Hoop Jumping

When it comes to politics, basketball-playing kids finish last.

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One of Glenville's most important community - development projects. - Walter  Novak
One of Glenville's most important community development projects.
The boxes of new Nikes take up half a city block, their sunlit swooshes shimmering like a school of bluefish. Sometime before dawn, a couple of hucksters decided to turn the weed-cracked parking lot on East 105th Street into Ed and Joe's Fly-by-Night Shoe Warehouse.

It's a spectacle that doesn't please Sabra Pierce Scott, councilwoman for Ward 8 since January, as she passes by in an SUV. "They need permits to do that," she says briskly, making a mental note to notify police. East 105th Street could really use some thriving new businesses, but illegal trafficking in designer footwear wasn't what she had in mind.

A former banker and city planner, Scott doesn't tolerate rule-breakers. She firmly believes in the power of a clean desk and properly filled-out paperwork, and she's quick to point out those who don't comply. Like the group of merchants who recently complained about a rash of robberies on St. Clair. If they expect city leaders to listen to their concerns, they'd better have all their stamps licked and pages numbered.

"Some of these businesses don't have their articles of incorporation," she says with dismay. "They don't have all their 5013c's. We have to get them organized and up to speed with these legal issues before everybody gets to the table."

Even the do-gooders in the ward are slacking, it seems. Glenville parents Ray and Diana Reid run a youth basketball league every summer, volunteering their weekends for the task. They started the Glenville Summer Tournament 12 years ago, after noticing that once vacation started, the neighborhood kids were reduced to amusing themselves by peeling gum off the curb.

In past years, the tournament has received $14,000 in block grant money, which goes toward security, referees, trophies, and T-shirts for the hundreds of kids who participate. Scott says she wants to fund the program this year, but claims the Reids just can't get it together long enough to collect the names and addresses of all those involved.

"I need to know who's participating," she says. If some players hail from other wards, their council reps should chip in. "It's the way council works. Maybe this program wasn't scrutinized for merit and value before I was elected. But I have to know what we're getting back."

That's not quite the whole story, though. The Reids have collected vitals on their players since they first bought nets for the naked hoops at the city's Glenview Park. They've submitted proposals and budgets to get city money in the past and accounted for every cent they spent.

They thought Scott was asking for the ward each player lived in, which was something they didn't track. Diana called the city several times asking for a ward map, but she couldn't get an accurate one that reflected last year's redistricting.

Weeks went by, and still no map. By then it was mid-June, and the T-shirtless teams had already started their season. The Reids invited Scott to a game, hoping she would forgo the cartography exercise after she saw how much the league meant to the kids, about 90 percent of whom live in Glenville. "Until they go back to school in the fall, this is the one thing they have," says Ray, a professional videographer for the United Church of Christ. "It's the one positive thing in their lives."

Scott was only wondering where her list of addresses was. "I thought I was just asking for something simple," she says. "Apparently, they have trouble with the mere fact that I asked for that list. This community needs to know how this is benefiting our youth with some numbers."

Diana called Scott once more, only to find that she really wanted addresses, not wards. The Reids promptly sent over a master list and another invitation to a game. "I wanted to clean the slate with her," Diana says. "I wanted her to know we're not going around telling the kids she's the reason they're not getting T-shirts."

Bill Patmon, Scott's predecessor, "did come down and meet people," says Diana. "We wanted to have that kind of relationship with [Scott]."

But the season's almost over, the Reids haven't seen Scott at a game, and the $14,000 is still in limbo. The Reids have been able to buy trophies for the closing ceremony, thanks to a $2,000 loan from the United Church of Christ. "I hated to ask them," says Ray. "They've already given us grants up the ying-yang."

Diana tried to follow up again last week, but Scott's secretary said the fortysomething councilwoman was too tired from the Glenville Festival a few days earlier to talk.

Besides, she's got tons of meetings to attend at City Hall, being on five council committees. "Those meetings alone take up half my week," Scott says with a sigh. Interacting with her constituents "is the part of my job I miss most."

She's also very busy with the least populated section of her ward, the golden vein that flows from University Circle to the lakefront. The big questions in that part of town include "Should we convert a bird sanctuary into a public nature center?" and "Would the creek widening damage precious stonework in Rockefeller Park?"

She recently offered $1,000 in ward money to help replace stolen plants in that park's Cultural Gardens. When garden volunteers scoffed at that amount, she not only didn't make them jump through hoops, she quickly coughed up $10,000.

Most of the gardeners don't even live in the ward. "There needs to be a reality check," Ray says, noting that he's starting to wonder if Scott's losing touch with the people who elected her. "Whatever we do, we do for the kids."

He still hopes she comes to see a game. "Just the fact that there was a problem -- wouldn't you say, 'Let me go down and check that out for myself and see what's going on, instead of sitting behind my desk. Let me see the program for what it is'?" Of course you would, unless there's a big shoe-sting going down or a can't-miss function over at the bird sanctuary.

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