Letters to the Editor

Make sure Vue53 keeps parking promise

To the Editor:

It was not surprising to see that the city is taking care of MAC Property Management by providing two parking spaces on Kenwood Avenue for its use for valet parking during the construction of Vue53 (Herald, 4/15/2015). Isn’t it good to see that the parking impacts of Vue53 are being ameliorated for one of the project’s proponents?

One would hope that the city will similarly take care of the neighborhood by enforcing the parking promises made by the university and its developer, Mesa, in order to obtain the re-zoning that makes the project possible. In applying for the re-zoning, the university and Mesa submitted the report of their traffic consultant, KLOA. The KLOA report stated that Vue53 would provide more than the 200 parking spaces needed, under city zoning regulations, for the residential component of this project.

The university and Mesa should live up to their promise – made through their consultant – to provide at least 200 parking spaces for Vue53 residents. The city should be expected to monitor the compliance of the university and Mesa with their promise.

Marc Lipinski

Strive thanks Hyde Park for helping hand

To the Editor:

On behalf of Strive Tutoring, I offer my sincere appreciation for your support of Strive’s April 11 Spring Benefit. In particular, I would like to acknowledge Hyde Park Bank for their partnership and hospitality; and Hyatt Place Chicago-South/University Medical Center, Kenwood Liquors, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Pizza Capri, Piccolo Mondo, Uncle Joe’s, Hyde Park Produce and the other local businesses that donated in-kind goods to our event. Your support matters.

Friends and neighbors, please frequent the local businesses that help to sustain valuable community programs like Strive. It takes a village!

Angela Paranjape
Executive Director
Strive Tutoring

UCPD announcement a modest step

To the Editor:

Last week, I received an email from the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement (OCE) announcing that it would began publicizing the university’s policing information on its website. I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Then I began reading news accounts of praises from various community activists, journalists and professors as to what a watershed moment this was, and I was completely flabbergasted. I saw nothing in the email from OCE VP Derek Douglas or UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch that indicated any more openness or transparency than prior to the email. It was good PR, but very little else.

In fact, this announcement appears to be an attempt aimed at blunting proposed legislation to add a Freedom of Information component (HB 3932) to the Private College Campus Police Act (PCCPA – 110 ILCS 1020/1).

In the email, the university states that it “will streamline online access to law enforcement information that is already public.” In regards to traffic stop information, collection of such data by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is mandated by law (625 ILCS 5/11-212). All Illinois police departments, including university police forces, are required to record and report traffic stop information. Without the aid of a Freedom of Information request, I was able to compile data comparing UCPD to a university with a similarly structured police force, Northwestern University. The stops are listed by year and race, with totals (percentages):

University of Chicago PD:
2013 – White 2,268 (18.72 percent), Minority 9,846 (81.28 percent)
2012 – White 1,456 (17.73 percent), Minority 6,758 (82.27 percent)

Northwestern University PD:
2013 – White 380 (58.19 percent), Minority 273 (41.81 percent)
2012 – White 479 (55.76 percent), Minority 380 (44.24 percent)

U. of C.’s campus serves a little more than 16,000 students on 217 acres. Northwestern serves 21,000 on 240 acres. The difference in traffic stops, in both number and percentage of minority stops, are breathtakingly different. For a comparison, I also included the police departments of the cities in which both are located:

City of Chicago PD:
2013 – White 27,311 (27.13 percent), Minority 73,347 (72.87 percent)
2012 – White 32,851 (28.38 percent), Minority 82,908 (71.62 percent)

City of Evanston PD:
2013 – White 6,123 (55.19 percent), Minority 4,972 (44.81 percent)
2012 – White 7,454 (54.61 percent), Minority 6,196 (45.39 percent)

In 2013, the last year of available data, UCPD made more traffic stops than Northwestern and Evanston combined. The minority stop percentage is almost twice as large. In addition, UCPD’s minority stop total numbered more than 13 percent of the total stops Chicago reported, and its minority stop percentage was almost 10 points higher. Given that UCPD’s patrol jurisdiction is roughly half of Evanston’s, you have to wonder just what their primary police function is.

