Letters to the Editor

Woodlawn wants the Obama Library

To the Editor:

We are neighbors in the Woodlawn community. We need your attention to this most urgent matter. Over the course of the past 12 months, we have been excited and nervously hopeful to learn the Barack Obama Foundation is considering Jackson Park and Washington Park as potential locations for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum (OPL). We emphatically support the use of the Chicago Park District land in our neighborhood for the creation of this institution. And we need our voices on this issue to matter.

We are disappointed that the media continue to sensationalize a handful of naysayers’ comments ahead of our endless pledge of support. The opportunity to house President Obama’s legacy just blocks from our homes is of grave importance for all of our families. Please understand that we do not intend to allow special interest groups to impede the public process and devalue our community’s will. They cannot be allowed to limit our possibilities.

Undoubtedly there is much dialogue about the OPL’s ability to be a catalyst for economic development in our vulnerable neighborhood. But for us the most critical benefit is the human connection that the OPL shall provide to our inner city youth. It’s a presidential library within reach. It helps us all reaffirm to our children and young neighbors that their grandest dreams can become realities.

We feel strongly that our president’s library and museum is a wonderful asset to complement either our Jackson Park or Washington Park site. The OPL shall serve to provide focus and resources to a neighborhood park that sorely needs it. It will be a place, in the heart of Chicago’s South Side, which salutes the first African American president in the history of this country.

We are certain. We would like to allocate 22 acres of park space for this tremendous opportunity for our children and families. We stand united and enthusiastically wish to bring the Obama Presidential Library and Museum to its home on the South Side of Chicago.

Jeane Clark and Maya Hodari
on behalf of neighbors in Woodlawn Ulysses B. Blakeley, Danita Childers, George Davis, Jared Davis, Elizabeth Gardner, Lola Gray, Ursula Gordon, Brian Harris, Judith Hill, Jackie Hudson, Charemi Jones, Teresa Kilbane, Deidre McGraw, Terrence Miller, Wanda Newton, Crystal Nix, David Nuckolls, Eugene Randolph, Ulises Sanchez, Scott Schaafsma, Florence Streeter, Latisha & Paul Thomas, Linda Thomas, David Walker, and Tina Watson

Where’s Toni? — still “staying out of it”

To the Editor:
Toni Preckwinkle has declined to publicly endorse Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for mayor of Chicago. In a public statement, she said, “I’m staying out of it for now.” Preckwinkle is the most respected African American elected official in town. Her endorsement of Garcia for Chicago’s mayor would be honored by many voters, especially African Americans. Garcia needs to poll well with African American voters to win on April 7. If Preckwinkle stays out and Garcia loses the election, it will be in large part because Preckwinkle stayed out and didn’t endorse him.

We desperately need an honest, progressive mayor now. And we need to repair the political alliance between African Americans and Hispanics that has been in disarray since the death of Harold Washington. Garcia was there working with Mayor Washington to unite the people who suffer most from dishonest, elitist government, and to unite all of us who want honest, progressive government. These opportunities — to elect a progressive mayor and to build solidarity across racial lines — don’t come very often. It’s up to all of us who want good government to work for it. Nobody’s going to do it for us. But we’d welcome the power of Toni Preckwinkle’s endorsement of Chuy Garcia for mayor.

I’ve started a petition to encourage Toni Preckwinkle to endorse Chuy Garcia for mayor. As of Monday morning 490 people had signed. Please sign at http://chn.ge/1ELQJQR and pass it along to others.

Jack Spicer

When giving, don’t forget the local

To the Editor:

More than ever, individual philanthropic giving is essential to the success of non-profit organizations. Because headlines often refer to large, high-profile organizations, it is easy to overlook the substantial impact that private donors can make in the lives of local children and families. The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club is an apt example.

