Letters to the Editor

Jackson Park is not for profit

To the Editor:

Jackson Park is a sanctuary. It is a haven. Jackson Park is everyone’s Sanctuary. Jackson Park is not for profit. It is not for anyone’s exploitation.

My highest priority is the protection and preservation of the Wooded Island, the bird sanctuary and the Bowling Green. For 50 years I have cared about Jackson Park. Also, Jackson Park is in the midst of a quiet residential area.

Benign neglect is far preferable to the 120 Project encroachment or any project of its ilk.

Thank you for your attention and concern.

Sincerely,
Kathie Newhouse

Christian Mitchell is no friend of public education

To the Editor:

The Herald gets it wrong: Christian Mitchell is no friend of public education. He IS a friend of the charter school expansion and anti-union movement that has donated more than $150,000 to his campaigns through organizations such as Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform and individuals such as Eli Broad and Andrew Broy. We advocate for policies to keep public education public and free of private and corporate interests. Mitchell IS NOT our friend. We advocated twice for a bill to reduce the power of the Illinois State Charter Commission, an appointed body, which currently can overrule local school board decisions about opening new charter schools. He voted against this measure, twice. We advocated for an opt-out bill so parents can push back against the influence of the standardized testing industry on our children’s schools. He voted against this measure. We have advocated for three years for an Elected Representative School Board for Chicago; he did not support it until it became politically expedient. He was silent during the massive school closings of 2013 and failed to stand with those who fought for years to get Dyett High School re-opened. As public education advocates, we know that we need truly progressive voices in Springfield; in the 26th District race that candidate is Jay Travis.

Brenda I Delgado Als
Joy Clendenning
Debra A. Hass
Hannah Hayes
Victoria Long
Patricia Smith
Julie Vassilato

Endorsing spin,ignoring facts insults readers

To the Editor: 

Seasoned news professionals check their facts and know how to separate truth from spin. So it was shocking to see the Hyde Park Herald print the unsubstantiated claims of a desperate incumbent who will say anything to hold onto his seat — including taking credit for other hard-working legislators’ work.

The Herald claims its endorsement of Mitchell is based on bills that Mitchell takes credit for proposing, pushing and passing. But the facts show otherwise. The Herald also ignored Mitchell’s repeated votes to cut our seniors’ retirement security, undermine democracy in our schools, shortchange already cash-strapped school systems and vote the agenda of his fat cat corporate backers.

Mitchell takes credit for the work of State Representative Elgie Sims and State Senator Kwame Raoul, who together proposed and pushed for passage of SB1304. The police reform omnibus bill provides for police body cams as well as other policing and criminal justice reforms. It’s not Mitchell’s bill; he wasn’t even added as a cosponsor until more than three months after Raoul and Sims proposed the bill.

Same thing with HB0218, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana.The bill was actually introduced in the House not by Mitchell, but by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and in the Senate by Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin). Again, Mitchell didn’t even sign on as a cosponsor until more than three months after Cassidy proposed the bill, which died when Rauner refused to sign it.

In terms of Mitchell’s so-called education reform bill, HB4272 — really a pension cost shift that has sweeping bipartisan opposition across the state. Mitchell’s bill does NOTHING to address either Chicago’s school funding crisis over the long term or our state-wide crisis in education funding, which is simply inadequate. Slapping school districts outside of Chicago with the new burden of pension costs — when more than 60 percent of those districts already confront deficit spending challenges — does nothing to address the fundamental structural deficit in statewide education funding. Mitchell, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and his boss Rahm Emanuel like to trot out their political spin on this scheme, but the bill has garnered only a handful of cosponsors and is simply electioneering smoke and mirrors that has zero possibility of passing.

And it’s truly cynical of Mitchell to try to take credit for SB 570, actually pushed in the Senate by Toi Hutchinson and in the House by Peoria State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth. The bill would have restored access to child care subsidies to many low-income families. Chicago Democratic State Representative Esther Golar literally checked herself out of the hospital to vote for Gordon-Booth’s bill. It failed by one House vote. That was Golar’s last trip to Springfield. She died the following week. Yet Mitchell would seek to take credit away from these two committed Black women legislators to pad his own shoddy resume.

That’s the kind of behavior we expect from hedge fund bosses and investment bankers — the very political elites who bankroll Mitchell’s campaign.

