. Wrong!!! At 10pm the trucks rolled in, and workers rolled out to take down all of the equipment and stages. This lasted until 4:30am. I called the police, but the cacophonous noise never stopped.
I called the police again later the next day, trying to find out what could be done for next year. I also called Columbia College to complain and offered my services to meet as a liaison to better the event for the community. Never heard from them. I continued to work on the problem.
Manifest happened again in 2012. They did not start their sound checks at 5:50am, but at 8:30 am, and the loud music went nonstop for over 12 hours. Again, they broke down between 10pm and 4:30am. I called the police, but they never showed up. I was told you must be at the site for the police to find you and take action. That option eliminates sleep altogether. Adding insult to injury, the Department of Environment that made the noise rules for the City of Chicago has been shut down by Mayor Emanuel.
I have continued to work on the noise problem, by finding out key information around my South Michigan Avenue neighborhood. Columbia College pays no property taxes--yet they own more than 15 buildings in the South Loop. Couldn't they house Manifest and the loud music inside?
On the other hand, the condo buildings surrounding the event pay more than $6 million dollars in property taxes annually to the City of Chicago--and we are the ones who are subject to the noise for 12-18 hours. To add more insult to injury, we taxpayers end up paying more taxes because Columbia pays no taxes on their buildings; we have to carry the load.
Columbia does state on their Manifest website that it is a "community event." How can that be? The event is on a Friday during the day--and most people are working elsewhere. So basically, the only people who can visit the event are the college people.
I did contact Alderman Bob Fioretti about the noise and the event, and he has definitely said he agrees with me regarding the matter.
The event is due to happen May 17, 2013. This "letter to the editor" is not, by any means advertising this event. I just want people to know that I am being persistent and not giving up on this matter. I feel you can fight city hall--or whoever--and not give up. We shall see what happens next month. Thanks.