The email also states “the changes go beyond the requirements of Illinois law for police forces at private institutions.” PCCPA makes no mention of reporting of any kind. The mere existence of U. of C.’s website in any form, as it relates to UCPD, goes beyond Illinois law.

In a final point, “the University will provide and publicize additional background information related to current UCPD practices…” It’s hard to say that the university will provide any more information than what other private universities, such as Northwestern, Bradley, Illinois Benedictine and Milikin University, already provide on their websites. They all specifically refer to the PCCPA, and their powers derived from it. U. of C. would only be playing catch up.

The point of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the ability to request from an entity performing public function information that is not ordinarily or readily available to the public. What a FOIA also adds is an arbiter, the Illinois Attorney General, for when a request is refused.

The university can continue to work on its website while we continue our work on laws, like FOIA, that will make these police forces accountable and open. And the activists, professors and journalists need to hold their applause until these laws are in effect.

Roderick Sawyer

Improve 57th Street with all in mind

To the Editor:

It is so great to read in the Hyde Park Herald about the planning and possible changes for 57th Street. But please always remember that some of us cannot walk far because of age or injuries or because of the distance from our homes to 57th Street in order to use and support the businesses there.

Parking must be a priority in any area to be sure of the success of all the businesses in the area. The renovated 53rd Street is almost off-limits to me because of a lack of parking. Don’t let that happen to 57th Street.

Judy Allen

Herald leaves out suit details

To the Editor:

I am one of the attorneys for life long Hyde Park resident Lincoln Brown. I, too, am a life long resident of Hyde Park. The Herald’s article in “School News” (4/8/15) on Mr. Brown’s case was incomplete in a number of respects.

The Federal Court stated (at page 13 of its opinion): “Brown was not verbally abusing anyone or causing disruptive behavior in the classroom — he was attempting to diffuse a disruptive situation. In return, he was written up …” The Court went on to say: “That Brown may have been innocent of the charges does not mean that the charges were unconstitutionally vague.” The Court suggested that “the Board may have been “unwise” (p.15) and its conduct included “sloppiness” (p.14).

Along with my co-counsel, longtime Hyde Park resident Bill Spielberger, our appeal’s focus will be that the Board’s lack of wisdom and sloppiness, and Mr. Brown’s innocence — all as found by the Federal Court — are violations of constitutional dimension and unconstitutionally vague. It seems to me that the public’s focus should be on their city’s school system that appears to punish first-rate teaching. To properly inform that public, the Herald’s article would have benefited from even a cursory review of the opinion.

Terence E. Flynn

Thanks to Hairston for endorsement

To the Editor:

Money won the mayoral election — big money, $26 million of big money. Schools, community health care, public safety, ordinary neighborhoods, ordinary jobs, ordinary people — they all lost. The neo-liberal, Republicrat political machine now owns Chicago, and the special people are very happy. Where was Toni when we needed her to stand up for progressive government? Busy building her own political machine by passing campaign money around to favorites like her protege Will Burns.

But credit where credit is due. Leslie Hairston stood up. She bravely endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for mayor knowing Rhambo will try to punish her for it. Thank you, Leslie Hairston.

Jack Spicer

Neighbors, clean up after your dogs

To the Editor:

I live on 52nd Street and Kenwood Avenue and try to keep a nice garden for all to enjoy. While it is early for planting, it is clean up time. Today I have seen two dog walkers let their dogs use my garden and not picking up after them. I knocked on the window and they looked up and walked on. Come on people, my hands are in that dirt … be responsible. I love dogs but not when I have to clean up after your pets.