The Herald could have done at least a little basic fact-checking instead of swallowing Mitchell’s distortions whole. And it bears noting that there was no endorsement ‘process’ at the Herald — publisher Bruce Sagan and general manager Susan Walker never invited my campaign to make a case for support over Mitchell. If they had, I would have reminded them that Mitchell’s campaign is funded by those who share his agenda: Rauner allies who include school privatizers, union busters and corporate opportunists who don’t give a damn about either the truth or the greater public good. Neither, apparently, do Sagan and Walker.

Jay Travis

Rauner’s reform agenda won’t work

To the Editor:

Despite Gov. Bruce Rauner still holding last year’s budget hostage to his radical, right-wing, proven-not-to-work Turnaround Agenda, he gave his second budget address last week.

Nowhere in his speech did the governor present a realistic plan forward. Nowhere did he talk about the struggling college students who may have to drop out because Rauner hasn’t provided them with their MAP grants, or the single moms whose child care was cut by the governor, or the seniors who have seen their in-home care disappear, or the social service agencies who provide critical services to Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.

Instead, he stuck to his same old talking points, demanding that we dismantle unions, lower the wages and workplace protections of our hardworking state employees, and place the entire burden on the backs of the working poor.

If the governor wants to talk about structural reforms, let’s talk about changing a system where two-thirds of corporations pay no income tax, and where 50 percent of the savings from the rollback of the income tax increase went to the richest one percent. Let’s talk about changing the education funding formula so that schools on the south side of Chicago have the same resources as schools in Rauner’s neighborhood in Winnetka. Let’s talk about making investments in infrastructure, education, public transportation, workforce development, and green technology – the areas that are proven to make Illinois competitive.

The governor insinuated that those of us who oppose his “Turnaround Agenda” do so because of special interests and campaign donors. The truth of the matter is that I oppose his agenda because there is no evidence that it will work. In fact, there is significant evidence that it will actually hurt our state. I oppose his agenda because it sells out working people and makes it easier for Rauner and his golf buddies to continue lining their pockets while the rest of us are scraping for crumbs.

I will continue fighting for a fair budget in Springfield, but I can’t do it alone.

I am asking you – whether you are a parent of a student in CPS, a senior who relies on in-home care, a college student without a MAP grant, a working mom who depends on a little help with your child care, or simply someone concerned about the direction of our state – to please get involved. The governor must hear from everyday folks. You can call his office at 312-814-2121 and tell him to put aside his reckless political agenda, and support a budget that works for everyone, not just those at the very top.

Together, we must demand a stronger, brighter, and more secure future for everyone.

Sincerely,
Christian Mitchell

Hold the Term Limits, Give Us More Voters

To the Editor:

There is a push in Illinois to pass legislation that introduces term limits on political office. Gov. Bruce Rauner is a proponent of such legislation and Michael Madigan is a prime target of it. But before we go that route, let’s make sure that as many people as possible vote. High voter participation can stop the political evils targeted by term limits and deliver a more representative democracy.

To many people, serving in office election after election enables political self-dealing. As time passes in office, incumbents get stronger holds on their seats and become less accountable to the public. Each challenger warded off makes an elected office look more and more like a permanent job. With permanency the incentive to tackle problems disappears. This is one narrative on political life sans term limits.

On these facts, term limits seem attractive. They’re certainly not uncommon. In Philadelphia the mayor is limited to two consecutive four-year terms. The same was true of New York’s mayoral office until Michael Bloomberg changed the cap to three consecutive four-year terms because he could.

If only term limits were effective at eliminating elected slugs and their political inertia. A term-limited politician intent on holding office simply runs for a different seat. Instead of new entrants to the political scene, the public gets a reshuffling of the deck. To avoid exiting elected office altogether, a term-limited legislator moves from the lower house to the upper house or a position that is not term-limited.

The real problem is that too few people vote. In the 2014 Illinois Governor’s race, only 36.4 percent of registered voters in Chicago cast a ballot. Chances are this older, more formerly educated portion of the electorate has a vested interest in the status quo. Elections on these terms have not diminished political self-dealing or brought about swift and effective solutions to pressing problems. Instead they have functioned to determine which camp of supporters closest to political power will benefit from an election night win. Term limits won’t solve this problem.

Increased voter turnout can because it naturally creates more accountability. While you can ignore public sentiment when only a third of registered voters cast ballots, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so when a larger portion of the populous, many of which are disaffected by political self-dealing, are involved in electoral politics. Elected officials are more likely to do the right thing when more eyes are watching.

