Letters to the Editor

Hyde Park Target is missing the mark

To the Editor: 

While I welcome the resurgence of 53rd Street as a shopping and dining destination, there are certain enhancements I question. I guess I always envisioned that business vitality would take the form of a plethora of interesting, unique, independent small retail shops and restaurants. And, yes, I am a big fan of several of the new eateries – namely, The Promontory and Hyde Park Taco Station, both of which seem to embrace the diversity of our community and appeal to a broad spectrum of folks – all ages, all races, town and gown alike. But the new retail establishments seem to be dominated by nationals and just smaller boxes of Big Boxes. Oh, I’d like somewhere to buy shower curtains and bed linen; unfortunately that place is not our new mini Target. Aside from being housed in the most butt-ugly building in Hyde Park, it seems to offer just more of what we already have – fast food, packaged liquor, pharmaceuticals, and mass-market, run-of-the-mill commodities– more a glorified K-Mart than the Minneapolis-based Target where I have shopped and which offers basic durable goods at affordable prices. Then what did we expect they’d plop down in our neighborhood? I realize we’ve already chased away some of the more promising pop-ups, who were at least offering quality specialty product: Comfort Me, Red Balloon, etc. They tried out Hyde Park and Hyde Parkers cast their ballots – and, as the politicians are want to say, “Elections have consequences.” Or as my own son likes to say, “The peoples get what the peoples want.” So for all of you throwing yourselves and your dollars at the door of our new quasi Target, you need to know you are voting and your votes do count.

Nancy Stanek,
Owner of Toys et Cetera for 41 years
Hyde Park resident for 54 years

Some transparent questions about transparency

To the Editor:

There have been calls in these pages for more transparency about Jackson Park plans, and for more transparency about transparency. Let me be transparent. Since I moved to Hyde Park in 2002, I have come to love Jackson Park for its animals, from dragonflies to birds to coyotes. Before I moved here, I didn’t know that most of the species I’ve been able to see here even existed, and the idea that I could find them on the South Side of Chicago would never have occurred to me. I discovered them mostly through the regular Saturday morning bird walks, which have been held almost continuously since the 1970’s when Doug Anderson started leading them. The bird walks are unique in the country: they’re free, year-round, and welcoming to all.

So when Ms. Vandervoort asserts in a Letter to the Editor that “No one would want Jackson Park to revert to the original … swamps and swales of more than 150 years ago….”, I am not so sure that is true. I suspect the birdwatching (and fishing) in the area were better then. But that’s a false choice. The park exists in its current state, the Darrow Bridge still needs fixing, and the Presidential Center will be built here.

As we move forward, though, real questions remain. First, where should Jackson Park be placed on a spectrum that runs from untouched wetlands to paved amusement park? I favor the more natural side. The Army’s Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration project has mostly pulled in that direction. The accommodation of Olmstedian vistas in the Army’s restoration, the plans for a music venue in the park, the placement of a large steel sculpture on Wooded Island, the siting of the Presidential Center, and now, perhaps, the upgrading of the golf course, are pulling in the other.

And who decides? I’ve only lived in Chicago for twenty years, so I’m still learning how such decisions are made. From my naive viewpoint, though, I am not clear how Yoko Ono and Tiger Woods ended up at the forefront of the planning. In the interests of transparency, can the powers-that-be tell us if there are any additional celebrities lined up to design more of the park?

I do have some simpler questions. How much will the golf course upgrade cost Chicago taxpayers? I have read that the project will cost $30M, not including two major underpasses, with 80 percent of that $30M coming from private sources. So can we assume the city’s tab will be $6M plus the cost of the two underpasses? How much will each of those cost? Can Tiger Woods tell us how many of the mature trees lining the current golf courses will need to be chopped down? Can he tell us whether or not the upgrade will result in more or less herbicides and pesticides being applied on the course, right next to our beaches and water supply?

