Letters to the Editor

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

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

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)

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

Chicago needs to work harder for Obama Library

Editor’s note: The following letter was e-mailed to Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).

Dear Alderman Hairston,

Much of the South Side of Chicago looks like Hamburg, or whatever major German city you prefer, circa 1946, after the worst of the rubble was cleared.

These areas are in dire need of development and reconstruction, yet the University of Chicago proposes to use historic park land in Jackson or Washington parks for the Barack Obama Presidential Library.

The logical places on the South Side for this Library would have been either the vacant Michael Reese Hospital or U.S. Steel South Works sites.

Instead, the U. of C. is trying to do things on the cheap, arrogantly assuming that South Side residents are so desperate for the Library that we will accept any proposed site, even on land to which they do not have title, even one that destroys green space in parks that are among the jewels of urban landscaping.

In contrast, Columbia University has assembled a fully owned and cleared 30 acre site in Manhattan, the world’s economic, cultural, and artistic capital. The Obamas would be foolish not to accept Columbia’s offer and I urge them to build the library in New York City.

Joshua Telser

South Shore best choice for Obama library

To the Editor:

The recommended Chicago site for the Obama Presidential Library must be the best that this city can offer — not just on the South Side. Chicago is a world class city. The site for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum must be the most aesthetically beautiful and the most historically and culturally significant. The site must show promise in its economic development impact and range of rich community opportunities. The 58-plus acre lakefront park, now known as the South Shore Cultural Center, provides the perfectly exquisite location to honor President Barack Obama and embody his community development philosophies.

The worn trope, “If you live in Chicago and can’t see Lake Michigan, you might as well live in Iowa,” is particularly apt in this case. The South Shore Cultural Center (SSCC) site, now owned by the Chicago Park District, is likely the most beautiful setting one could imagine. The downtown skyline is a magnificent backdrop because of the lake’s south side edge. The daytime light brings every roofline and skyscraper in focus, and at night the building lights only compete with the stars. Located on US Route 41, the historic Lake Shore Drive gently curves past the Museum of Science and Industry, the University of Chicago, the 18-hole Jackson Park Golf Course and two South Shore marinas. At the boundary on 71st Street, SSCC gives way to lakeside single-family homes and vintage apartment buildings to the south, and the South Shore commercial corridor to the west.

This is such a Chicago story! The likes of Lawrence Heyworth, Marshall Field and A. Montgomery Ward contributed to purchase this unimproved land in 1906. All members of the Commercial Club, an exclusive “city club” that sponsored the 1909 Plan of Chicago, co-authored by Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett. It was not by accident that the most southern stretch of the largest 18-hole golf course in Jackson Park, a creation of the Burnham Plan stops at 67th street on the south side of South Shore Drive, and the front door to the South Shore Country Club was directly across the street at 67th Street.  This 58-acre lakefront property was never intended for “the people;” it was intended for very rich, white, Protestant Chicagoans. For decades, the South Shore Country Club was a playground for Chicago’s rich.

The exclusive Country Club sparked commercial development along 71st Street, with the Illinois Central (now Metra) passenger trains running down the center of the street. The Country Club historically excluded Blacks, Jews and Irish Catholics as members. Through the early 1950s, the people who lived in South Shore were all white, including Jews and Irish Catholics. But by the end of the ‘50s African Americans and Hispanics began to move into this desirable area. Chicago’s infamous residential “white flight” took hold and turned blocks from white to Black, from wealthy to blighted in a few short years. The exclusive South Shore Country Club was abandoned and soon fell into disrepair. The only potential buyer was The Nation of Islam, known as the Black Muslims in Chicago. They proposed to build a hospital that would extend the health care corridor with La Rabida to the north and the new hospital to the south.

The residents of the South Shore community rallied and actively advocated that the land be used for something and not just sink into further disrepair. The community advocates were most vocal about the beach — that it remains public with free access to the lakefront beach, and the restoration of the “Club House” now known as the Cultural Center. The city was generally opposed to the purchase of the land by the Nation of Islam, even though NOI proposed a hospital. The city then offered to purchase the land at the same price the NOI had offered. The land is now owned and managed by the Chicago Park District. And in their persistence, the South Shore community advocates won! In 1974, the Chicago Park District took control of the site. A year later, the “Club House” now the Cultural Center, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Open to the public, the South Shore Cultural Center is the pride of the community, the jewel in our neighborhood crown. Its preservation and future have been closely nurtured and guarded. The Chicago Park District and the South Shore Advisory Council have, together, preserved and restored this magnificent building and managed this site and its programs. But here we are 40 years later with an increasingly disinvested neighborhood, little economic or commercial development, and a lovely 58-acre lakefront property that is vastly underused. The South Shore community has always known that this parcel has a higher purpose.

The Obama Presidential Library and Museum on Chicago’s South Side would, according to an economic study done for the University of Chicago, lure enough visitors for 30 restaurants and 11 retailers nearby, create demand for a new hotel near the site, bolster state and local tax revenues and spur other development and jobs.

From a jewel to a crown, from class and racial divisions to the extraordinary, his 58-plus-acre site could become a world symbol. A classic Chicago irony! I urge the Obama Presidential Library board members to choose the bid that recommends development of the South Shore Cultural Center site. I know that South Shore residents and community groups will galvanize whatever professional and local support required.

