Letters to the Editor

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

Road rules don’t apply in Hyde Park

To the Editor:

The trucks just keep on rolling down Kimbark Avenue and 52nd Street. This continues even though there is a sign clearly marked at the corner of 51st Street and Kimbark Avenue stating a no truck weight limit. I have reached out to the rising star Ald. Will Burns’ (4th) office, and his chief of staff Ms. Tripplet is harder to get to than the president of a major company. I have left several messages, and she refuses to meet with me or even return a phone call. I consider this a total lack of public service. Triplet referred me to the South East Chicago Commission and another hard-to-contact person, Wendy Williams, who after several attempts did contact me and basically said, “We do not write tickets, so why did they send you to me?”

I really do believe that if this traffic flow of 18 wheel trucks were taking place in the 42nd Ward at Dearborn and Schiller, the alderman there would have a massive police presence to enforce the weight ban on trucks, and it would stop. I moved to Chicago in 1980 and always heard about the non-equity of South Side to North Side and always tried to tell people that is not true, but after living in Hyde Park for more than a year, I now must say that it is true. The main issue is that the trucks are tearing up the streets.

The street is sinking and no one seems to care. I am asking for help on this and if the rising star cannot help us maybe the community needs to start looking to find someone that we can elect as an alderman — for all the people.

Larry A. Green

U. of C. reveals selfish side

To the Editor:

Thank you Stephanie Franklin for your careful documentation of the deceitful behavior of the University of Chicago in attempting to force the use of precious public parkland instead of privately held acreage in its bid for the Obama Presidential Library. (“Case never made for need for park land for Obama Library,” Jan. 28, 2015)

As Franklin pointed out (and it bears repeating) “Wanting the library in the Washington Park neighborhood is definitely NOT the same as wanting to take public land to bring it here.”

If there were a Nobel Prize for selfish, the University of Chicago would surely win it to add to its roster of laureates.

Joan Levin

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

Case never made for need for park land for Obama Library

To the Editor:

I have just finished a chronological rereading of newspaper coverage of the Obama Presidential Library proposals, beginning with a Chicago Tribune article in December, 2012.

Reading chronologically, at least two examples of the insidious effect of repetitious advertising jump out. First is the University of Chicago’s audacity, duplicity and arrogance in preparing a blatant attempt at a land grab, and then holding “public hearings” after the proposal is submitted. Second, even more appalling, is that the university’s barrage of slick sophistry has apparently somewhat succeeded. Not only do the mayor and the Chicago Park District seem to have succumbed to the barrage, so had the Tribune.

A stunning example of the subtle power of advertising is the shift in reporting from December, 2014, when Susan Sher told the Tribune that there are 270 acres of vacant land available in the immediate area of the Washington Park neighborhood, to January of this year, when the Tribune calmly wrote, without qualification, that “the university would need about 20 acres of public parkland to secure the library for Chicago.” At what point did “want” the library here become a “need” for parkland to get it? If there are 270 acres of vacant land in the vicinity? Surely that “need” should be questioned.

The two “public hearings” convened after the university had already submitted its official bid (which included using parkland the U. of C. hoped the “hearings” would endorse) were only held in a cynical attempt to offer a false choice: Either endorse the “need” for using parkland, or risk losing the library. As the Jan. 6 Tribune editorial said, such behavior on the part of the U. of C. is “no way to treat its neighbors.”

It is true that the university doesn’t yet own all the 270 acres Ms. Sher referenced, but they do own more than the 11 acres they have offered. It is also true that if they don’t have to offer any more, and instead succeed in stealing the public park space, the remaining acres they do still own will provide them substantial economic benefit when sold to a hotel or restaurant for development.

When did “want” become “need?” When the university decided it could sell a false choice, and could convince the mayor and the Park District tot go along with the scheme. I am reminded of a quote from a LeCarre novel: “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses …. The truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.” By deftly replacing “want” with “need,” the U. of C. has tried to portray the park advocates as raving lunatics. The truth is, nothing justifies taking public parkland for a building when other land could be available. Parks are not land banks. If Chicago loses the library because of the duplicitous nature of the University of Chicago’s proposal, the fault will lie directly at the door of the University of Chicago. I believe the president and first lady will not be deceived by this chicanery.

