Letters to the Editor

UCPD behavior is no mistake

To the Editor:

I have followed with interest recent conversations in the Herald and in online forums about the University of Chicago Police Department. I also attended the Oct. 29 forum at the Experimental Station, where I counted nearly 200 people in attendance. In my opinion, the main result of the forum was to make it clear that the UCPD does indeed regularly follow, stop, detain and handcuff members of our community, and that many but not all of these targeted community members are Black. This must be the starting point for any future discussion; the simple fact that the UCPD regularly acts in a way that most of us would call intimidation or harassment.

Nobody claimed that all UCPD officers behave badly, nor that the UCPD does more harm than good. Indeed, most speakers had praise for much of what UCPD accomplishes. I hope that we are now beyond the arguments that since some individuals personally have only had positive interactions with the UCPD there can’t be anything wrong. Something is wrong.

There is another key point that was less emphasized: the UCPD’s actions are a matter of university policy. There are a very few true decision-makers at the university, and none of them shows up to these community meetings. Rather, they send representatives from the Office of Community Engagement and from the South East Chicago Commission, representatives who have no power. If the people who do have power at the university wanted, they could stop all UCPD police officers from handcuffing teenagers as of tomorrow, or they could put an immediate end to all UCPD traffic stops. The UCPD acts the way it does because the university decision-makers want it to act that way. The faculty and students don’t want it to act that way, and some of them are vocal about it. Maybe the university representatives at these meetings don’t want it either, but they wouldn’t keep their jobs long if they said so in public.

Why does the university pursue this policy of policing which seems so abhorrent to so many of us in the community? I see similarities with the university’s development agenda. Let me be clear from the outset that I am much more outraged by the policing policies than by the development, and that I do not equate the loss of quality of life from a misguided real estate agenda with the dehumanization of members of our community by overly-aggressive policing. Nevertheless, I believe that the common root cause is that the decision-makers at the university have fundamental goals that I, and I believe most residents of our neighborhood, do not share. The university says it wants to compete with its peer institutions for top faculty and students, and they are not talking about the intellectual environment on campus. Their narrative sidesteps the word “gentrification,” but that is the goal: they are striving for a Hyde Park that is more attractive to well-to-do (generally white) people (that’s the plain English translation of “compete with its peer institutions”). In their narrative, an oversized development at the McMobil site is about “street life” and “retail,” and police actions on 53rd Street are about “safety,” because after all, who wouldn’t want more street life and retail and safety? Well, I don’t, if the price to be paid is out-of-scale development or police harassment of minorities. I chose to live in Hyde Park in part because I cherish the economic diversity; I haven’t been waiting for a more gentrified Hyde Park to drive away the bad elements. And while I might have a fruitful discussion with someone who would be willing to put up with a 165-foot-tall building across from Nichols Park if they believed it will support some shops they might like, I have no sympathy for someone who is willing to have the police hassle young Black males because they would prefer not to have them hanging out on 53rd Street.

And where do our elected officials enter this picture? The alderman must sign off on any zoning change, and Ald. Will Burns (4th) was only too eager to allow the university to rezone the McMobil site to more than triple the previously permitted height regardless of community input. Our state legislators are responsible for the law that gives the UCPD its police powers. If the university claims that the law exempts UCPD from obligations and oversight that bind public police forces, then they should act quickly to change the law. Both city and state officials can put private and public pressure on the university to act responsibly above and beyond the minimal legal requirements. When UCPD traffic stops came up at a TIF meeting earlier this year I heard Burns say that he intended to hold the university accountable and make sure he was satisfied that they were not engaged in racial profiling. He should follow through on this commitment and the other elected officials should join him.

The police actions that have outraged so many of us are a matter of university policy, and the university should change that policy. Our elected officials should do all they can to ensure this happens, both by changing laws that need to be changed and by direct engagement with the university. And we residents of the neighborhood need to continue to educate ourselves and hold all of them accountable.

Michael Scott

UCPD policing powers, pro and con

To the Editor:

In the past several months, much has been said regarding the policing of the community by the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD). Passions are inflamed both pro and con regarding their policing powers and how they are used. The reasons on both sides are understandable.

