Letters to the Editor

Good food doing good: Taste of Hyde Park returns

To the Editor:

Since 2002, the Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project (HPTHP) has been helping homeless families get back on their feet. To support that effort we are launching our tenth annual fundraiser, the Taste of Hyde Park.

The dinner and silent auction will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday April 18, 2015 at St. Paul and the Redeemer at 4945  S. Dorchester Ave. The event will feature a buffet of the finest of Hyde Park restaurants, a silent auction and some cool jazz from Willie Pickens.

Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door, $25 for students with ID, $15 for children 6-17, and children 5 and under are free. Advance purchases can be made by contacting an HPHTP board member at your congregation or arranging a purchase via e-mail to HPTHP@yahoo.com. Contribute more than $100 and you’ll be recognized in the program.

The Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project is an all-volunteer organization, supported by a volunteer board representing local churches and synagogues in the Hyde Park neighborhood. It provides housing and a stable, supportive environment for up to two years for homeless families who are working to improve the skills necessary to live independently. HPTHP partners with local congregations and organizations which provide volunteer mentors and essential financial support. The strength of HPTHP is in the positive relationship that develops between the HPTHP mentors and the families they are supporting.

HPTHP receives financial support from local congregations and individuals, as well as a significant grant from the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council. It was founded through the work of the Interfaith Open Communities. HPTHP is supported by a number of religious organizations, but is not itself a religious organization and does not discriminate on the basis of religion.

Jerry Gripshover

Obama Library: South Side yes, in a park no

To the Editor:

With dismay I have watched momentum gather for placing the Obama Presidential Library in a major park. With the rest of the South Side, Hyde Parkers long to have the library of this remarkable man nearby, but a park — public land – is not the place for it. Siting the library anywhere on Chicago’s South Side would immediately result in a burst of community development not seen since urban renewal more than 50 years ago. Public transit would improve, businesses would move in, walkways would be beautified with trees and flowers and potholes would disappear as fast as a snowflake on a hot tin roof. All this would happen, regardless of whether the library was placed next to, across from or down the street from either Washington Park or Jackson Park. In fact, building the library on the west side of King Drive between 51st and 55th streets and connecting it to Washington Park by an overpass or underpass would be a win-win situation for the community and park!

Nearly 150 years ago, Jackson and Washington parks were designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who envisaged them as green respites providing relief from the hurly-burly of city life. Olmsted disapproved of elaborate landscaping, most buildings, even statues in the parks he designed. Constructing the Obama Library in either of our great parks demeans the vision of this great man, and dishonors the memory of dedicated local park advocates including George Overton, George Cooley, Gerda Schild and beloved photographer and environmental activist Nancy Hays. We can, we must do better than this.

Frances S. Vandervoort

Vue53 fight may be over

To the Editor:
Last week the Appellate Court upheld Judge Pantle’s dismissal on procedural grounds of our lawsuit challenging the McMobil rezoning. We are disappointed that the merits of the case will not be discussed in court, and that Vue53, which we still consider illegally zoned as well as wrong for the neighborhood, will presumably be built as proposed.

We would like to thank the many, many people who contributed to this effort. It was clear that neither the university nor the alderman expected this much passionate opposition. They should pay more attention: They have been asking the question since 2007 and have never gotten the answer they wanted from the public. Of course, they did not really need community support, only the alderman’s blessing, and Will Burns was only too happy to oblige. While Burns managed re-election this past month with 55 percent of the vote in the ward, his support in the precinct which includes the McMobil site fell from 63 percent in 2011 to 40 percent last month.

The university spent an enormous amount of money fighting us and were clearly prepared to spend much more to make sure that Vue53 could keep its full 165 feet of height rather than put any money towards making a smaller building affordable for the developer. Of course, they had a $23.4 million taxpayer subsidy for Harper Court, so in more ways than one we are all paying for their choices.

We would like both our supporters and our opponents to know that over the past year the university refused to discuss any compromise that would change the project and we refused all settlement offers that did not include changes to the project.

Going forward, we assume that there will be no further residential development proposed on university-owned land until Phase 2 of Harper Court is completed, that no further TIF money will be requested by the university, that the workforce at the Vue53 site will be both diverse and local and that if Vue53 is completed there will be complete transparency from the university and the developer as to who benefits from the affordable housing.

Michael Scott
James Des Jardins
Mark Graham
Lorraine Pettigrew

Vue53 is not right for its location

To the Editor:
Although there have not been many articles lately concerning the building that has been proposed for 53rd Street at Kenwood, silence means that no progress has been made to prevent the 13 story building from going up. Whatever encouraged Ald. Will Burns (4th) to change the zoning there in order to allow that building to be built, it was not in the interest of the neighborhood. A building that tall is out of character for that neighborhood. It is an old neighborhood with established homes and small apartment buildings that are important for the residents as well as people who have respect for not ruining a beautiful neighborhood.

The Ronald McDonald House is a prime example of how a building can be built taking into account of how much space is needed. It is a large house located at 5444 S. Drexel Ave, actually on 55th Street. The Ronald McDonald House is large with more than ample parking space available for people who stay there when their family members are in the hospital. The traffic from there does not inconvenience anyone: They chose a good location.

Vue 53, as it is called, is not a place for a high-rise building and certainly no place for any kind of business that would bring in additional cars. Parking there is already difficult; with a building that large, it would ruin the neighborhood permanently. It should not be allowed. When Chicago was trying to get the Olympics, the University of Chicago bought up some local property. Why not look elsewhere for that building if the developers really like the idea and design?

Donna Graham

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