Greater voter turnout also pushes politicians to abandon special interests in favor of more broad-based appeals to the average Jose or Jennifer. We see this happen when candidates move from primary elections to general elections and massage their messages to appeal to the demands of the general electorate. Why shouldn’t we expect these broad-based appeals to become a more defining characteristic of our electoral politics as voter turnout expands in all elections? Why shouldn’t we expect politicians to act on more populist appeals when there is certainty they’ll be held accountable by a constituency that will show up to vote in bunches?

For politicians seriously looking to tackle political inertia, the push for term limits should take a back seat to initiatives to multiply the number of registered voters and maximize turnout. Let’s set party politics aside and make it easier to vote by increasing access to polling sites for people with disabilities, offering translators to voters facing language barriers, and extending election day voting hours. Then let’s match these reforms with initiatives to grow the number of registered voters by restoring the right for ex-felons to vote, allowing same day registration, and experimenting with automatic registration. After all, there is power in numbers – large numbers of people voting.

Alex Breland

Time to reject ‘reform’ rhetoric and demand transformative legislation

To the Editor:

Illinois families deserve leadership with the guts to address the state’s structural deficit — and provide real relief to the thousands of constituents who are suffering under Gov. Rauner’s indefensible refusal to pass a responsible budget.

We got the usual rhetoric from Rauner in his most recent budget address — while he continues to stall a viable budget for this fiscal year, at tremendous harm to Illinois residents who are being denied critical services that range from college tuition support to child care subsidies for poor working mothers. But we also must be crystal clear about the deep differences between real solutions that truly protect our working families and the most vulnerable, versus gimmicks promoted by special interest groups and the political operatives they bankroll.

While the governor continues to dig in his heels to push anti-worker policies in his ‘turnaround agenda’, the reality is that the scheme to strip away vital labor protections predates his election by many years. That scheme has intensified with the financial backing of groups like the We Mean Business PAC (bankrolled by Rauner and his political allies) and Stand For Children, which Rauner helped bring to Illinois and which cuts its proposals from the agenda of ALEC, the right-wing corporate bill mill for polluters, privatizers, and profiteers.

There is a responsible path forward to tackle Illinois’ budget impasse, chronic structural deficit and the state crisis in education funding.

First, as I wrote in this newspaper last April, legislators should not have allowed the temporary tax increase to expire without putting in place a long-term revenue fix anchored in fairness — and based on individuals’ ability to pay, not special interests’ schemes to dodge paying their fair share by shouldering ordinary residents with the bulk of the state’s revenue burden. We should restore the temporary increase — whose rollback blew a multi-billion dollar hole in the state’s budget thatbenefitted wealthy elites like Rauner the most — while we work to create a more truly and systematically fair tax system.

Second, we should move immediately to slam the door on lucrative corporate loopholes throughlegislation like HB 4300, which could bring more than $3 billion into state coffers, according to the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

Finally, we’ve got to reject the fake rhetoric of pension ‘reform’ — code language from powerful political players like the We Mean Business PAC for hacking away at the hard-earned retirement security of public workers. Unfortunately, these kinds of fake ‘reforms’ continue to be backed by elected officials like 26th District State Rep. Christian Mitchell, who’s voted repeatedly to support Rauner-esque objectives to cut public workers pensions and support school privatizers like his donors at Stand For Children at the expense of neighborhood public schools  and retirees.
That also means rejecting legislation like HB 4272, the deceptively named “Fund Education First” bill which, like its predecessor SB16, does nothing to address the appalling structural deficit in state education funding and instead imposes a huge increase in pension payments on the backs of workers and cash strapped school districts. That approach has drawn widespread opposition, with a House resolution opposing any such cost shift winning overwhelming bipartisan support from 62 state representatives — among them those like Eddie Jackson of East St. Louis, who represent districts that Mitchell claims his pension cost shift scheme would help.

Illinois legislators have the responsibility to break Rauner’s stalemate by actually moving revenue-positive, financially fair bills like HB 4300 to a vote — and rejecting fake solutions that benefit a narrow corporate agenda at the expense of the rest of us.

The alternative is to continue to starve our public schools, strangle the futures of our college students, undercut our small businesses and undermine the wellbeing of our most needy residents — who ironically, shoulder the greatest burden proportionally of our meager public revenue stream. And that’s an alternative we cannot and must not accept.

