Problem Solver: Chicago resident trashes city's response over request for trash can

Patrons of late-night bars, restaurants leave Lincoln Park intersection a mess, neighbor says

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It was a quiet Friday morning in Lincoln Park, but the remnants of Thursday night's revelers were still readily apparent at North Halsted Street and West Wrightwood Avenue.

A crushed Sprite can lay on the sidewalk, a shattered Bud Light bottle just a few feet away.

Around the corner, a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrapper fluttered in the wind, pinned beneath a plastic bottle. There was a crumpled brown paper bag, an empty box of Marlboros and a Seattle's Best Coffee cup.

And that, Lauren Baechle said, is nothing.

"The streets are always littered with trash, but it's especially bad on the weekends because of the bar patrons and restaurants that are open late night," she said.

Baechle, who lives nearby, said it's not uncommon to find half-eaten burritos or used hygiene products on the ground.

"I have a small dog who is always picking things up off the street and I have to pull them out of his mouth with my bare hands," she said.

Last year, Baechle began lobbying the city, asking it to install a garbage can at the intersection. The closest public trash cans are two blocks north, at Halsted and Diversey Parkway, or two blocks south at Halsted and Fullerton Avenue.

"This is where all the businesses are that are open late every night," she said. "Drunk people aren't going to walk two blocks to throw away their trash."

Baechle said she sent several emails to Ald. Michele Smith, 43rd, who has an office just one block south of the intersection on Halsted.

"All have gone unanswered," she said.

In November, she posted a complaint about the lack of trash cans nearby on the (now-defunct) website EveryBlock.

Smith's office responded with a message saying they were "actively working on it," Baechle said.

"When I pushed for more information, such as timing, my questions went ignored," she said.

In the months that followed, Baechle sent fresh emails to Smith's office but received no response, she said.

Unable to get an answer, Baechle visited the alderman's office in early September.

"The person working behind the desk took my name and phone number … and suggested that I reach out to the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce since they provided the trash cans on Clark and Lincoln," she said. "I reached out to the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce Sept. 7 and was redirected back to the alderman's office."

Tired of shouting into an abyss, Baechle emailed What's Your Problem? in mid-September.

"Halsted is a major street," she said. "It's not like I'm asking for it on a one-way street that's all houses. Even if we can just get an answer, I'd be satisfied."

The Problem Solver contacted Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city's Department of Streets and Sanitation.

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