Waukegan, North Chicago put partnership to work
By Long Hwa-shu For Sun-Times Media September 29, 2013 11:56AM
Volunteers spruce up the streets in North Chicago and Waukegan. Here “Al” from F.I.S.T. is raking while Joe Napolitano, economic development director, uses a weed trimmer. | TINA JOHANSSON~FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: December 2, 2013 3:32PM
Instead of being rivals, the mayors of the neighboring cities of Waukegan and North Chicago have chosen to be partners, working toward the common good.
Not mere empty talks. Side by side, they began painting a giant mural together Saturday as part of a beautification project for 10th Street, the dividing line between the two cities.
“For the two cities to grow, the best way to achieve it is by working together,” said North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham as he dipped his brush in a can and applied the paint on the mural on a wall on 10th Street at McAlister Avenue.
“We border with each other and share the same lakefront,” he pointed to the commonality.
“We are friends,” said Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley of his counterpart, busy with his brush as he gingerly filled out the mural’s outlines, stroke by stroke.
“We want to work with each other for the good of our two communities,” he added.
Asked if he was good with a brush, he modestly replied, “I’m good at filling gaps.”
As they painted, they bantered and swapped their experiences of being dunked at community events in their respective cities.
The huge, 18-by-12 mural was designed by artists Shelly Johnson, Dave Motley and Patrick Tufo — the latter who has a studio in downtown Waukegan. Motley and a group of volunteers prepared the wall by painting it white several days ago.
The mural, with “partnership at work” as its theme, carries the words: “Welcome to the 10th St. Business District, Working Together Works.” It has the sun rising from the lake as its background. The mural also bears the municipal seals of the two cities. While the mayors started the project, it would take several days for the three artists and volunteers to finish it.
10th Street used to be a bustling neighborhood with a bank, a hardware store and other retail shops. As Waukegan Ald. Sam Cunningham said, “We can’t bring back the old glory, but we can build on its solid base.” Right across the street from the mural stands a restaurant newly painted in an eye-catching combination of red and white. Its specialty is tantalizing catfish.
“I wish it was open,” one of the volunteers was heard saying. But it was not yet even 10 a.m. at the time.
“It’s great for the two cities to unite. Together, we’ll make a difference,” North Chicago Ald. Carl Evans commented succinctly.
Picking up trash along 10th Street was North Chicago Ald. Torrance Markham. “We do routine cleanup in the neighborhood every Saturday,” said Markham who is pastor of the nearby Greater St. James Church.
“We’re not trying to change the world. Rather, we want to start small by sprucing the block,” resonated Joseph Napolitano, North Chicago economic development director, as he was weeding the sidewalk with a power whacker.
Joining in the cleanup were three Marines from the Great Lakes Naval Base. “Somebody has to do it,” said Harold Shores, 25, of Los Angeles.
“I want to help make the community a better place to live,” said fellow Marine Christian Granados, 29, formerly of Buffalo Grove.
Among other groups that sent volunteers to the project were the Navy, the College of Lake County, the Exchange Club and the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, according to Rachel Cope, the organizer who is with AmeriCorps, a federally-funded community service organization.