Contributions to organizations such as ours often have an immediate and measurable impact. For example, our former board member Gus Swift passed away in December and his wife, Linda, remembered the club in Gus’ obituary. Donations received in Gus’ memory have already helped us kick off a scholarship fund to support low-income children wishing to enroll in our fee-based after-school enrichment programs. In another example, a donor’s generosity last year allowed HPNC to provide swimming lessons to our summer camp children, many of whom have had few opportunities to learn this potentially life-saving skill. Similarly, a recent contribution from the First Unitarian Church allowed us to replace crumbling gym doors through which hundreds of children pass every week.

Philanthropic giving strengthens and enriches everyday life right here in our community. We thank those of you who already have contributed and encourage others to join in giving to our neighborhood’s vibrant charitable organizations.

Bethany Pickens, HPNC Board Chair
Sarah Diwan, HPNC Executive Directir
Miriam Sierig, HPNC Development Director

A vote for Dyett plan from a familiar name

To the Editor:

My name is Dr. Timuel Black and I have lived in Bronzeville for 95 years. Captain Walter Dyett was a very important person within the community who I knew personally for most of those years. The proposal that has been developed by the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School and presented to Ald. Will Burns (4th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel and key decision makers at Chicago Public Schools preserves the legacy of this great teacher and icon of the Black Metropolis known today as Bronzeville.

The Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School proposal preserves this rich and important history and deserves the support of elected officials and all decision makers. The coalition’s proposal enriches the proposed Barack Obama Presidential Library that would be potentially located near Dyett High School. As visitors from around the region, country and world visit the library, the proposed high school developed by the coalition would become an additional source of information that makes it easier for individuals to understand and appreciate the important legacy of Walter Dyett and the Bronzeville community.

The Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School will be a place of art, culture and academic achievement that honors and continues the rich heritage of this important man. Captain Dyett taught and inspired Nat King Cole, Gene Ammons, Dorothy Donegan and many others. He was responsive to the needs of the community and the proposal embodies that. The Dyett plan is an important piece that connects the Presidential Library, DuSable Museum and the high school to the community. It should be noted that the community made the ascendency of President Obama possible. Additionally, First Lady Michelle Obama’s father was a graduate at DuSable High School where Captain Dyett was a teacher.

I fully support the proposal to convert the school into a Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. Many of our youth are in need of inspiration and this proposed plan is exactly what is needed in our neighborhood.

Finally, Walter Dyett was nurtured and profoundly influenced by the community in which he lived. Dyett High School’s future must also be nurtured and controlled by the community in which it exists. The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School is the only group that has done the necessary work over a lengthy period of time that reflects that.

Dr. Timuel Black

Shovel your sidewalks, MAC

To the Editor:

For Hyde Park pedestrians, especially those of us who are older and have balance problems and walk with canes, accumulated snow and ice makes walking more difficult and more dangerous. I’ve been noticing again this winter that MAC Property Management has been deficient in arranging for snow removal in front of some of its buildings, while other companies such as McKee & Poague Real Estate Services, and Marian Realty, seem to have been more responsible in clearing away the snow. Let’s express our thanks to the real estate companies that have been behaving responsibly, and again ask companies like MAC Properties to do their civic duty and clear the snowy and icy sidewalks in front of their buildings here in Hyde Park.

Caroline Herzenberg

Parkland library deal a shameful thing

To the Editor:

I am ashamed of the Chicago Park District Board for not fulfilling their roles as stewards of the parkland, and protecting it from development.

Mr. Tim Black and others have only shown how clueless they are, regarding the value of the park land as open space. They are, and I have a feeling many South Siders are, letting their own personal social/political/racial/emotional opinions override any sense of propriety.

Shame on all of you, who sell our parkland.

You betray Chicago.

John Loftus

Where’s Toni Preckwinkle?

To the Editor:

Toni Preckwinkle has given us honest, progressive government in Cook County for the first time in living memory. If she’d stepped up she could have also given us honest, progressive government in the city of Chicago for the first time since Harold Washington died. If she’d run for mayor she would have won. But she backed away instead.

Chuy Garcia has stepped up for real democracy in Chicago. He can be the honest, progressive mayor we deserve. Imagine honest, progressive government at the county and the city at the same time. Imagine the changes possible in schools, health care, public safety, neighborhood development.