I would have naively hoped I wouldn’t have had to write this letter asking these questions. My expectations for transparency are that someone in authority would demonstrate that he or she is simultaneously thinking about a comprehensive, affordable plan that will, among other items, accommodate the traffic of a PGA tournament, get the Darrow Bridge repaired, make intelligent use of both the 63rd Street Beach House and the South Shore Cultural Center, preserve soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, relocate the running track and football fields, upgrade the Jackson Park fieldhouse, appeal to dog owners and fishermen, move tourists between the MSI and the Presidential Center, and not compromise either the Army’s ecological restoration project, other natural areas, or the environment generally, all without horrifically disrupting the surrounding schools, churches, businesses and residents.

But I have not seen such a plan yet, so, in the interests of transparency, I have to ask.

Eric Ginsburg

Jackson Park Issues: When words have meaning, or don’t

To the Editor: 

What? More transparency? Haven’t we been hearing that word a lot these days from a coterie of so-called Jackson Park supporters asking for more transparency from officials and community representatives involved in restoration of our lovely but somewhat run-down Jackson Park? This, despite numerous public meetings held over the past two years where proposals have been vetted, questions asked, and clarification provided again and again.

Hyde Park is indeed fortunate to have excellent ecologists, urban planners, and Olmsted experts involved in the future of Jackson Park, the loveliest feature of Chicago’s south side. Yet, there are those who profess to have expertise in areas of forestry, wildlife management, and park use – or non-use – - who reject the goals of professionals deeply committed to the true role of this south side jewel. Some local residents even advocate benign neglect which, as we all should recognize, resulted in many of the problems besieging the park over the past half-century and more.

Some individuals bemoan the relocation by trained wildlife experts of beavers that come visiting from points south, chewing down mature trees lining Jackson Park lagoons. Ironically, these are the same folks who object to replanting of bur oak saplings in fear that the resultant density of these sturdy trees will lead to overcrowding and disease. Never mind that these oaks are descendents of trees that have thrived since woodpeckers carried their ancestral acorns north as the last ice sheet withdrew nearly 15,000 years ago.

Other terms distorted by the naysayers are plan vs. concept. A pavilion has been conceptualized, but not yet formally planned for the Music Court, southeast of the Museum of Science and Industry. Might one ask if it would not be better to have musical performances, even if loud, tightly focused and monitored in one locale rather than emanating from huge, generator-powered speakers scattered at random throughout the park?

For these folks, transparency has become a euphemism, even a subterfuge for their inability to recognize a good thing when it is presented to them. No one would want Jackson Park to revert to the original mosquito-infested morass of swamps and swales of more than 150 years ago when the great landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted with his partner Calvert Vaux produced its original design. Today, Jackson Park is on the verge of becoming a truly great park for all people. Olmsted designed parks as elegant, natural venues where all peoples could come together to promote the spirit of democracy. This is the destiny of Jackson Park. This is the destiny for us all.

Frances S. Vandervoort
Jackson Park Advisory Council
Nature Trail Steward

Questions about Jackson Park Golf Course

To the Editor: 

Surprise! You no doubt know by now that our Mayor and his hand-picked Park District CEO Mike Kelly have announced a surprise holiday gift to us all – the pending establishment of a public/private partnership to raise $30 million to convert the existing Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses into a single 18-hole professional championship-caliber golf course by 2020.

Questions abound:

  • Transparency?  Although rumors about this have been floating, where was the transparent public process?
  • Community input?  If this were to happen, it would have a massive impact on the park and surrounding community, especially in South Shore.  What does the community want?
  • Process?  While the announcement has the air of a “done deal,” can the Mayor and his appointed Park District CEO really do anything they want in Jackson Park, as appears to have been the case with the Yoko Ono Sky Landing sculpture?  Wouldn’t this need, at the minimum, approval by the Park District Board, albeit also hand-picked by the Mayor?
  • Priorities?  Mike Kelly says that the goal is to use $6m of taxpayer money.  Why should this take priority over other pressing Jackson Park needs?  A new or at least renovated field house?  Repair of broken paths?  Accessible bathrooms?  What about adverse impacts on the existing golfers, who could well be priced out, and on other uses and users in the rest of the park?
  • Environmental impact?  And how about an environmental impact analysis?  Golf course construction typically means killing all existing plant material and taking the area down to bare soil.  A heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers is required to keep golf courses in championship shape.  All of these factors need to be explored, and publicly discussed.