R. Susan Motley

My record of FOIA defense stands

To the Editor:

Contrary to your Dec. 10 headline, I do not support secrecy in government. In fact, I was the sponsor of the original Illinois Freedom of Information Act and I have advanced additional improvements to the act over the years. I would never turn my back on our commitment to government transparency and accountability.
As a result of some recent court decisions, questions were raised in Springfield about the appropriate interpretation of some of the important changes to the act that were approved in 2009. We introduced language reflecting one of those interpretations in order to start the conversation.

Staff and I met with many interested parties to discuss the bill. It became quite clear — quite quickly — that the interpretation proposed didn’t match up with the recollections of other drafters, including those from the office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Nor did it match the interpretation of advocates who also worked on the 2009 bill, advocates that included the Illinois Press Association and the ACLU.

We did the right thing: we dropped the bill. I refused to call the bill for a vote in Committee, and I will not reintroduce the bill during the next Illinois General Assembly. Should the measure reappear, I’ll do my best to defeat it.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25)

The ins and outs of nature restoration

To the Editor:

Larry Wethington’s letter of Nov. 26 raises an important question. What is a native, he asks? Basically it is a plant or animal that was here at the time of settlement in the 17th and 18th centuries when the ecosystem was in balance.  Plants had evolved over thousands of years to survive the rigors of droughts, floods and prairie fires, and there was enough food to go around. Predator and prey co-existed. “Balance” is the key word here.

Human intervention took that away. An example of destructive human intervention is in the South where kudzu imported from Japan has run rampant and choked out beneficial plants — that is, plants that provide food for us or for the rest of the natural world. Because kudzu has no natural enemies in America, it can smother the plants on the land where it takes root. Monarch butterflies, for example, won’t find nourishment from kudzu leaves, but they will from native milkweed.

We don’t need to worry about kudzu in the Chicago region, but look at our deer problem. Two hundred years ago, there were wolves that kept the deer population in check. Now we have virtually eradicated wolves (not that we want them prowling through city streets) but the situation is no longer in balance.

Human intervention in functioning ecosystems has thrown many habitats out of whack. Why do we have declining numbers of songbirds? If we don’t grow the plants where they can find food and shelter, they won’t reproduce and they will disappear. Just because a tree or shrub is green doesn’t mean that it can provide food for a cardinal or a robin.

If we want to live in a world that contains robins and cardinals, plus butterflies, fish, pollinating insects and all of our native mammals, we need to provide the plants that will support them.  If we want to have food for ourselves, we need to provide plants for pollinating insects such as bees. Again, just because a flower is pretty doesn’t mean that it will feed a bee.

So that’s why they’re cutting down certain trees in Jackson Park. They’re trees that aren’t providing food for the wildlife that we both want and need. For more information, I recommend “Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas Tallamy. It’s full of well-documented examples of how native plants are necessary to our health and that of the planet.

 One interesting fact: The widely planted Bradford pear that we see blooming here every spring is not only an alien species; it is actually toxic to wildlife that tries to eat it, says Tallamy. Our various native oak trees, on the other hand, can support a grand total of more than 500 species of butterflies and moths. So if someone cuts down a Bradford pear and plants an oak in its stead, don’t cry. It’s not worth it.

Carolyn Ulrich, Editor

Chicagoland Gardening

Why is Currie advancing secrecy?

To the Editor:

Citizens of the 25th District probably disagree about state income taxes, the Illiana expressway, or ways to solve the state’s pension problems. However, most would oppose more secrecy in any branch of government. Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie has a bill that would do just that as discussed in a Tribune editorial on last Wednesday. Her proposal would make it easier for state agencies to keep secret reasons for denying freedom of information requests. If citizens go to court to obtain documents and the agency produces records before the judge rules, the citizen will be stuck with court costs. Now, citizens can often recover court costs if a lawsuit is required to obtain documents. Altogether, this bill does nothing except  shield the actions of our legislators from public view.

I wrote Rep. Currie and telephoned her local office to urge her to withdraw this ill-advised legislation. Her office representative told me that she made the proposal at the request of Senate president John Cullerton. Is there any doubt that most of what happens in the Illinois legislature occurs at the behest or at least with the support of Speaker Mike Madigan and Cullerton, aided by Rep. Currie as majority leader? Instead of shielding Springfield’s actions more completely from the public, our legislators should be working with Gov.-elect Rauner to search for ways out of the state’s severe fiscal crisis. Let us lobby our representatives and senators to embrace transparency as we grapple with our financial challenges.

Alfred L. Baker, M. D.

Obama library should avoid park land fuss

To the Editor:

I have said in the past that ”the Obama library committee would never attempt to usurp park land. Their intention is to focus on the general area of Woodlawn, where there is vacant land.”

I’m sure that they are aware of the battle brewing against the Lucas Museum effort to locate on park land.

Actually, the University of Illinois at Chicago area would be ideal because of the plethora of vacant parcels, excellent transportation and central location.

The Great Lakes and our parks are our most precious resources.

Kathie Newhouse