If Rahm the Republican buys the “50 percent plus one vote” he needs to win the primary, he will strangle any chance for progress and for real democracy. That narrow sliver of rich and powerful people will continue to rule for their own self-interest. We need Preckwinkle to endorse Garcia to ensure there will be a run-off. No run-off and we will have no real say in who our next mayor will be. We need Toni Preckwinkle to endorse Chuy Garcia now. Where is Toni Preckwinkle when we need her?

Jack Spicer

Hairston comes through for the little guy

To the Editor:

Readers might benefit from this information when making their choice for alderman.

We live in a co-op apartment building across from Regents Park. Unfortunately, we have been dealing with excessive noise from the new garage doors put in by the rental giant, in a move to eliminate their garage staff. Not only were these new metal doors creating noise each time they were raised or lowered, but an alternative entrance had a sign posted which invited drivers to honk every time they wanted to enter the garage. You might imagine how serious a disturbance this was, day and night.

We had little success when discussing this with the management at Regents, or with MAC Properties. Finally, we called Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5th) office out of frustration and are please to report we have had great success with the help of her assistant Kim Webb, who was empathetic and respectful upon hearing about our dilemma.

Our building’s board has also been responsive and was ready when Kim set up a meeting for residents and board members to sit down with her and two member of the management at Regents Park to address the problem. Webb told them they had to do something about the doors. Her concern was for our neighborhood.

Regents’ management listened — as they had not before. The honking is now minimal and the doors are quieter. Without help from Hairston’s office, we are convinced nothing would have happened.

When David is fighting Goliath, no matter how small the issue might seem to some, having an effective alderman is essential.

Consider voting for Leslie Hairston when you cast your vote this month.

Julie and Art Holmberg

Transit not part of local pols visions

To the Editor:

In the upcoming aldermanic elections, Hyde Park candidates are branding themselves as “independent” and “progressive.” This conveys the idea that these candidates are standing up for the interests of their constituents above those of outside influences. However, the most important economic development issue in our ward is being ignored or actively undermined by our aldermanic candidates: non-motorized transportation.

In 2012, CDOT released the South Lakefront Transit Study to find opportunities for more transit connectivity to the South Side. This was in response to abysmal transit travel times to the rest of the city from the study area, and the Gray Line proposal, a decade-long community effort to turn the Metra Electric line into a frequent rapid transit line. The report so completely fudged the numbers that it estimated the Metra Electric South Chicago branch and mainline north of 63rd Street would serve only 13,300 trips per weekday, up from 8,788 last measured in 2006. The south Lake Shore Drive express buses serve more than 40,000 trips per day. Why, in the wards that would most benefit from rapid, reliable access to our struggling commercial centers, are candidates not standing up to this stonewalling from the city and Metra?

Instead, when our neighbors risk their lives every day crossing two of the most dangerous streets in the city, Stony Island Avenue and 63rd Street, our candidates in the 4th through 8th wards, with the sole exception of Tracey Bey, are campaigning for the removal of red-light cameras. Leslie Hairston would rather spend billions of transportation dollars on a new South Suburban airport. This airport would be 10 miles farther from our ward than O’Hare is now, giving it a near-zero chance of spurring economic development in our ward.

Who are these candidates representing?

Alan Robinson

U. of C. police must divulge information

U. of C. police must divulge information

To the Editor:

The University of Chicago is now operating with significantly expanded police powers and policing an area of the city far larger than its immediate campus. Because of this expansion, the Citizens Action Committee for Fair University of Chicago Policing is focusing attention on the public safety needs and interests of the larger community beyond the campus.

It is becoming more evident throughout the nation that safe, equitable and legal policing practices require transparency of information. Because the university is a private institution, they are not bound by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They have the same powers of the CPD without the accountability. It is important to recognize that the University of Chicago Police Department, although a private institution, is performing an essential governmental function – law enforcement. In this role, the UCPD should be subject to the same standards of transparency as the governmental agency (Chicago Police Department) from which it derives its powers. This would, of course, include the obligation to conform to FOIA requirements, as well the other obligations that apply to the CPD.