To sum up: While not yet a certainty, this appears to be yet another step in a money-driven process of divvying up historical Jackson Park into segments without regard to the integrity of the Park, to the current, diverse local uses and users, or to the long-term impact on the community.  Instead of moving ahead, action on this project should be halted until there has been a unified, comprehensive planning process addressing the future of the entire Park, including the Obama Presidential Library – a planning process that is transparent and includes robust and substantive community engagement.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch

Thank you for the WhistleStop article

To the Editor:

Thank you for your December 14th article on the relaunching of the WhistleStop program. The  two articles, on robberies near campus and the shooting in Cornell Park, are prime examples of why WhistleStop is needed and effective. Very likely, people blowing whistles would have alerted the police more quickly, enabled someone to get a license number, and/or scared away the assailants.

WhistleStop is a long-standing neighborhood safety program, originally instituted in 1972 by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference with support from Hyde Park Bank. The program is designed by providing easy way for people to see signal for help. It combines three basic principles: 1) Individual action: I can signal for help and get it 2) Neighborhood action: we can help protect one another, and 3) Citizen Police action: we can assist the police effectively.

The procedure is simple: carry a WhistleStop whistle with you at all times, preferably in your coat pocket on your key ring. If you hear a whistle, call the police, blow your whistle, keep blowing, and move towards the sound of the whistle you heard. If you are in trouble, get to safety, call the police, and blow your own whistle repeatedly to signal others for help. If you see trouble happen, call the police, blow your whistle, keep blowing, and move towards the scene. Summarized, the procedure is Call-Blow-Ho.

The HPKCC Safety Committee is currently in the process of recruiting more sites for whistle purchases- Kimbark Beverage Shoppe and Toys Etcetera have been added to the list- and purchasing more whistles. We will also be coordinating a WhistleDay Safety Event with the U of C Police Department as soon as possible. We genuinely need more volunteers for the Committee, especially those who could help with publicity, including on the various social media outlets. The WhistleStop program works because the entire community knows about it, knows how it works, and participate in making sure it works. My personal story exists (“How WhistleStop Save My Life “) and PR coordinator could help us get those stories out.

Please look up WhistleStop on the HPKCC web site (Hydepark.org), email tohpkcc@aol.com, or call 773-288-8343.

Best regards,
Stephanie Frankline, from the HPKCC Stafety Committee

Thank you for your help with the Carol and Candles clothing and toy drive

To the Editor:

I am so grateful to the Herald and all of the Hyde Parkers who have contributed to the clothing and toy drive for Carols and Candles, the community celebration taking place in Woodlawn at the Institute at Christ the King, 6401 S. Woodlawn Ave., this Saturday. We are going to have a terrific event, and you will all be a part of it and the giving that will take place there.

The Christmas boxes we placed at First Unitarian Church, 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave., and The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave., have been filled to the brim with winter clothing and toys. We have a wide variety of clothes for adults and children, and some really interesting toys and children’s books. They will all go to good homes on the night of the event.

Carols and Candles is on Saturday, Dec, 17th from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. We will be singing holiday songs and serving free cocoa and coffee. A candlelight vigil for the future peace and prosperity of our communities will take place as well. There are more details at makepeacechicago.org.

If you haven’t donated yet, the boxes will stay up until the end of the day Friday. Please come out and celebrate our shared prosperity. Working and giving together is how we will create a strong future.