Jay Travis

Elected official decision-making reform needed

To the Editor:

Thank you Gabriel Piemonte for reminding all of us that our decision processes matter, based on your long community engagements including recent editorship of the Hyde Park Herald.

(“Let’s be careful and actively involved in our next choice for alderman, “ 2/3/16, p. 4). And thank you Herald Park Herald for continuing to open up your pages to debate and inquiry and your own investigative initiative.

So what can we do better in electing our next 4th Ward Alderman? —And what should we not do?

Focusing on our recent and continuing development controversies, check the alderman’s connections and responsiveness to all citizens. To remove obstacles to full disclosure and honesty, let’s start with marketing. Cases in point: Avoid oxymoronic building brands such as “Vue 53” for a 13-story development leaving homeowners and gardens without sunlight after 3 p.m. Avoid slogans such as “transit oriented development”—good in principle but in fact leaving Hyde Park and Kenwood residents stranded in food deserts. Avoid Trojan Horse voting change surveys and petitions, such as asking for liquor rights for a single store but turning a whole dry residential

block wet (corner of 53rd and Kimbark and down Kimbark). Lift the curtain on front groups and affiliates of the realtor (University of Chicago) and developers behind “visioning workshops” and community forums—Who are they and what are they showing or not disclosing? “Identity groups”—please resist divide et impera divide-and-rule campaign tactics, such as “Oh, he’ll just take care of Hispanics—he won’t do anything for African-Americans.” I heard this addressed to one aldermanic candidate, and I’ll bet the opposite was heard elsewhere, too. Hold all candidates
accountable and demand responses and a voice—“Please don’t take our sunshine away!”

Respectfully and sincerely,
Louise Kaegi

Project 120 getting ahead of itself

To the Editor:

I attended the February 8, 2016, presentation by Project 120 representatives and am concerned about their plans to build a music pavilion in Jackson Park east of Darrow Bridge and to put a regular traffic-bearing road across the bridge.  The resulting noise and crowds are not what Jackson Park needs, nor what I expect the Army Corps of Engineers anticipated when it allocated several million dollars to restore the habitat in the park.  Moreover Project 120’s planned building would have large glass windows, a death trap for the birds that migrate through the park in spring and fall.

I am also concerned that Project 120 is getting a bit ahead of itself.  While their website currently says, “Project 120 Chicago and the Chicago Park District have selected” an architect to design a music pavilion, the Chicago Park District has not even approved the project, let alone selected an architect. I gathered from the Feb. 8 meeting that Project 120 and the Park District entered into a Memorandum of Understanding only for documenting Project 120’s funding commitment for the Army’s restoration project and having Project 120’s landscape architect participate in the planning of the project. If that is correct, then now that the restoration project is well underway Project 120 no longer has the right to speak on behalf of the Park District about future plans for the rest of Jackson Park.

But those of us who use Jackson Park regularly and want to preserve it as an urban wilderness should be speaking up now.  Yes, Darrow Bridge needs to be fixed and it would be wonderful if there was more interpretive material for park visitors. But now that the Army project is in its final phases, perhaps the park’s next door neighbor, the Museum of Science and Industry, could be persuaded to help out by guiding some of its visitors out of its doors, across a repaired Darrow Bridge, and onto a newly planted Wooded Island.

Jackson Park is an oasis that does not need a new permanent building, or a new road cutting through the park, despite what Project 120 says.

Thank you,
Eric Ginsburg

I  oppose the closing of the Shrine for technical reasons

To the Editor:

Editor’s note: This letter was written to the Committee on Historic Landmarks and sent as an open letter to several newspapers including the Hyde Park Herald.

This letter is written to voice my opposition to the demolition of the Shrine of Christ the King in Woodlawn, not only because of the Shrine’s beauty and its historical value, but for a technical reason. The Committee’s recently issued demolition permit for the church would seem like a logical decision considering that the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings, had previously determined the building to be dangerous and in need of demolition.

Let me introduce myself. I am a licensed architect in the State of Illinois; hold a master degree in Architecture and Urban Design and am a member of the American Institute of Architects. My entire career has been devoted to the investigation of building failures; my first assignment fresh out of university being the Seattle Dome Collapse many years ago. I take extreme exception to the opinion that the building should be demolished due to the recent fire. It simply is not true.