A former chief of the University Police stated in a recent public forum that the obligation of a police force is to respond to the needs of the community it serves. Sometimes the private and legitimate interests of the university are in conflict with the safety interests of the larger community. This creates a dilemma that must be faced by both the university and the community. The University of Chicago, along with many prominent universities in the country, has a history of suppressing information about rape in the community even when that information can be used to prevent future rapes. Moreover, statistics regarding crime can be presented in ways that make those statistics reflect a more positive picture than the reality.

Now that the university is assuming the obligation to protect the community from crime and to maintain public safety, we as a community, should expect:

  • The UCPD must put aside the university’s private interests and make the safety of the entire community their primary obligation.
  • The UCPD must agree to fully disseminate information about all current crime patterns throughout the neighborhood. And for the sake of prevention, this information must be disseminated in a timely manner.
  •  The UCPD must commit to keeping statistics that accurately reflect the nature of crimes committed in their area without giving into the temptation to mislead the public.

Open and objective dissemination of information about crimes, accurate publication of crime statistics and FOIA compliance are essential to maintain safe, equitable and legal policing for the entire community. If the university and the UCPD do not commit to all of this, how can we have confidence in them as our police force?

Nina Helstein

Bolden for alderman

To the Editor:

We enthusiastically support Norman Bolden for 4th Ward alderman. Every neighborhood in the city deserves an independent, progressive, effective, accountable alderman, but Hyde Park has a particularly long, proud tradition in this regard.

This progressive tradition, unfortunately, has not continued with Ald. Will Burns. Mr. Burns has consistently supported powerful and moneyed interests over those of his constituents and then cynically claimed otherwise: he did not fight for Dyett High School when the chips were down, then tried to claim credit when community pressure to save Dyett proved effective; he stood (literally) with Rahm Emanuel on a smaller, slower increase to the minimum wage rather than join the progressive push for $15/hour; he very publicly co-sponsored a bill to return some TIF funds to the public schools rather than keeping them as a mayoral/aldermanic slush fund to give to developers, but then rather less publicly avoided voting to move that bill out of committee when it turned out there were enough sponsors to pass it. He did respond with lightning speed to a small handful of particularly well-connected ward residents who objected to a historical preservation plan for two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Kenwood, killing the idea before any meaningful community dialog could take place.

At a recent candidate forum covered in the Herald, Ald. Burns was questioned about joining the Progressive Caucus in the City Council. He responded, “I don’t need a caucus to negotiate with Rahm Emanuel…If I have an issue with the mayor about things that are important to my ward, I talk to the mayor about it.” This is the heart of the matter — Burns believes, as he told Chicago Magazine recently, that “the best negotiations are done behind closed doors.” In our view, that is not a Hyde Park or 4th Ward value and it makes for an alderman who is only effective at getting those things done that the back-room dealers want done. As the Sun-Times recently reported, Burns’s loyalty to Mayor Emanuel has earned him the financial backing of Emanuel’s super PAC Chicago Forward.

Norman Bolden is committed to progressive values. He is beholden to no one and understands the importance of listening to his constituents, not just holding meetings to give the appearance of community input while negotiating the real deals behind closed doors. Norman knows how to lead, how to manage, and how to get things done. He has a long record as a successful businessman in our community, with businesses such as Room 43, home of the Hyde Park Jazz Society’s weekly shows, and the popular Norman’s Bistro on 43rd Street. He has served Kenwood-Oakland as a member of the 2nd Police District Advisory council and an LSC member at King College Prep. He was instrumental in bringing the Komed Health Center to the community and has revitalized 43rd Street with both culture and businesses. As the SECC said when awarding Norman the 2012 Unsung Hero Award, “He is a veteran community activist and leader with a proven track record for working side-by-side with fellow residents and stakeholders.”