There is a reasonable argument as to why the University of Chicago’s (U. of C.) police force should have the policing powers they now possess. Universities like the U. of C. bring large populations from different places into one concentrated area. In a small- to modest-sized city, campus safety issues could tax or overwhelm the police forces of a locale. Colleges and universities have to deal with student-on-student crime. Thefts, assaults and rapes occur on campus, as they do outside of a campus’ boundaries. There are also the very unfortunate incidents of mass shootings and killings of students by students, and threats of terrorism directed towards, or emanating from within, the university populace. Any university or college would be crippled in dealing with these issues without a police department with full authority to deal with crime.

However, aggressive traffic enforcement, alleged “stop-and-cuff” incidents involving young, Black, non-student males and other community policing efforts which have no clear connection to protecting a university’s populace and property are not among those compelling reasons mentioned above. In these cases, policing policy appears to be purely driven by reputation and economic interests, using the definition of “the public way” in a broad manner to achieve those objectives. The U. of C.’s location on the South Side of Chicago brings with it all of the negative attention of crime which is reported worldwide via the press. As the University of Chicago grapples with current and potential students and faculty wanting to know why should they come to an alleged war zone, it has to be able to convincingly address those concerns. As it is currently written, the Illinois Private College Campus Police Act provides many of the tools to adequately respond.

The U. of C. is not alone in this situation. The Illinois Institute of Technology, also a world-class institution in its own right, shares similar concerns. DePaul, another world-class institution, also has these concerns. Their ability to grow depends on being able to expand their academic and economic interests, and they may be compelled to police these new areas of interest, as the statue provides, for the “interests of the college or university.”

Given that, I’d like to present this scenario: With a new stadium being built for DePaul on 22nd Street (Cermak), the tearing down of CHA housing south of IIT, the current policing boundaries of the U. of C. and the possibility of the Obama Presidential Library being located in Washington Park, there is a potential for much of the South Side — from Cermak to the north, 67th Street to the south, the Dan Ryan to the west and the lakefront to the east — to be largely patrolled by private police forces. For those that think it’s a stretch, it’s already true between 37th and 64th streets, from Cottage Grove Avenue to the lake. All it would take are some more university-sponsored charter schools and economic development, and the area could become a virtual privatized police state. I am not suggesting this will happen, but while laws such as the Illinois Private College Campus Police Act are on the books, there is nothing to prevent it from happening. One thing we know for sure — development and expansion by all three of these private universities will continue and will penetrate substantially into their surrounding communities.

For some that think that being policed by UCPD is a good thing, given any myriad of reasons, such as the alleged lack of protection by the Chicago Police Department, please remember that these private forces have the authority to protect you, but not the obligation. There is nothing in either their charters, or the state statue, that compels them to become involved in a criminal matter on your behalf.

Consequently, reining in their power is not a matter of being soft on crime, it is being hard on rights, and as a citizen, you have the right to be protected by those whom you have elected.
This is the critical difference. This is the case against a private police force, one from any private college or university, possessing policing powers over its surrounding communities.

Roderick Sawyer

Taking a closer look at the University of Chicago Police

To the Editor:

I read with great interest the Hyde Park Herald article on Oct 2, “Violent Crime in Hyde Park is Steady Decline.” The reporter lists several statistics gathered from the Chicago Police Department. She also noted that while the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) was granted full policing powers, statistics regarding their activity were not made available because it is a privately funded force. As many community members have witnessed, some of it firsthand, UCPD officers have indeed stopped, detained and arrested persons whose alleged offenses appeared to have had nothing to do with serving and protecting the university community, or its property.

In mid-May, I witnessed a police undercover car stop and detain a Kenwood High School student. To my amazement, it was not Chicago, but University of Chicago, police officers. Since school was letting out, this clearly had nothing to do with university concerns. I was so disturbed by this that I went directly to state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie’s (D-25) office for an explanation. UCPD claimed many times prior their powers were granted by the state, so I wanted to know just what state statute gave them that authority.

Currie’s office eventually pointed me to the Private College Campus Police Act (110 ILCS 1020), which does indeed grant the UCPD, and every other private college and university police powers:

Members of the campus police department shall have the powers of municipal peace officers and county sheriffs, including the power to make arrests under the circumstances prescribed in Section 107-2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963, as amended, for violations of state statutes or municipal or county ordinances, including the ability to regulate and control traffic on the public way contiguous to the college or university property, for the protection of students, employees, visitors and their property, and the property branches, and interests of the college or university, in the county where the college or university is located.