Gabriel Piemonte

Quality public education doesn’t require genius

To the Editor: 

Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator of the musical Hamilton, what First Lady Michelle Obama has called the “the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.” Ask Miranda, a MacArthur Genius Award winner what was the earliest experience that cemented his interest in theatre and he’ll tell you, “[e]very day I am even more grateful that I went to a public elementary school that had art and music next to math and science and they were just equal in the eyes of all.”

It doesn’t take a genius to know that Chicago Public Schools has to educate the whole student in order to develop Chicago’s local talent into the future leaders of the city. This approach to education is on display at select CPS schools. We know the names of elite selective enrollment schools: Whitney Young, Walter Payton, Northside College Prep, Skinner North, Lenart. Whether it’s a science lab, language classes, or theatre programs, you’ll see hopeful parents at the open houses for these schools awed by the possibilities of public education.

Too bad all CPS schools are not designed to fulfill the reasonable expectation that we educate the whole student. Too many schools lack full-time art teachers, librarians, and music teachers. And that’s just the human capital. Too many schools lack a library, fall far short of a 1:1 computer/tablet to student ratio, and are waiting for air conditioning. Many families with economic mobility exercise real choice and avoid sending their kids to such schools.

What’s sad is that it’s widely accepted that CPS exists as a hierarchical multi-tiered school system where the number of quality schools designed to educate the whole student is vastly outpaced by parent demand, and the schools that lack holistic programs disproportionately serve low-income Black and Latino children. Year after year the city, state and general public fail to exercise the political will to reverse this state of affairs. Just last week the state’s legislative veto session closed without the passage of a $215 million bill that would avert the need for additional mid-year cuts to the classroom.

It doesn’t take genius to recognize that we don’t widely educate the whole student because not all students appear equal in the eyes of all.

Alex Breland

Sophia King for Alderman of the 4th Ward

To the Editor:

I believe that I have either lived or worked in the 4th ward almost all of my adult life. I understand that the ward now includes parts of the old 2nd ward, mainly Lake Meadows and Prairie Shores, where my father ran a successful supermarket during my younger days. The entire area of the ward is a dynamic and diverse community that has numerous concerns right now. These concerns include equitable development, quality of public education, and public safety.

As I have grown older and hopefully wiser I see how powerful and important the alderman is to the area that they represent. Very little happens if the alderman shows leadership and vision to bring the community together with a plan. Too often community residents ignore this reality and sit out the election or vote for someone who is not qualified to lead.

The special election to elect a new alderman is coming very soon. We are fortunate to have a candidate who is highly qualified to lead all parts of the ward right now. That person is Sophia King. Sophia has lived in Prairie Shores. She has lived in the Kenwood community. She has been involved in many community efforts as a small business person, a park advisory member, and as a parent. She played a major role in the development of one of the best public elementary schools in Kenwood, Ariel Community Academy. Her background as a teacher allows her to understand how schools actually work in the classroom.

I strongly believe that we need an alderman who has the qualities that Sophia has to push our part of the city to greater things at a key moment. We need someone who understands all areas of the ward and its residents. I urge everybody to vote in this special election and to vote for Sophia King.

Bill Gerstein

We Can Do This

To the Editor: 

The state of the U.S. is $10 billion in debt in unpaid bills now. Chicago, according to the Civic Foundation, is at least $2 billion in debt and $30 billion in pension liabilities short term.

The Federal Government is almost $20 trillion in debt and $120 trillion in pension and other liabilities. A recession is probably coming after the election, and could move into a depression in a short time unless reforms are addressed, from a value added tax on luxury goods to help pay off the debt. And lowering taxes on corporations and small businesses –to get back off—short accounts (not individuals). And pushing wind, solar, ocean currents and other renewables to rebuild our infrastructures and put millions to work, and stop global warming, and prevent the sixth extinction now taking place, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

We can do this. If we don’t do something now the decline will continue.

