Letters to the Editor

Burns needs to deal with real problems

To the Editor:

I feel disgusted that my alderman, Will Burns, is putting forth resolutions about a movie tax credit in response to what accounts say is the working title of a Spike Lee film based in a neighborhood that isn’t even part of his ward. If that’s not enough, all of this is going on during a time when the governor of Illinois has already frozen film tax credits and at a point when the real violence happening every day (not the fake movie kind) is a challenge that actually requires the attention and effort of our elected officials.  Will Burns, you represent the Fourth Ward.  Please try your hand at actually doing that in a way that truly benefits your constituents.

Cory Petty

Hyde Park is not bashing Metra

To the Editor:

We would like to clarify for the community that “bash[ing the] Metra app” was not the purpose of action at the July 22 Metra board meeting, reported on in the August 5 Hyde Park Herald. We acknowledge that Metra’s “Ventra Mobile App” will offer many benefits, but those benefits will only be available to persons who use the required high end smart phone. We are calling for Metra to also implement a single fare card that is usable on CTA, Metra and Pace (as called for by the 2011 Universal Fare Card legislation), making it easier to ride on and transfer between all of the Chicago region transit services by all persons, including seniors and low-income persons who rely on public transportation. It is “both/and” – not “either/or.”

Linda Thisted and Roger Huff

Montgomery Place striving to serve changing needs

To the Editor:

We appreciate the thoughtful report on the recent White House Conference on Aging prepared by Hyde Park Older Women’s League (OWL) and Chicago Hyde Park Village (CHPV). Everyone associated with Montgomery Place shares their commitment to providing the finest services and programs for older adults in our community. We concur with the current discussion and think two public policy issues need further discussion.

The first: Demographics clearly show an exponentially increasing number of seniors will want or need support services. The vast majority will choose to stay in their own homes. Montgomery Place, like OWL and CHPV, recognizes this trend and is developing more programs that reach beyond our campus to older adults in their own homes.

Eight years ago to further extend our services to more seniors, Montgomery Place created a subsidiary, LifeCare@HOME, to provide home-based services for older adults in Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will Counties. We now are in the process of reaching out to individuals who live in nearby high-rise apartment buildings so we can provide wellness services and assist them in organizing social and education programs. We also are testing a pilot project to offer modestly priced transportation to seniors.

Because many people are cared for by family members, Montgomery Place’s chaplain Rev. Dr. Julianne Buenting also helps those caregivers by offering regularly scheduled support group meetings on our campus.

As we serve a greater variety of older adults, we continue to believe one factor is paramount for our success — our caregivers. This leads to the second policy issue: Ensuring the fair treatment and compensation of hourly workers. The not-for-profit governing board of Montgomery Place already has taken measures that all our employees are fairly compensated, and treated with dignity and respect.

We strive to recognize the work and dedication of the hundreds of employees who work for Montgomery Place and LifeCare@HOME. To achieve our mission of providing quality, senior-centered care, we commit significant resources to ensure our caregivers are not only well-trained and supported by ongoing education and peer-group programs, but also generously compensated, well above industry standards and the requirements of the city of Chicago.
As part of this commitment, we pay our caregivers time-and-a-half on holidays to thank them for putting the lives of their clients first and include paid holidays in their compensation plan. We also offer them healthcare benefits and a 401k-retirement plan.

We acknowledge senior living industry practices are not always what they should be. Montgomery Place is committed to leading the way for best employment practices. We encourage families to choose employers who treat their employees well, invest in their training, and offer them generous compensation and benefits.

It is only this level of recognition and training for caregivers that makes it possible for Montgomery Place and LifeCare@HOME to respond quickly to an older adult in need.

We are grateful to our caregivers for their eagerness to continually improve their skills and knowledge and for their selfless dedication and genuine affection for the older adults whom they serve.

Susan M. Levy, President Board of Directors, Montgomery Place and LifeCare@HOME LLC
Michael Apa
CEO/Executive Director; Montgomery Place and LifeCare@HOME LLC

Local pols need to talk straight about budget

To the Editor:

While the state budget impasse continues, state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) and state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) still support the spending plan passed by the legislature promising to cover essential services but with a deficit of more than $3 billion (See their articles in the June 17 Herald). Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed this budget , insisting on passage of his business growth plan. Now, a one-month budget extension is pending.