The University of Chicago Police Department and its officers are the real deal. The statute provides an explanation for the aggressive traffic enforcement witnessed by many community members. The phrase, “and the interests of the college or university,” can explain more ominous behavior, such as stories of racial profiling of members of the community. It is merely protecting the “interests of the college or university” as the statute allows.

One area not mentioned in the statute is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As a private entity, UCPD is not subject to FOIA, so neither the Herald’s reporter, nor the non-affiliated public subject to UCPD’s jurisdictional boundaries, is ever entitled to view their policing records.

So what business does a private police force such as UCPD have with this authority? To allow any private force the ability to arrest and detain, and especially with no independent oversight, is a grave and egregious failing of this statute. No private entity should ever have the authority to function as a public police force, and then be able to claim private privilege when asked to provide records of policing activity of the public.

UCPD will claim that the community is much safer due to its efforts than without them. Really? Based on their word? As a premier academic institution, the University of Chicago prides itself on groundbreaking research and discovery. In the academic journals where those works are published, never once are the means of how those accomplishments are achieved are accepted on a “trust us” basis. The work would be deemed academic chicanery and/or fraud. Any faculty member engaging in this kind of nonsense would be quickly dismissed. “Prove it” is expected in academic circles, and should be in policing matters. “Trust us” should never be a substitute for review and oversight.

This statute needs to be changed to limit the university’s policing powers to that which is clearly university business, and subject policing incidents involving both affiliated and non-affiliated populations to a FOIA requirement. There should also be a provision for independent oversight. If UCPD is going to act in a manner of a public police force, it should be subject to all the checks and balances of a public force.

Jamie Kalven, a reporter who successfully challenged the Chicago Police Department to release the names of officers with ten or more brutality complaints, will be moderating a community forum regarding UCPD policing practices. It will be held at the Experimental Station on 6100 S. Blackstone Ave. on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Please attend, especially if you have had an encounter with UCPD as a community member. We must begin to record these encounters until there are changes in the law regarding policing and access to policing records by private colleges and universities. It is imperative that we take back the right to be policed by entities accountable to the communities they serve.

Roderick Sawyer

Mixed messages on 53rd from U. of C.

To the Editor:

Herald readers who do not also follow Crain’s may have missed last week’s profile of the University of Chicago’s Jim Hennessy (Oct. 2, “Hyde Park’s real estate catalyst”). According to the article, Mr. Hennessy “believes the market still is too soft to support a lot (of residential housing)” and he admits that the condo tower that was to be the second phase of the TIF-subsidized Harper Court development “may never get built.” Yet the article closes by quoting Mr. Hennessy as saying, “we need to get … more new apartments and attract more people to live here.”

As plaintiffs in the lawsuit opposing the university’s oversized Vue53 development on the so-called McMobil lot (see our website at save53rdstreet.org), we would like to know what the real story is. The Harper Court development has already received $23 million in TIF subsidies, and now we are told that the next phase of that development is suddenly infeasible because the residential market is too soft to support it. At the same time just a few blocks away, the university is pushing a residential development that we think is far too large and claims it is infeasible to build anything smaller. Are these two developments not subject to the same market forces? Why is the university backing away from building Phase 2 of Harper Court as too large for the housing market while refusing to consider a more reasonably sized development on the McMobil site?

Michael Scott
James Des Jardins
Mark Graham
Lorraine Pettigrew

Look to the past to understand events

To the Editor:

This is in response to Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul’s article, “Jackson Park bid winner picked” (Hyde Park Herald, October 8 2014, p. 6), which I believe is presenting important information and deserves the attention of Hyde Park residents. The article indicates that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has just awarded a contract for a 139-acre, five-year restoration of native habitats in Jackson Park, which will apparently be able to spend up to $12.4 million, and is being accompanied by a separate effort to bring a $10 million visitors’ center to the park.

Restoration of natural habitats sounds good, except that it would seem that much of the present vegetation on Wooded Island is to be removed and replaced by saplings from nurseries, while the word is that the Wooded Island area will be fenced off to prevent access while this is going on for an extended period — like a year. Whom is that helping?