We know that your decision to issue the demolition permit was based upon Building Department Commissioner, Judith Frydland’s, recent judgment that the building is “imminently dangerous and hazardous and poses a health and safety risk to the public.” This conclusion was based on her interpretation of the structural report prepared by WJE Associates, the architect engineer (AE) firm who was on the site immediately after the fire to do a structural investigation.

I studied, in detail, the WJE Associates Structural Report, and visually inspected the photos and the building. Based upon my street-side, no-access inspection and my years of experience, I fully agree and support the conclusions of the Report by WJE Associates. But I take it one step further, by stating herein, that the church structure, in my best experience, is not in danger of “imminent” collapse and is not unstable.
The decision to find the building “imminently dangerous”, and declare that it “should be demolished,” was based upon a mistaken interpretation of what the WJE Report actually stated.

The WJE structural report did not recommend the building be demolished due to a danger to the public, as a result of the fire. The report, in fact, recommended the opposite; they recommended renovating the church and gave instructions on how to accomplish it, as follows:

a.) Temporary stabilization for the roof framing and masonry walls,

b.) Rebuild the roof structure and roof diaphragm with new roof-to-wall connection detailing to brace the masonry walls and re-establish an adequate load path, or,
“…If the church building is to be demolished…”

c.) Demolish the structure.

The city and the Archdiocese’s mutual decisions were not based upon sound engineering principles and are not supported by the report of the AE firm who was on the site immediately after the fire. Your decision to issue the demolition permit was based upon mistaken information that was given you for your deliberations.

I am asking that the Committee on Chicago Landmarks reevaluate your decision and consider immediately rescinding your demolition permit for the church.

Yours truly,
Richard Wallace, AIA

Proposed loud music venue out of sync with Jackson Park

To the Editor: 

I am writing to express my concern about the Phoenix Pavilion with Music Court that is planned for Jackson Park, adjacent to the Museum of Science and Industry, as part of the Project 120 collaboration. This is an area of the park that I see many people using for parking, family picnics, dog walking, birding and nature walks. A friend and I wrote to Alderman Hairston’s office about this concern some months ago, but received no response.

It seems to me that a loud music venue would not be in harmony with the natural environment. We already have the Northerly Island music venue, not so far away, in what was “supposed” to be a nature reserve on the former Meigs Field.

The great American landscape architects – Frederick Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham – must be spinning in their graves as they hear about yet another encroachment on sacred parkland.  Of course they lived in a bygone era when pubic figures were long sighted and not simply motivated by money and profit.

I agree with the Japanese belief that time spent in nature lowers stress levels and can even help the immune system to fight cancer and other disease, as mentioned on this Happy Parks Happy People website: http://www.hphpcentral.com/article/forest-bathing

Sincerely,

Marge Ishmael

Project 120 will adversly affect daily commute for residents

To the Editor: 

If you commute using Cornell Drive, Project 120’s plans are going to affect you. Project 120 plans to have traffic drive over the Clarence Darrow Bridge. In addition to affecting the Paul H Douglas Sanctuary on Wooded Isle which begins about 40 feet away, this new road will make Jackson Park noisier and less safe for families having picnics. The short-cut between LSD and Cornell Drive will mean there will be an additional stoplight on Cornell Drive.  The parking area in back of the Museum will be removed when the Phoenix Pavilion/Music Building is built and so the plan is to remove 2 lanes of traffic from Cornell Drive and use those lanes for street parking. This will certainly affect that people who commute and at some points when there is a turning lane on Cornell Drive, there will only be one lane going each way.

The traffic light at LSD and Science Drive needs adjusting.  I tried to report this on the 311 hotline but was unsuccessful in getting this issue addressed.

About the time they started working on wooded isle, the city changed the timing of the stoplight at the intersection of Science Drive/ Lake Shore Drive causing an additional back-up every week day on LSD. The light used to be triggered by the weight of your car when your were driving out of the parking lot behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Now the light regularly changes when no one is waiting to exit the Museum parking lot causing a back-up in traffic. This commuting problem could be fixed right now. However, once the road connecting LSD and Cornell goes through the museum lot, this will be a permanent bottle neck for commuters.

We need some ideas for how to get the Darrow Bridge fixed for pedestrians if IDOT won’t fix it unless it is road that links LSD and Cornell. Not sure if that is true, but let’s suppose it is. Why not try to sell the name. Give Yoko Ono first shot at it? the Darrow Lennon Bridge??

