Letters to the Editor

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

The 4th on 53rd parade needs you!

To the Editor:

As we embark on the 24th year of the 4th on 53rd Community Parade and Picnic, we wish to express our sincere appreciation for all the community support the 4th receives. To SECC, the Chamber of Commerce and the Hyde Park Herald especially, who are unfailingly generous with both time and money; to our donors who provide the financial support, which enables us to stage the event, and most of all to the volunteers, without whom this event could not happen, we are deeply grateful.

As of now, we are beginning to plan for the 2015 4th on 53rd. The Committee needs a few more people to assist with specific jobs as Park or Parade assistants, and many more, who will commit to volunteer their time on the day of the 4th. Please contact me by the phone (773-955-3622), or our PR Chair Kirsten Srinivasan by e-mail at kirstensri@gmail.com.

Stephanie Franklin, Event Chair
4th on 53rd Committee

No blank check for Obama Library site

To the Editor:

Of what value is a public trust doctrine? We park preservationists have long believed that the public park system belongs to all of us — no one person or another has the right to parcel out pieces of open park land. The presidential museum is a private enterprise. You would think that the president would set a good example. Join stewards of the open parks and take responsibility for safeguarding open park land, instead of taking advantage of privilege.

When a representative of the University of Chicago stated that the presidential museum is not built on parkland then it will go to New York. The response by Phil Rosenthal was, “Really?”

Katie Newhouse

Library in park not Obama-like

To the Editor:

Though I want the Obama Library to be on the South Side, I definitely do not accept placing it on park property. Park property is sacrosanct. Park property is for the people of Chicago to use unimpeded by any person who is to be honored. I do not care if it is George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King or personalities of our religions such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Mohammed or the Buddha. Or for that matter any of our numerous great foremothers and forefathers of any religion or race.

That land needs to remain open, and unobstructed by man-made buildings. President Barack Obama is indeed a great person who is remarkable for what he has accomplished. In one of his better moments he would agree with me.

Alfred D. Klinger

Christian Mitchell is the real thing

To the Editor:

Earlier this month, I and many other seniors at Mary Jane Richardson apartments had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with state Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26).

I’m writing because I was so struck by what Christian did for us that day. He came to us. He brought services that seniors need to us. And this wasn’t just a quick stop, take a picture and leave. This was a whole afternoon where he gave his complete attention to each individual, listened to us and shared with us what he’s fighting for down in Springfield, Ill.

This is a young man who is truly a leader for our community. Many of us are grandparents, and to see someone who reminded us of our own grandchildren doing such great things for our community was a blessing and an absolute joy. I told Christian that day that he added years to our lives just by taking the time out of his schedule to be in our home.

He told us about the struggles of being raised by his grandparents and caring for a sick mother. He told us about boxing and how it kept him out of trouble as a young kid. I know deep down that he’s one of us — someone who is committed and dedicated to making the world a better place.

We’re used to politicians who only come around when they want our vote. But Christian came when he didn’t need to. When it really was just about us.

As a senior who has been around for quite a while, I couldn’t be prouder of the young man I’ve watched Christian become.

Adell Davis