Furthermore, the lagoons are to be poisoned in order to kill off the undesirable fish that survive in the stagnant and polluted water so as to replace these fish with game fish whose normal habitat is clear water. I have inquired why not bring a flow of clear clean water through the lagoons from Lake Michigan so that game fish can survive, instead of repeatedly killing the resident fish in the muddy water and replacing them temporarily with game fish.

An answer seems to be forthcoming by turning our attention back to the presence of missile sites built to provide defense for Chicago against the possibility of an attack by Russian bombers in the 1950s to 1970s. Readers of a certain age will remember the presence of the radar installation on Promontory Point whose towers dwarfed the turret of the Fieldhouse, and the Nike Ajax and nuclear-capable Nike Hercules missile launch sites in Jackson Park. (For contemporary information, check the Hyde Park Herald archives; for example, the front page article on June 23, 1971, in which it tells us that “Hyde Parkers testifying at the hearing, including Alderman Leon Despres and Congressman Abner Mikva, vehemently opposed anything but complete restoration of the land.”) The thing is, the restoration of Jackson Park was apparently never completed. There were hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes there at these missile launch sites, and hazards were still found in 1999 and 2001. There are apparently still outfalls from Bob-o-link meadow, and oily waste seepage is even visible in the southeast corner of the East Lagoon, which appears to be coming from an area mainly allocated to the Nike site administrative buildings.

I have been able to turn up no information indicating any closure in the cleanup of hazardous wastes from these missile launch sites and associated old military installations. It would seem to me that it would be a far better idea for the Army Corps of Engineers to clean up the toxic sludges in the lagoon waters and the hazardous materials buried just under the surface in Jackson Park, rather than to conduct the minor superficial improvements they are planning, as discussed in the Hyde Park Herald article.

Caroline Herzenberg

Is there some folly in that trolley?

To The Editor:

Well the final results are in regarding Hyde Park’s support for a trolley on 53rd Street, and now I have to remind myself of the purpose of the trolley in the first place.  Exactly what problem is this nifty trolley supposed to solve?

If I think back over many, many months, I vaguely remember that the trolley idea was floated as a solution to alleviate our ever-increasing parking problem during a community meeting concerning Vue 53.  Back then, Mesa (the developers of the 13-story behemoth to occupy the McMobile site) needed some type of solution to the obvious parking and traffic congestion their project would no doubt add to that area.  Instead of adding three or four hundred hundred parking spots to the gargantuan project, as most Hyde Parkers familiar with their plans suggested, the community brainstormed on possible alternatives.  The brainstorming session was wide open, and many alternatives were discussed.  Alternative solutions included; a shorter building, a smaller building, a building with fewer floors, and even a building with fewer residents.  My favorite solution I think I remember was that the new building could maintain a collection of really strong weather balloons that might lift cars up from the curb and float them out of the way, high above the street.  Ultimately, Mesa and their well-connected supporters decided to entertain the trolley idea.

Aside from the novelty aspect of free trolleys shuttling merry residents back and forth along the four to eight block stretch of 53rd street, as parking solutions go the trolley idea has quite a few shortcomings.  1). People park 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Not just the peak times on the weekends when the trolley would operate.  2). The trolley would remove pedestrians who travel on the sidewalk and place them in a vehicle on 53rd Street thereby adding to traffic congestion.  3a). If the trolley has the limited range of only a few blocks along 53rd Street, only those already within walking proximity to 53rd Street would benefit from using it.  3b). Most people within walking distance to 53rd Street either have their cars parked at their homes nearby or they drove to the area and parked their cars nearby. (Obviously, this second category of trolley rider would actually make the area parking problem worse by riding the trolley.). 4). Since, as reported in this weekly, “almost nobody is willing to wait 15 minutes” for these trolleys, it is likely that two trolleys would likely be needed to operate along the route.  And by “two trolleys”, I mean two large vehicles, blocking traffic in the middle of the street every time they let people on and off, at every corner, in both directions along 53rd Street, all weekend long.  And, by the way, how valuable is this trolley convenience if “almost nobody” is willing to wait 15 minutes for it.  My young kids, with an attention spans measured in nanoseconds, would wait 15 minutes for a cartoon sticker before leaving the doctors office.  5). Lastly, these two road blocks would also share the thoroughfare with the U. of C. shuttles that currently operate along 53rd Street.  What a nightmare!