Need more reasons to be against project 120’s music venue/concession stand/pavilion?

Chicago has a lot of music venues, but not many natural areas city people who visit natural areas (no buildings, lots of plants and animals) are happier and healthier music venue building will destroy habitat used by migrating birds  music venue building will destroy habitat for other critters music venue building will cut down 30 more trees music venue building will take away space for dog walking parking area behind museum will be taken away reunion/picnicking areas will be gone more noise pollution savethisspace.com is looking for your comments. We’ll post your letters to Leslie Hairston (you don’t have to be in her district to comment). If you want to leave a comment about your love for Jackson Park — call 773 913 2030 and leave a message— (it will mention a dog training school, that is the right number ) we will transcribe it and put it on the testimonial page of the savethisspace.com website

Jane Masterson

The community wants a say in changes for Jackson Park

To the Editor:

I share the concerns raised by Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid in their January 20 letter to the Herald. I live in the 5th Ward, where I have lived for 33 years. During the fall, I wrote both Alderman Hairston and the Project 120 team to raise similar issues, but neither the alderman nor Project 120 has replied to my letters.

  1. The changing nature of the plans for the park and the secretive manner of their deciding. We were told at the outset that the effort was to restore Wooded Island to native plants, but it now appears that we are excluded from the park while we wait for Japanese cherry trees to mature.
  2. We would like to see all environmental impact statements for noise pollution, loss of protected species, and effect on water quality. Before Wooded Island was closed, we watched in horror as thousands of fish died after poison was put in the water. What effect has that poison, and the death of the fish, had on the turtles and birds that also use the island?
  3. What park usage surveys were done before construction began? The southeast part of Jackson Park, near the bowling green, is where many South Siders come in the summer for picnics and family reunions. There are few parks on the South Side where low-income families can easily park or come by public transportation. How will removing all that parking and picnicking space affect them?
  4. Noise pollution from a music pavilion is a serious concern for those of us within a half-mile radius of the proposed pavilion. On the three or four times a year that private parties use amplifiers in the parks, the noise is a major irritant. We were told at the January 17 community meeting that the Burnham plan included a music pavilion, but in Daniel Burnham’s day, there were no giant amplifiers. Music could be heard by the people who came to hear it, not by everyone within ten or twelve blocks of the pavilion.
  5. Many of the Project 120 members do not live in the area. I understand that some are in Wilmette. Perhaps if they began imagining closing off Gillson Park and building an amphitheater there whose sound would affect people on Michigan Avenue in Wilmette, they could understand why there is resistance in Hyde Park to the Phoenix Pavilion.
  6. The Clarence Darrow Bridge has been fenced off for at least four if not five years. It is disingenuous to claim that it is not used and therefore not worth repairing when, in fact, it has not been possible to use it for that length of time.
  7. People come from all over the world to view the migratory birds in Bobolink Meadow and Wooded Island. Indeed, they’ve been written up in various airline magazines, including an article I myself wrote for British Airways three years ago. Shutting off these parks and destroying the habitats has an adverse effect on our local economy. In my own nearly daily walks around the locked up Wooded Island I have encountered numerous foreigners, puzzled that this tourist attraction is shut to them.

It is frustrating to have no voice in these matters, and to have my letters to my own alderman, and to the Project 120 staff, completely ignored. I am grateful to Ms. Nelms and Ms. Schmid for finding a platform to elevate these issues in front of the whole community.

Sincerely,

Sara N. Paretsky

Let’s keep I-House international

Editor’s note: This letter is being reprinted due to several errors during its original run in our Feb. 3 issue. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

To the Editor:

As a 1953-55 alumnus of International House (I-House), I am shocked and grieved at the recent peremptory announcement of the University of Chicago administration that it will soon be shutting down its residential facilities for graduate and international students, as well as visitors, which have graced and enhanced the university and our community since I-House was founded in 1932 with a gift from John D. Rockefeller. This action, if carried out, will seriously violate the intent and purpose of the gift, and also do considerable harm to the reputation and programs of the university at home and abroad. Already, the current I-House residents are being told that they will have to get out and go elsewhere.

The university administration has acted irrationally by already closing its various hotel and small residential properties as residential facilities, well before its big, new 55th Street dormitory is completed. The university now has threatened a unique facility, treating it like a convenient piece of real estate to fill with undergrads. We who are long-time donors to both the university and I-House feel that we have been deceived, and wonder why anyone would want to donate to an institution that diverts specific gifts to diversionary purposes.