Both approaches seem wrong-headed. Currie in her article in the June 17 issue of the Herald proposes solving the budget short-fall by looking first for “new sources of revenue” by which I think she means new taxes. Some of the governor’s proposals may well benefit the state in the long run. However, he has spent too much time trying to limit union power rather than finding immediate solutions to our fiscal problems.

Taxpayers doubtless will pay more to help cover the deficit. I’d like to hear much more from the legislative leaders and the governor about decreasing the size of Illinois government. We have more governmental units such as townships, mosquito abatement districts and mid-level administrators than other states, all requiring personnel, funding, etc. Here, the average citizen needs the courage of the state’s legislative leaders including Currie to point the way to downsizing government without hazarding services to those most in need.

The legislature and its leadership should remember that a Republican governor was just elected, signifying a wish by voters for a change in direction. Speaker Mike Madigan and Currie are a bit disingenuous when in recent news reports they insist on negotiating with the governor only on budgetary matters, failing to acknowledge that politicians are usually willing to negotiate on all kinds of issues at once. Recently, the legislature passed a bill to be sure that their salaries are paid, despite a possible governmental shutdown.

Let us urge our state leaders to support a balanced approach to our budget problems that includes reducing unnecessary units of state government. Meanwhile, we taxpayers anxiously await contributions that are yet to be made by other constituencies – state pension reform still pending, state workers’ contracts uncertain — and up to now no sign that the legislature will cut its own expenses to help cover the deficit.

Alfred L. Baker M.D.

Dowell is shifting blame for missing units

To the Editor:

In response to the column (“Planning requires everyone’s support” Hyde Park Herald, July 1, 2015), I find it very interesting that Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) would speak out about the guest column that reminds the public that the City of Chicago and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) refused to honor their commitment to replace affordable housing in the Third and Fourth wards. After all, it was Dowell who said that the Third ward was “overburdened” with public housing. Is this the reason that little, if any effort, has been given to the replacement of low-income housing that has been lost in the Third ward?

I was in attendance at the meeting where she announced that she was giving $2.8 Million in TIF money to XS Tennis for a tennis facility on public land where affordable housing was supposed to be built. What is even worse, in Dowell’s column, she is trying to hide behind CHA to cover her involvement in the land swaps that have turned over land at the former Robert Taylor site to XS Tennis, and land at the former Ida B. Wells site to Mariano’s.
She knows she was the one who brokered the deal for public land to be sold to commercial interests. There are approximately 139,000 homeless people living in Chicago; 75 percent of those are African- American. How does Dowell have the nerve to play God by not holding CHA accountable for replacing the agreed-upon number of units that were torn down?

Unfortunately, Dowell did the same thing a couple of years ago when she hid behind CPS as they closed the schools in her Ward. A little more than 98 percent of homeless students are children of color. It is obvious that Dowell is playing to the hand of City Hall, and is complicit in development strategies that are turning Chicago into another South Africa — where Blacks are not allowed to live within the city limits, but on townships on the outskirts of town. Dowell, please stop throwing rocks and hiding your hands.

Alphonso Jones

Kenwood coverage doesn’t ring true

To the Editor:

Last week’s headline article “Kenwood center ready to move” has a version of history puzzlingly different from the Herald’s previous coverage. According to the article, “In wake of the school’s closing, Ald. Will Burns (4th) held a series of open meetings that explored how CPS should repurpose the Canter building. Behind a strong push from the community, it was decided that Kenwood’s Academic Center would be moved into the vacant building…”

The record as reported in the Herald shows NO open meetings to explore what to do with the Canter building, only one meeting on June 16, 2014 announcing a decision (see the Herald article “Selective enrollment middle school will replace Canter” from June 25, 2014). I can find no record in the Herald or in any of Alderman Burns’s newsletters of any prior open meetings. Indeed, the July 2014 Herald article cites criticism of the lack of such a process.

I also sought in vain for any mention in the Herald archives of a “strong push from the community” for the plan to use it for the Kenwood Academic Center. All I found was a letter to the editor from April 16, 2014 – but that letter was written by Alderman Burns.

At best, the reporter did not check the facts, not even against previous coverage in the Herald; at worst, the Herald published a deliberately misleading account provided by the alderman’s office of a contentious issue. I expect better journalism from the Herald, especially on a local school issue.

