To the Editor:
Thank you for your excellent coverage on Jackson Park redevelopment, and for printing diverse points of view about it.
While Ms. McCurry’s detailed letter favors the redevelopment of the present golf course, I would like to propose only one caveat to her detailed text: accountability. I will not delve on other topics that make me worry, such as the Bird Sanctuary. Let’s agree on the fact that the present golf course needs better maintenance, but from this need to converting it into an 18-hole professional turf, there should be more transparency from the CPGA, the Park District, the Alderman and our Mayor on who is going to cover the cost of this gargantuan project.
From our experience, we know that the Park District is very good about planting beautiful gardens, but not so efficient about maintaining other services. The best example is the pending reconstruction of the Clarence Darrow Bridge, which for several years has become a bridge to nowhere. Another example is the lack of benches all over Grant Park, from the Museum Campus to Randolph Street, where seniors cannot visit the park because they find no benches to sit on, except for a few around Buckingham Fountain. That’s too long a stretch for aged legs! With just two examples, who is going to guarantee that Jackson Park, a South Side park, will be maintained properly after the rehabbing, and with whose money? Are the private donors and sponsors committed to maintaining the premises 100%? I don’t think so. Why should they, when they don’t live here? In the meantime, neither the state nor the city is swimming in money, as we all know. Then the cost will be passed to the taxpayers.
When our fiscal coffers are hemorrhaging, our schools lacking enough funds to cover the costs of a decent education and the hiring of dedicated employees, when our public libraries are running on shorter hours and with fewer librarians, why is the Mayor so keen on reconstructing Jackson Park? Is he going to solve parks maintenance by privatizing its care as he did with the CPS? Let’s be realistic. We don’t have the means for such frivolities. I see Jackson Park conversion to a professional golf turf as a pre-election-year ploy. With this project, the Mayor will show off how much he is doing for the South Side, so the residents can forget the many schools he closed.
In ancient Rome, the politicians kept the people happy by providing a loaf of bread and free entrance to the Circus and to the Coliseum spectacles. Jackson Park development is no different, just another form of bread and circuses. Thus, beware of private golf enterprises bearing gifts, especially when the neighbors didn’t ask for it!