Michael Gillespie,
Hyde Park resident
Presented at Older Women’s League Meeting on Nov. 5

Halloween Purge was not just kids having fun

To the Editor: 

Honestly, I don’t live in an ivory tower, looking down and pre-judging the situation, as implied by Ms. Hamilton in her comments to the Hyde Park Herald on November 2. I have my feet on the ground but when I saw a crowd of teenagers disrespecting Hyde Park and its residents by throwing eggs, carrying BB guns and paint guns, they were not “just kids having fun and enjoying the neighborhood.” Those kids were breaking the law by disturbing the peace, creating a disturbance and vandalizing property. As disclosed by the Hyde Park Herald on November 9, this was a “move” planned on Facebook by a group of teenagers.
Referring once again to Ms. Hamilton’s comments, I would be afraid to open my door to those vandals.

A concerned Hyde Park resident 

Halloween Purge teens need guidance and positive outlets

To the Editor: 

On Halloween night, I noticed a large group of teens in the McDonald’s parking lot on 53rd. I asked them one by one why they were out so late and their ages. After talking with them, I realized that we must do more to engage our youth in the Hyde Park community and citywide. My ideas are to simply have a technology hub within our community and others across the city. Each hub will include games, education, computers, sports, and a theater. I want the hub to have activities centered around the needs of our youth. I would like to see more parents involved with their children. Some of the children I talked with said that their parents rarely if ever spend time with them, and that has to change. If we want the next generation to be equipped to enter the job market and the world, then we as a community have to provide the means for them to get to the next level.

Sheila Clay
Hyde Park Resident

Eerie climate at school after presidential election

To the Editor: 

I walk down the hallways. A certain eeriness is present. The eeriness that was present when, in seventh grade, I walked the streets of Paris after Charlie Hebdo. It was quiet. The usual sounds were not there. No teachers laughing together over coffee, no students causally watching Netflix on their laptops during free period. Nobody was complaining about homework. No groups of friends were eating microwaved popcorn whilst they did language homework. Everyone was dead silent. Even the lunch ladies, who always encouraged me to smile just a bit brighter, didn’t mention smiling or anything happy. They just rang up my purchase as I left, not smiling. Nobody noticed.

I walked down the hallways. Some seniors were chatting with their usual senior tones, pompous and bright, but of course, they were joking about it. Nobody ever thought that it could happen.

I walked down the hallway to English Class, which has always been my favorite. There was always a vibe of energy, positivity and comfort. I walked over to the room. Some of the usual energy was present, but everyone’s face was drained of emotion. Everyone in the room was frozen. Nobody felt safe. Everyone was talking about it. How to move to Canada. Everyone was stress eating snacks.

The class began. The room was silent. My teacher was trying to keep class positive. She told us that we needed to stand up for what we needed to believe in during these next four years that would not be all rosy. She then told us that all she wanted to do was to have a normal book discussion, and so that’s what we had.

Then, things stayed benign. Still sad, with that same exact vibe. Until advisory time.

Wednesday advisory was the best. We would always eat snacks and drink juice. Just like the good old days. As we all were eating gourmet donut holes and watching inspiring videos, all of our phones beeped.

All ninth graders were to report to the theater.

First, our counselor asked us how we felt. Many people felt scared just like me. The LGBTQ people in our grade talked about how they felt that their rights were deprecating. Other people talked about how their parents had told them that they hold the future. Then, we had a speech from a history teacher about the Electoral College and how everything was going to be OK. Still, nobody was convinced.

Next, I walked into History. We had an extended class period, as we always do on Wednesday. It was quiet. We continued to talk about the win of Trump. We felt devastated. We discussed policy. That is, the people that had not cut school talked about these events. In the hallway after, I heard people talking about fear of deportation of family members.

Where am I living? When?

Aviva Corre

Kenwood Track situation

To the Editor: 

Its not surprising to find out that the athletic field at Kenwood is falling apart and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) won’t repair it. It doesn’t matter who owns the property, it’s about making the track and field better for our local students. As someone who has a great deal of experience in dealing with CPS sports issues/facilities, and their poor record of maintenance of their athletic facilities, its typical of CPS to let this field fall apart.  Many of these same repair/remodeling issues negatively impact Chicago Park District facilities, and I just spoke about this issue at the Chicago Park District (CPD) Board Meeting on November 9, 2016.