Is a trolley actually the best idea there is to alleviate parking and traffic congestion?  We’re home to some of the greatest minds in the world; Nobel Laureates, Guggenheim Fellows, Pulitzer Prize winners, and the current President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world!  C’mon Hyde Parkers, we can do better than a trolley shuttle.  How about a parking lot?  There’s a great site for a parking lot right where the Mobile station used to be.  If not a parking lot, then I’d rather vote for the weather balloon idea.  It makes more sense than a fleet of trolleys.

Lawrence A. White

Hard to get a street cleaned in Hyde Park

To the Editor:

My name is Robert Wernis and I live on Ridgewood Court. For years I have been complaining about the lack of street sweeping in November in the 4th Ward. We are now in the 5th Ward but are still listed in the 4th Ward for street sweeping. I called Ald. Will Burns’ (4th) office a couple months ago about the lack of cleaning in November, as I have for many years, and they forwarded my call to the sanitation department. A person there called me back and was of absolutely no help. Years ago a sweeping was scheduled for November but was canceled when they realized it was on Thanksgiving and we have never had a November sweeping since then. November is when the leaves fall and sweeping is needed. The 5th Ward 1 block over gets a November sweeping and an October sweeping a day after us. I find this unacceptable. I have e-mailed this letter to the 4th Ward twice and have never had a response.

Robert Wernis

Rights impinged of Dyett students

To the Editor:

A people that does not know its history is destined to repeat it. Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

Does selective enrollment, a tiered system of education, amount to segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of income and deprive the children of the lowest income group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does.

The selection process is always conducted according to students’ final point scores. The selection process starts with the top-scoring student and proceeds down the list. This system insures that the lower performing students go to the lower performing schools and the lower performing schools are in the low-income neighborhoods.

I write this letter on the behalf of the 13 students at Dyett High School that have sacrificed so much to stand up for the rights that have been illegally taken away from them: students’ ability to study, to engage in discussions and exchange views with other students, and, in general, to learn their profession. Such considerations apply with added force to children in grade and high schools. To deny them the same educational opportunities as others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their income generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The effect of this inequality on their educational opportunities is a violation of Brown vs. the Board of Education.

For evil to triumph it only takes a good man to do nothing. Don’t let evil triumph, get involved, and help these students stand up to this injustice.

Jack Taylor

Darrow Bridge deserves restoration

The closed Darrow Bridge. -Fran Vandervoort

The closed Darrow Bridge.
-Fran Vandervoort

To the Editor:

The Jackson Park Advisory Council salutes the federal government for providing tens of millions of dollars to construct three pedestrian bridges over South Lake Shore Drive between 35th and 43rd streets (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 14, 2014). Convenient access to Lake Michigan for residents of South Kenwood, Oakwood and the slightly more distant Bronzeville is in keeping with the democratic spirit espoused by park designer Frederick Law Olmsted, who with city fathers Aaron Montgomery Ward and Daniel Burnham agreed that the Lakefront should remain forever open, free and clear.

Some 20 blocks south of the sites for these bridges, another bridge cries for help. For several years, the historic Clarence Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park has been falling apart. The bridge’s original Beaux Arts railings and other fixtures, so in keeping with the grand style of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, are rusted, bent or missing. The rockwork supporting the bridge from beneath is spalling and stained from weather and smoke from illegal fires. Rusted support beams and fractured macadam make the bridge unsafe for any form of vehicular traffic. In other words, the public is denied safe, legal access to the park and lakefront, both of which are legally theirs to enjoy.

Suppose you are an elderly Japanese-American who, to this nation’s retrospective embarrassment, spent almost all of the World War II years in an internment camp in the West. You have come to Chicago to visit the most famous Japanese cultural site in the Midwest, the Japanese Garden on Wooded Island in Jackson Park. You have heard that the garden is a shrine to the tremendous contributions made by Imperial Japan to the World Columbian Exposition of 1893. You want to see it before you die.

You arrive at the parking lot immediately south of the Museum of Science and Industry. Your relatives assist you into your wheel chair for the planned excursion to the garden, but you can travel only a short distance before you are stopped by high, chain-link panels bearing a sign announcing, in huge letters, ROAD CLOSED. Is this another kind of insult?

Hardy individuals — committed trekkers, birders, joggers and bicyclists — have pried open the panels blocking access to the bridge. Physically impaired individuals are left out.