Judith A. Merritt

Getting to the South Side’s bedrock

To the Editor:

People who want to experience Chicago’s bedrock without getting their feet wet, as inevitably happens when exploring Morgan Shoal, should head a few blocks south to hike along the beach between LaRabida Hospital and 67th Street. This fascinating beach, believed by some to be paved with concrete, is in fact an emergence of Chicago’s Silurian bedrock deposited on the primeval ocean bottom between 375 and 400 million years ago. This rock is not concrete, nor is it limestone, which is almost pure calcium carbonate. It is, in fact, dolomite, a kind of limestone containing a high concentration of magnesium carbonate. Take a magnifying glass — you will be able to see fossils of primitive sea creatures, not corals because they hadn’t evolved yet, but trilobites, crinoids (relatives of sea stars) and simple mollusks all embedded for hundreds of millions of years in the fossilized slurry of the primitive marine environment.

This bedrock is relatively close to the surface in the South Shore neighborhood. In the late 19th century it was quarried by the gravel company of Dolese and Shepard for constructing buildings, roads and laying railroad track beds. A glass plate photograph in the Special Collections Department of the Harold Washington Library taken around 1890 shows two people standing on a wooden walkway above a quarry pit on South Exchange Avenue, then Railroad Avenue, between 74th and 75th streets. And they didn’t get their feet wet at all!

Frances S. Vandervoort

Hope in recent election results

To the Editor:

While Illinois families face tremendous challenges at both the state and municipal levels, the results of Chicago’s February 24, 2015 nonpartisan election offer inspiration, and accountability. In an unprecedented jolt to Chicago’s political establishment, Chicago voters forced a runoff between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. While this election has captured the nation’s attention as a referendum on establishment Democrats (whose campaigns are bankrolled by corporate interests) and progressives, it is also clearly a referendum on the policies championed by both Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner. A coalition of community organizers, labor unions and working families — who have worked for more than a decade to promote equitable education opportunities, oppose school closings and who have worked tirelessly for affordable housing and living wages — has unified to demand change at the highest level of city government. The demand for change has also gained momentum at the ward level, as there are 18 aldermanic runoff elections in which winners will have been decided on April 7 by the time this is published. Fed up with tone-deaf elected officials who are, in many cases, more concerned with the interests of their corporate backers or where they would like to ascend politically, Chicagoans are shifting the political landscape of our great city; and not a moment too soon.

As I stood with nearly 1,000 people to oppose Rauner’s proposed budget cuts in Springfield on March 11, I reflected on the challenges facing working families, and the significance of the current political moment. Rauner chose to make his first actions as governor an executive order to impose “right to work” rules on public employees (a move that has thus far been blocked by Attorney General Lisa Madigan) and budgets cuts that impact the state’s most vulnerable citizens. After taking no action to extend the temporary tax increase, the governor proposed inhumane cuts to programs impacting low-income families and senior citizens. (Note: While I believe that the real solution to the revenue challenges impacting the state budget requires amending the Illinois constitution to implement a graduated tax, I think that it was irresponsible to allow the temporary increase to expire before a long term solution was achieved.) While nearly 70 percent of voters indicated their support for an increase in the minimum wage during the November election, legislation has not been recently passed to actually raise the minimum wage in the state. Additionally, though voters in 37 wards overwhelmingly voted in support of an elected, representative school board for Chicago’s school district, legislation has not been passed to address this critical issue. Both Emanuel and Rauner oppose an elected school board for Chicago residents, despite the conflict of interests and failed policies imposed by the mayor’s appointed school board.

The legislative decisions that are made at both the municipal and state level profoundly impact the quality of life in our neighborhoods and should work in tandem to ensure that education, safety, housing and employment needs of families are effectively addressed. Instead of working collaboratively to improve the quality of life for residents, Emanuel and Rauner have supported legislation that slashed retirement benefits of elderly retirees, opposed democratic governance through their support of an appointed school board for CPS, and supported actions to reduce the ability of labor unions to organize.