Michael Scott

Be sure to join in the 4th on 53rd Parade this Saturday

To the Editor:

Thanks for your wonderful article about our 4th on 53rd Parade Grand Marshal Joan Steggemann. We are honored to have her as grand marshal for this year’s Hyde Park July Fourth festivities and it means a lot to us that you took the time to write about her.

We’d also like to let you and your readers know that we are still looking for volunteers to help out on July Fourth for the parade and picnic. We need everyone from banner carriers, decorators and marshals to face painters to pitch in and make the 24th annual 4th on 53rd Parade and Picnic a success for our community.

To help out or find out more information about how to get involved with the parade, your readers can contact 4th on 53rd Committee Chairperson Stephanie Franklin at (773) 955-3622 or e-mail 4thon53rdstreet@gmail.com.
The 4th on 53rd Committee also asks those bringing a vehicle, float or group of 12 people or more to register in advance at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/4th-on-53rd-street-parade-registration-17085488155.

Thank you for your coverage and all your wonderful stories about the Hyde Park community. We really appreciate it.

Kirsten Srinivasan

A Wailing Wall for Chicago

To the Editor:

Chicago needs its own Wailing Wall to mourn the loss of so many to gun violence.

If a climbing wall can’t be erected safely in Grant Park, how about a memorial boxwood hedge maze. Kids could roam through it; those who have lost loved ones already feel like they’re lost in a maze.

Winifred Mason

Thanks and luck to a local shopkeeper

To the Editor:

Thank you to Bader ElShareif, owner of Harper Foods, for 17 years of excellent service to the community. You opened the store in the best and worst of weather and we always could count on your stocking just what we needed with a friendly smile and comment on the day. I know many people join us as we wish all the best to you as you enter the next chapter of your life.

Elaine and Jonathan Smith

Support school choice for our neighbors to the north

To the Editor:

I am writing to ask folks to stand with the Bronzeville community and support the Walter H. Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School proposal from the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett. I believe you should support the proposal from the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett because it is for a CPS-run, neighborhood, open-enrollment high school open to all children in the attendance boundary (and beyond if there is room). And it was developed over years by parents, students, folks in the community, partners and educators dedicated to working with communities for sustainable quality public schools for all kids.

You can show your support by coming out to the CPS Community Meeting on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at King High School, 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. At this meeting, the Coalition and the two other groups will present their proposals followed by community testimony. A candlelight vigil will follow the community meeting.

Whether you live in Bronzeville or outside, come to this meeting and support the community’s long-developed plan. Supporting this proposal shows your support for community-based sustainable district-run public education for all children. Now is the time to stand up for a neighborhood high school for Bronzeville.

Joy Clendenning

Thanks to all who helped out Bret Harte

To the Editor:

We would like to publicly thank all of the community members who supported the Bret Harte 8th graders as we traveled to Washington, D.C., this spring. This is the first year that Bret Harte has had an 8th grade due to the school actions in the last few years and the administration and staff wanted to be sure that they had every opportunity to experience the 8th grade activities that many students do at this time in their lives.

Our trip to Washington, D.C., was a huge success. We were able to take 27 students on the trip and five adults. We flew out of Midway Airport and spent three days there, touring all day long, taking in all of the memorials and museums. It was a packed trip and the students all gave it favorable reviews. For many, it was their first time flying.
We did a lot of fundraising to make this trip happen. We appreciate all of the community members who had their cars washed, bought raffle tickets, came to our Silent Auction/Raffle Event at Woodlawn Tap, bought chocolate bars and taffy apples, or donated through our Donorschoose Project site online. Without the generosity of those who helped through these efforts, and the parents who volunteered their time for each of these, we would not have been successful.

This trip was such a formative moment in these students’ lives. The students talk about the impact the Vietnam Memorial had on them or how they didn’t realize so many soldiers had lost their lives while we were touring Arlington National Cemetery. Our tour guide was great and one student came back reciting the one thing he wanted them to take away from his time with them – that freedom is not free. We expected them to take in the sites, learn to be respectful (they were so, so reverent at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), have fun walking around together, but we didn’t realize the way they would internalize the trip as a whole and what all those memorials together represent. Many of them said they want to return to D.C. at some point and revisit places that we just didn’t have enough time to take in fully.

We are already laying the ground work for next year’s trip. We are tired, but all who participated (students and educators) have been changed by this experience. We look forward to making these events, specifically the Silent Auction/Raffle Event, an annual opportunity to bring the outside community together with the Bret Harte school community.