We urge residents of the 4th Ward to vote for Norman Bolden: a leader who listens and an alderman with Hyde Park values.

Michael Scott
Doreen E. Barrett 
Sonia Csaszar
Herbert Dobbs
Nina Helstein
Darryl Holmes
Victoria Long


Be a good neighbor and shovel your snow

To the Editor:

Some neighbors have been very good about adopting a street/sidewalk crossing and clearing out for pedestrians.  However, the problem remains severe in our neighborhoods. Furthermore,  businesses who are along our business streets should not only clear the entire sidewalk in front of their shop, but also the streets around the parking areas in front of their shops by piling the snow in an area designated by neighboring shops.

Nancy B. Baum

Burns, don’t neglect voters already here

To the Editor:

I attended the aldermanic forum sponsored by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference last Saturday.

Ald. Will Burns (4th) touted his successes on 53rd Street, bragging that people might now come to the South Side “and maybe want to live here.” Huh? So the people who already live here (and vote here) don’t matter? Because that’s the implication of his statement.

I’ve lived in Hyde Park for most of my 60 years. This is extraordinarily offensive — and is exactly why I will not support him this time around. The constituents he cares about are MAC Realty, the University of Chicago and people who might someday “maybe” live here and vote for him.

I would also like to point out that the TIF council he considers a community process is an appointed body and as such there is no community input into who is on the council.

Jesse Sinaiko

Good news for Hyde Park’s renters

To the Editor:

Residential rental tenants in the city of Chicago work hard for the money they spend every month on a place to live.

For those hard-earned dollars, they should also receive the assurance that the buildings they call home meet the basic safety standards required by the city.

I was very proud to vote last month on a measure that will give renters that peace of mind, the Problem Landlords Ordinance.

The Problem Landlords Ordinance identifies landlords and building owners who have failed to meet minimum requirements such as  providing adequate heat, hot water and working smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors.

A list of those substandard landlords, in cooperation with the Department of Buildings is then published bi-annually, creating a more transparent, accessible resource for renters.

But the ordinance does more than that. It also makes it clear that the city of Chicago will not tolerate the kind of neglect that jeopardizes our residents’ health and safety.

Owners who appear on the list will be prohibited from obtaining business licenses, receiving zoning changes, acquiring city land or receiving financial assistance like Tax Increment Financing (TIF) or obtaining building permits not related to addressing their violations.

The  City Council has taken this critical step toward earning Chicago renters’ trust and ensuring their safety.

Ald. Will Burns (4th)

An opponent sets Burns’ record straight

To the Editor:

I would like to thank the Coalition for Equitable Community Development and the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference for hosting the recent aldermanic forums. These forums provide a vital service in ensuring that Hyde Parkers are engaged and informed.

However, I do feel I must correct two misperceptions that have repeatedly arisen. Ald. Will Burns (4th) persists in taking credit for keeping Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., open. This is disrespectful to the hundreds of parents and students who have worked tremendously hard to forge a rich alternative to shuttering the only open enrollment high school in the area.

If Burns was so involved, why were hundreds of his constituents camped out on his doorstep in protest? And, if a word to the mayor is what kept Dyett open, why did he fail to fight for Fuller, Price, and Canter and why did he wait so long?

The second thing that must be clarified is the use of the Canter building for the Kenwood Academic Center. While I am pleased that the Academic Center will be able to expand and accept more students, the process completely excluded the community. Burns claims that he met with “grassroots community organizations,” yet many of his constituents who are very active in our schools are supporting my candidacy because they have repeatedly felt excluded from any process.

Burns did not follow the CPS mandate that called for hearings about closed buildings.  It was only after the decision was made that he placed his decision on the agenda at his regular ward meeting.

This comes as no surprise when in a recent interview he stated that he prefers to negotiate behind closed doors. This lack of process is why Hyde Parkers are calling for more independence, as has long been a tradition in the 4th Ward.

Norman H. Bolden
Candidate for 4th Ward Alderman