Since the mid-1880s, the bridge has been crossed by people traveling by foot, carriage or other vehicular means from the east “Lake Michigan side” or the west “Stony Island side.” The bridge was the way to go to get to the west side of Jackson Park, Wooded Island, the Midway Plaisance and points beyond. Or it was the way to get to Lake Michigan, the vast meadow now known as Bobolink Meadow or the tennis courts or North Harbor. In 1957 it officially became the Clarence Darrow Bridge in tribute to Hyde Park’s great trial lawyer. Every March 13, the anniversary of Darrow’s 1938 death, politicians, historians, family members and various individuals of liberal bent gather at the bridge to honor his memory by tossing a wreath into the lagoon’s friendly waters.

We South Siders rejoice that new pedestrian bridges across South Lake Shore Drive will open Chicago’s Lakefront to families and other groups from North Kenwood, Oakland, and Bronzeville. We all agree, however, that Jackson Park, so very near Lake Michigan, should be accessible to all. It would cost $5 million to restore the Darrow Bridge to its original beauty and function, far less than the tens of millions of dollars required for bridge repair and construction over Lake Shore Drive. An intact Darrow Bridge would complement the new bridges and complete local access to the great treasure that is Lake Michigan. It is an investment that must be made.

Jackson Park Advisory Council
Louise McCurry, President
Frances S. Vandervoort

Lagoon needs fresh water source, not poison

To the Editor:

Thank you for Jeffery Bishku-Aykul’s article about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to poison the Jackson Park Lagoon in order to kill off all of the fish (Hyde Park Herald, Sept. 17, p.1). It seems to me that the entire concept here is fraught and undesirable. Why keep poisoning the lagoon water that is dirty and murky and turbid pond water which supports algal blooms? Instead of poisoning the waters to kill off undesirable fish that thrive in such muddy, stationary water and subsequently attempt after the killoff to replace the entire stock of fish with game fish whose usual habitat is clear fresh water, wouldn’t it be a better idea in the long run to bring fresh clear Lake Michigan water into the lagoons? This could be accomplished by connecting the lagoons in Jackson Park so that fresh water from Lake Michigan could flow through them. If the East lagoon were to be connected by a channel to the Inner Harbor, then a flow could be set up through these lagoons to provide for clear clean Lake Michigan water throughout all of the lagoons. This in turn would provide a superior habitat for game fish and keep the lagoons more attractive for all of us. So how about bringing in fresh water from Lake Michigan instead of repeatedly poisoning the muddy water in the lagoons? It would take some engineering, but isn’t that what the Corps of Engineers is for?

Caroline Herzenberg

Thanks for standing up for fish

To the Editor:

As someone who has walked nearly daily in Jackson Park for the last 15 years, I am grateful to the Hyde Park Herald for demanding a more careful consideration of the proposed poisoning of fish in the Jackson Park lagoon. The mania for native species has gone too far, and the commitment to destroying ‘non-natives’ seems to take no other value than “native-ness” into consideration. One wonders indeed what the term “native species” means in an historical sense (native at what moment in time?) or in a prospective sense (what species will really be able to flourish here in a future shaped by climate change?). Over the years I have been disturbed, not to say appalled, by the number of mature healthy trees in the park — the golf course, the Wooded Isle, the Bobolink Meadow, the boulevard west of the marina at Hayes Drive — that have been cut down in the name of removing ‘non-native’ species. While those areas did need tending and cleaning up after a long period of neglect, the measures taken went well beyond that. As the Herald editorial rightly points out, there is a difference between “non-native” and aggressively invasive. If we had been talking about destructive species like the kudzu vine, I could have understood. But most of the destroyed trees posed no such threat. What I saw was a massive loss of beauty, shade and screening from traffic noise, not to mention a huge loss of carbon absorption capacity. In short, all the cutting seems to constitute major damage to the green lungs of the city and to the pleasures of the park. The saplings planted in their place were many fewer than the trees cut, and a good proportion of them are unlikely to survive (trees suffer great stress in an urban environment), indeed quite a number have already died. The ones that do survive will need a human generation to reach the stature of those cut. So, let us take a few extra months to consider whether it is really a good idea to poison the Jackson Park Lagoon and kill all the fish in it.