Actions such as this suggest that our revered alma mater is more and more operated like a big business. The community and programs created at I-House are needed to support the international research faculty, students, and explorations the university presumably stands for. Not that many years ago, the university, under a different president, proposed closing I-House for other purposes. Chicago and international alumni rose up to protest and saved this unique resource. What is happening now is a betrayal. We must rise up in protest and action to prevent the mission of I-House from being changed and undermined.

Sincerely,

Charles G. Staples ‘61

 

Folk Festival needs community support to survive

To the Editor:

I am writing to ask the Herald and the Hyde Parkers who read the Herald for help in keeping a Hyde Park tradition alive.

The University of Chicago Folk Festival has been around for 56 years. The Folklore Society is run by a student organization and helped by a few very dedicated local residents. For the last two years the Festival has lost money and this year it is only two days, not the traditional three-day event. No one has said anything, but it is my feeling that if it fails this year we can kiss a 56-year tradition goodbye.

It is my hope that you will join us for the concerts, Friday Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. and Saturday Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., and spend Saturday at the free workshops. Please join your neighbors in helping keep our folk festival going for another 56 years.

To find out more about the festival and order tickets please go to uofcfolk.org. If you are ordering for an organization, please note the great group offer.

Thank you,

Allison Cate Hartman

Let’s be careful and actively involved in our next choice for alderman

To the Editor:

As a reporter and editor, primarily at the Hyde Park Herald, I spent 15 years as an active student of Hyde Park’s genius, learning about how and why the neighborhood is the way it is. One of the consistent themes I noticed over those years was the importance of people doing for themselves in the public sphere for the life of the community. From the establishment of the Hyde Park Cooperative Society to the construction of the original Harper Court to the struggle to preserve Promontory Point, Hyde Park is its best self when it insists on deciding for itself.

This also extends to the election of myriad progressive political candidates. In recent years, however, this has not taken place for important political positions. From state representative to state senator to alderman, Hyde Park is represented by people who were hand-picked and appointed by Cook County Board President and Fourth Ward Committeeman Toni Preckwinkle. This is in no way a criticism of the men who fill these positions. It is not even a criticism of Toni, who I’m sure is trying to do what’s best for the community. But it is a condemnation of unilateral political maneuvering which leaves the people without their own voice.
Once a candidate gets in, it is hard to get him or her out. That’s why we have to be very careful about who we pick and who gets put into office.

In the Fourth Ward, people who have less power and influence have been largely ignored in recent years, and it shows. If your ideas do not align with the moneyed interests, you will probably not hear your concerns voiced by the local representatives. If you are against local schools closing, you have probably not heard your alderman speak out on your behalf. If you think there should be limits to development, you probably feel left out.
Now we are told that Will Burns is resigning his position to work in the private sector (see story on page 1). Some of our older neighbors and political junkies will inevitably pine for “an alderman like Leon,” a refrain I heard quite often when I was the editor of the Herald. Well, Leon Despres was one-of-a-kind to be sure, but his values were not. In fact, the greatness of Leon Despres was in his ability to both elevate Chicago politics through his idealism and to speak the concerns and priorities of the people.

How did it happen that such a man became alderman? Through the Hyde Park tradition of doing for ourselves. Leon was picked for the position and reluctantly accepted it. This is the way you get a remarkable person involved in Chicago politics – you find someone who is not chomping at the bit to be called alderman or senator or representative. That is what Hyde Park must do in order to reinvigorate public life in the community: Get together and talk about what we want in an alderman. Put together a platform. And then find someone willing to take our priorities to City Hall and to fight for them. And for us.

This does not mean someone who merely agrees with our positions. In fact, that’s impossible, because we are not in agreement. It is a set of principles and a method by which decisions should be made that matters. We need someone who believes in protecting the little guy and who wants to hear a robust discussion about every public issue. We need a ward office that is open 24/7 and is constantly listening. We need as much participation as possible for everyone.

You don’t get these things by hoping and waiting for them. You fight for them; you demand them. I started this letter by saying I had been a student of this community. I will really never stop being a student, and I hope the neighborhood will never stop surprising me. This struggle would be a delightful surprise – but also in and of its best traditions.
So what do you say, Hyde Park? Are you ready to fight for your future? Or will you lay down and let it be handed to you?

-Gabriel Piemonte