We thank you with warm hearts for your support for our students and neighborhood school.

Donna Dyer-Williams (8th grade instructional assistant)
Kristy Ulrich Papczun (8th grade homeroom teacher)
Nicole Stuart (8th grade diverse learners teacher)
Emily Forrest-Mattfield (art teacher)

Crash drives home need for trauma center

To the Editor:

Today a terrible automobile accident took place right in front of our building in Hyde Park. A car driving at high speed veered off the inner drive, jumped the curb, narrowly missed a light pole and then crashed directly into a large tree. Part of the front of the car wrapped itself around the tree during the impact, the hood was doubled over and smashed into the windshield, the front wheels were knocked out of position and parts of the battery were thrown some 50 feet. Both occupants of the vehicle died in the accident.

As I looked at the awful wreckage in which the bodies still remained, I couldn’t help thinking about what might have happened if they had hit the street light instead, and it had given way. Might they have survived? Probably not, because there is still no trauma center at the nearby University of Chicago Medical Center, and ambulances would likely have had to take them to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on the near North Side, which would have taken much longer at a very critical time for severe injured individuals. Really, we need an adult trauma center in or near Hyde Park to help to save the lives of individuals seriously injured in automobile accidents here.

Caroline Herzenberg

Why we put brakes on police info law

To the Editor:

We heard from the community at town hall meetings. We heard from people who phoned and visited our offices. We were button-holed by friends and neighbors as we walked down the street.

The concern? The breadth and extent of University of Chicago Police Department authority: how big is the UCPD area? And what are its powers?
The university has police powers well beyond the campus boundaries, from 37th to 64th streets. Their police powers are identical to those available to municipal and public university police departments. Most in the community are happy to have the UCPD presence — extra pairs of eyes, extra hands on deck help to keep us safe and secure.

But many want to know more about the operations and practices of Department personnel. Do they make many arrests? What triggers the decision to stop a motorist or pedestrian?

The answer to the first question — the arrest question — is that, generally, they don’t make many. Most arrests are handled by the Chicago Police Department, often alerted to a problem by members of the UCPD. But private campus police operations and practices? No clear answers.

When private university police agencies have police powers identical to those of their public counterparts, we believe those private forces should meet the same standards of accountability and transparency that apply to their public counterparts.

We introduced House Bill 3932 in order to shed public light on private university police practices. We worked closely with our own university, with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and with open information advocates across the state.

We made great progress. But some disagreements surfaced in the final hours of our spring legislative session. We didn’t call the measure for a final vote.

In the meantime, we are grateful that the university itself, having met with community advocates, recently decided to make available to the public more information about its activities. But a decision by one administration can be undone by the next; as well, the information the university has voluntarily offered to disseminate is not as extensive as is today required of municipal police forces.

We will continue to work over the summer to find common ground on the legislation. In our effort, it will be important to balance the public’s right to know against the privacy interests of those who interact with a private higher education institution. Our goal is to provide greater transparency for the public on private university police activities in the state of Illinois.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25)
State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26)
State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13)

Thanks to all our volunteers of Hyde Park Garden Fair

To the Editor:

On behalf of all the members of the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee, and the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, I’m writing to express our thanks to our loyal volunteers and shoppers at the 56th annual Hyde Park Garden Fair on May 15 and 16. Thanks also, to the Herald for the recent photo spreads. We appreciate your support!

We look forward to the Fall Garden Fair on Sept. 19, 2015 and at the 57th annual spring fair next May, always the weekend after Mother’s Day.

Jane Ciacci, on behalf of the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee

Runners need to be mindful of walkers

To the Editor:

Does the Hyde Park community realize that the proliferation of joggers on sidewalks has become a safety hazard? Yes. Ask a local resident about leaving a store and almost being run down by a guy or gal in short  shorts. It has become a very common occurrence.

When stepping out of a business or residence on certain streets, a pedestrian should always look both ways before stepping outside. Some of these runners have no regard for the natural pedestrian, someone who is walking on a sidewalk. While this may not be true of the entire running community in Hyde Park, once again, a few bad apples ruin it for the  bunch. Hopefully, these runners will stop barreling down on people with a little encouraging. In the meantime, keep your head up Hyde Park pedestrians!

Greg Fairbanks