Holly Shissler

It’s not necessary to kill the fish

To the Editor:

Why kill all the fish in the Jackson Park Lagoon? Why not stun and relocate? I’ve fished the lagoon ever since I was a small lad. Just catch and release. Why not clean up water and restock?

Some of us really enjoy fishing there where we don’t have to travel great distances. I’m sure there are other alternatives to consider than killing the fish.

All users of the lagoon do not agree the fish should be killed. It’s not good for a few to make such a large decision. Give us a chance to speak.

Randolph Strahan

The return of the goldfinches

To the Editor:

Actually, the goldfinches have been here all summer. These tiny, puffed-up flecks of sunlight flit amongst local parks, gardens and any place that provides food and other necessities for a productive goldfinch life. In late summer they begin to prepare for the winter.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) maintains beds of coneflowers, black-eyed susans, lilies and floribunda roses at the ends of the berms flanking the north side of 55th Street between University and Cottage Grove avenues. For as long as the flower beds have existed, in autumn months my husband and I have enjoyed seeing a dozen or so goldfinches feasting on the oil-rich seeds buried deep in the spent flower heads. They pry the seeds out with their strong beaks, often scattering seeds on the ground to be eaten by other birds or mice.

Last autumn, not a goldfinch was to be seen. All that was left of the flowers were bare, black stalks — someone had given the order to remove spent flowers, probably because they were “unsightly.” This year, to our delight, the goldfinches have returned. We have learned that CDOT ordered that spent flowers not be removed. Once again we see the striking black-and-yellow of the males, the soft beige and cream of the females, watch their rollercoaster flight, and hear their rollicking chatter.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has invited us to have a truly golden autumn.

Frances S. Vandervoort

Hoping Kiwanis will stick around

To the Editor:

It was sad to read the recent cover story on the current status of the Hyde Park Kiwanis Club. I am not a member of the Hyde Park Club, but am a 39-year member of the Southeast Kiwanis Club. All of the reasons Kiwanis Clubs are diminishing as stated in the article by their club treasurer, Jon Will, are true. It is also true that Kiwanis Clubs in towns and communities with a strong business organization and/or strong church groups do not fare as well.

It might be useful for potential members to understand what Kiwanis is all about. There is no secret hand shake. Like Rotary and Lions Clubs, Kiwanis International is a worldwide service organization. A major difference between Lions and Rotary is that Kiwanis Club levels include Key Clubs (high school) and Circle K clubs (college level), which present opportunities to perform service to their communities. Through our sponsored youth initiatives, local Kiwanis Clubs support these youth organizations both financially and through direct mentoring.

Although the main objective of local Kiwanis Clubs is service to youth and senior groups in our communities, many clubs manage to enjoy their time with the club. Hopefully meetings have speakers that both inform and entertain the membership and guests. On a personal note, I was recruited to join the Southeast Kiwanis Club as a part of my duties as a commercial lender at a neighborhood bank. There was no pressure by the bank that I sustain my membership. The first thing I learned about Kiwanis was that every dollar raised from the public went back to the public. Meetings, conventions, membership recruitment parties and the like came from our pockets. Many projects in which our clubs participate are extremely rewarding to our members. Seeing the look on one of the inner-city kids’ faces as they disembark from a plane ride with a Tuskegee Airman or a pilot from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is priceless. Sponsoring trips for our area high school juniors to visit colleges as far away as Atlanta or just sending some kids to a White Sox game leaves us feeling pretty good about the time we give to our club’s service. We have not done it recently but we have rented a bus to take seniors downtown just to see how the city has changed since their retirement. I will never forget the effort the Hyde Park club made to get uniforms for a local high school who did not have them in their budget.

Hopefully the membership will vote to keep the Hyde Park Kiwanis Charter alive. If so, I, as well as a couple of friends, plan to allow ourselves to be sponsored as members.

Paul L. Carson

Thanks to my hard-working neighbors

To the Editor:

A great thank you from me to some hard-working people. I do not know anyone who lives in the apartment building on the north east corner of 54th Street and Harper Avenue. But every time I drive west on 54th Street from the shopping center, I am in awe of the beautiful flowers on their back porches. The colors are outstanding, and the residents of the building have showed us how life in a crowded city can still bring beauty to many. I say thank you every time I witness your hard work.

Judy Allen