I call on the local elected officials to get out in front of this, for its the lack of quality athletic facilities in CPS all across the city for the last 75 years that helped produced the street gangs which started forming in the 1960s or earlier, in such places as Woodlawn, Austin, Logan Square, Englewood, Pilsen, and Little Village, to name a few of our neighborhoods. Few of these neighborhoods even now have the sports facilities they deserve. CPS alone needs at least 25 more 400 meter, Broken-Back tracks, across the city, that have lights for competitive play and artificial turf fields that can accommodate soccer. And at least six indoor, 200 meter tracks for indoor track during the winter.

CPS has the money in the form of TIF dollars, aldermanic menu money, private donations, and the use of advertising banners, electronic signs, etc.. on CPS property to change  the athletic facilities to the excellent condition  that their students both need and deserve. Right now, the Public Building Commission could be repairing and remodeling many CPS athletic facilities, but the mayor whose own high school, New Trier, has excellent athletic facilities, won’t use his power and knowledge of the situation to right the cause. The six CPS owned stadiums are in bad shape, as well as Gately Stadium, which was mysteriously built by the Chicago Park District in 1969, instead of by CPS…..Which has never been properly explained to me.  Meantime, almost every suburban high school has its own stadium, but CPS’ 70 plus high schools have to share seven stadiums, a 10-1 ratio, which is horrible and continues to destroy our students’ sports dreams, to say nothing about the massive Title IX violations of CPS which have gone on for more than 40 years.

As someone who has worked in sports for decades   and at numerous major international sports events, our students are not getting the athletic facilities they deserve  to develop their  own  athletic talent that would help them  obtain college sports scholarships. The poor athletic facilities also drive away good coaches from working in CPS, instead they flee to suburban schools.  This issue isn’t going away,  and as they say, the fish stinks from the head, so you know who to complain to…….

Kenneth  Newman

Congratulations to KOCO for organizing the elected school board town hall meeting

To the Editor:

The Town Hall Meeting about an Elected Representative School Board for Chicago, held at Operation Rainbow PUSH on October 17, was organized and hosted by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), the Lugenia Burns Hope Center, and Action Now, all members of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM). The members of these organizations have been organizing for democracy in education in Chicago for many years and Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education is honored to join them in their efforts. Thank you, KOCO, Hope Center, and Action Now for organizing the powerful evening of testimony and information about an Elected Representative School Board for Chicago. And thank you Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) for championing this issue.

Joy Clendenning

Are we really improving Jackson Park?

To the Editor:

At a Museum of Contemporary Art concert a month ago, Tatsu Aoki advised attendees that he and his ensemble would be playing at the opening of Yoko Ono’s art installation in Jackson Park. He said it would be a gala affair, and advised potential attendees to arrive early because “thousands might be there.”

As a Hyde Park resident and neighbor of Jackson Park, I was anticipating this event. It was held on Oct. 17…”thousands” were not there. In fact, the community, as far as I know, was not alerted nor invited to the event. From post-installation coverage, it appeared that a select few were.

Now, rumor has it that a music pavilion is being considered for our park. Who is making these decisions about our park? I go there once/twice each week, summer and winter. I go because it is one of the few places I can enjoy nature and some tranquility on the South Side of Chicago. I go there to watch birds and be still.

The monies to be spent on the art and Wooded Island “improvement” and reportedly the music pavilion, are reportedly awe-inspiring. (I’ve heard the figure $29 million.) This in a city bereft (reportedly) of funds.

A large part of our park is being used by the presidential library. I hope more is not taken away.

By the way, I did visit the newly opened Wooded Island last week. It’s almost as nice as it was before Project 120.

And the sculpture? I’m a Yoko Ono fan (and probably a jaded curmudgeon) but to me it resembles Klansmen.

Bonnie Brendel