Chicago fire commander Carmelita Earls holds a West Side block party held each year on the final Saturday of August.
The theme: sending children to school with a sense of purpose, and perhaps some needed school supplies and clothes.
"The message with the party is to let the kids know you have celebrated another summer,” Earls said. “we want you to go back to school and do your best."
Since 2007, Earls has organized the back to school block party in the zero-hundred block of North Long Avenue, which is where she lives.
She starts in May by sending this permit request to the 28th Ward alderman's office for permission to close the street.
But this year, something funny happened with that permit.
"We submitted a permit on May 4. Did not hear anything about it,” Earls said. “Went up to the office and did not get any concrete reason as to why we didn't have it."
After months of getting no answers, Earls and her neighbors were recently told they can't have the block party this Saturday, because 28th ward Alderman Jason Ervin is planning his own back to school event that day. It is also sponsored by other politicians.
FOX Chicago tried to question the alderman on camera but he ran into another room at his ward office, leaving his assistant to do the talking.
"We asked them to reconsider,” Tyjuan Cratic said. “Reconsider holding their own event on that day because the alderman was holding a larger 28th Ward back to school parade and picnic."
"It's nice that you're doing something for the community,” Earls said, “But you cannot have a monopoly on August 27, 2011."
But earls said she suspects there's another reason.
Earls said running for election against the alderman changed his decision about allowing the annual block party.
That's right. Earls ran against Jason Ervin for the open 28th Ward seat, and lost. She's currently running for 28th ward democratic committeeman.
"If you want to do something to Carmelita, do something to Carmelita,” Earls said. “Not the children."
"This ward office, this ward organization and this alderman is about service,” Cratic said, when asked about whether politics influenced the block party decision. “Not about anything else."
Now here's where it really gets bizarre.
Before FOX Chicago left, the alderman's assistant produced the permit for Saturday’s block party, approved less than a week ago.
Earls had no idea the permit had been approved, nor was she told she would be receiving it.
“You must be a miracle worker,” Earls said.
Alderman Ervin's spokesman said the head of The Block Club, who is not involved with the block party, told him not to allow the block party this weekend because it would conflict with thier back-to-school event.
FOX Chicago spoke with the block club president last night.
She said while she admires Alderman Ervin, she did not make such a request. She said she felt both events could be held the same day.