I believe most South Siders would really, really like the Presidential Library on the South Side of Chicago. I also believe that had the university acted as good neighbors, held public hearings and workshops and planning sessions in a truly open and transparent “working together” process, starting at least two years ago, compromises and plans could/would have been made that would have created a magnificent plan or two without trying to invade our so valuable public open space. Unfortunately the U. of C. is not noted for its willingness to honestly engage the community, and especially not for its willingness to compromise.

Wanting the library in the Washington Park neighborhood is definitely NOT the same as wanting to take public land to bring it here. As the U. of C. knows full well, the “hearings” made that plain.

Stephanie Franklin

Setting the record straight at Dyett

To the Editor:

In a recent news Gazette article “Newsbrief: Dyett High to reconfigure, remain open” dated January 1, 2015 Alderman Will Burns’ description of his leadership with regards to Dyett High School is inaccurate. We are writing this letter because it is dishonest for an elected official or agency to position themselves as leaders on an issue when they have not done the work.  Members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett have had a consistent working relationship with Dyett High School since 2003, either as Local School Council members or implementing programs for the students at the school.  Alderman Burns may be able to produce a memo, expressing concern about Dyett but the truth is, he did nothing before, or since the announced the phase-out of Dyett in 2012.  Here are two questions that Alderman Burns cannot run from; “Did you engage students at Dyett High School who publicly raised issue about the conditions at their school, to the point that they had to file Title VI Civil Rights complaints about suffocating conditions at the school?”  “Did you meet with the Local School Council at any point since 2012?”  The answer to both of those questions is a resounding “No.”

The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett went to meet with Alderman Burns in 2011 with concerns about Dyett High School and a vision for Dyett High School and its feeder schools. Alderman Burns was non-committal and refused to support a plan or take any action on behalf of the school or the students.  Alderman Burns was at the press conference where Dyett students complained about the conditions at the school in 2012 and he did nothing. He took no action on behalf of the students to change the conditions at the school, which is a strong contrast to the action he took on behalf of Kenwood High School when concerns were raised about overcrowding. He took immediate and decisive action and brought the mayor’s office and Chicago Public Schools together to deliver Canter Middle School to relieve the overcrowding.

As a result of his brazen inaction on Dyett High School, hundreds of community members protested outside of his office for three days and then protested at his home. The Coalition went to the U.S. government to get relief on behalf of Dyett and the U.S. Department of Education filed Title VI Civil Rights complaints on behalf of Dyett and 2 elementary schools and those investigations remain open. Only then did Alderman Burns release a statement on Dyett. CPS’ decision to reopen Dyett High School is due to consistent pressure and sacrifice by parents, students, educators and community residents who are committed to Dyett being an open enrollment, neighborhood school.  The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett is an example of the community bringing its resources together to do what’s best for children, regardless of their race or income. Alderman Burns cannot use the struggle of the very people he has ignored as a stepladder for his ambitions.  Alderman Burns may be attempting to convince the broader public of his “passion for” and leadership on the issue of Dyett, however, his constituents and those most impacted by the potential loss of our last community, neighborhood CPS-operated school know better.
Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School

Jitu Brown, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Dyett LSC
Steven Guy, Dyett LSC
Jawanza Malone, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
June Webb, Dyett science teacher
Jeanette Taylor-Smith, Mollison LSC chair,
Diamond McCullough, 2014 Dyett student,
Parish Brown, 2014 Dyett alumni,
Aquila Griffin, former Dyett student,
Harold Lucas, Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council
Jhatayn “Jay” Travis, community resident
Dr. Timuel Black

We’re still fighting Vue53

To the Editor:

In your Jan. 7 article about Norman Bolden’s candidacy, there was a statement (not by Mr. Bolden) that the lawsuit brought by neighborhood residents challenging the re-zoning for the university’s Vue53 project — a proposed 13-story high-rise to be built across from Nichols Park — “was later dismissed.” No mention was made of the fact that the dismissal has been appealed, and that the appeal is currently pending. The lawsuit over the Vue53 re-zoning is not over.

Marc Lipinski