Despite these challenges, I am not discouraged. We have sent a clear message. There are consequences for the devastating impacts of the mayor’s decisions to close a historic number of schools and mental health clinics while filling his campaign coffers with millions of dollars from politically-connected donors. I am inspired by the tenacity, enthusiasm and strategic actions that led to the runoff election. Regardless of the outcome of the mayoral race on April 7, or the numerous runoffs, Chicago voters have sent a clear message. We are prepared to organize for new political leadership — leadership that is responsive to the needs of working families.

Jay Travis

The Obama Library in a park? No!

To the Editor:

May I add my sharp opposition to the now seemingly inevitable placement of the Obama Presidential Library on a large slice of diverted public park space in either Washington or Jackson parks. The Park District is gravely remiss in its giveaway of dedicated public open land to this project, just as they were in their readiness to turn over a large chunk of Washington Park for the building of the huge Olympics stadium, fortunately never done.

Do readers realize that 20 acres is the equivalent of two full Chicago city blocks? That’s enough for a college campus! For what earthly reason does the library require such a generous space? The ideal proposal that the Herald and all concerned citizens should be demanding is the eleven available acres of private vacant land at the west edge of Washington Park near Garfield Boulevard, fully sufficient to meet library needs. It would be a great enhancement for the community both economically and aesthetically, and provide a beautiful “adjunct” of sorts to Washington Park. No parkland would be sacrificed. The two compatible facilities could be joined with a pedestrian bridge as was suggested in a recent letter. We must not allow dedicated public open land to be eroded by diversionary uses!

Charles G. Staples

Obama Library needs South Side, non-park location

To the Editor:

The Nichols Park Advisory Council voted at its March meeting to announce our enthusiastic support for the proposal to site the Obama Presidential Library on the South Side of Chicago, but also to express our definitive opposition to the use of any park land for this project.

We believe building the library on the South Side would bring economic development, jobs and educational benefits to the area, no matter which piece of land is used. However, parks are not vacant space waiting to be developed. They are a finite commodity, all too rare in a big, concrete and glass city. Parks are hard-won public areas of enormous worth, which need our protection if they are to survive.

The idea of using any public park for the library disavows the intrinsic value of open space; puts all parks in jeopardy of classification as ‘land banks;”’ denigrates the historic value of both Washington and Jackson Parks; and would result in the destruction of irreplaceable, 150 year-old trees which are every bit as valuable as any man-made artifact.

We sincerely hope the Obama Presidential Library will “come home” to the South Side of Chicago, where there is other land available. There is no need to build this new monument upon the ruins of another.

Stephanie Franklin
Nichols Park Advisory Council

Good food doing good: Taste of Hyde Park returns

To the Editor:

Since 2002, the Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project (HPTHP) has been helping homeless families get back on their feet. To support that effort we are launching our tenth annual fundraiser, the Taste of Hyde Park.

The dinner and silent auction will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday April 18, 2015 at St. Paul and the Redeemer at 4945  S. Dorchester Ave. The event will feature a buffet of the finest of Hyde Park restaurants, a silent auction and some cool jazz from Willie Pickens.

Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door, $25 for students with ID, $15 for children 6-17, and children 5 and under are free. Advance purchases can be made by contacting an HPHTP board member at your congregation or arranging a purchase via e-mail to HPTHP@yahoo.com. Contribute more than $100 and you’ll be recognized in the program.

The Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project is an all-volunteer organization, supported by a volunteer board representing local churches and synagogues in the Hyde Park neighborhood. It provides housing and a stable, supportive environment for up to two years for homeless families who are working to improve the skills necessary to live independently. HPTHP partners with local congregations and organizations which provide volunteer mentors and essential financial support. The strength of HPTHP is in the positive relationship that develops between the HPTHP mentors and the families they are supporting.

HPTHP receives financial support from local congregations and individuals, as well as a significant grant from the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council. It was founded through the work of the Interfaith Open Communities. HPTHP is supported by a number of religious organizations, but is not itself a religious organization and does not discriminate on the basis of religion.

Jerry Gripshover

Obama Library: South Side yes, in a park no

To the Editor:

With dismay I have watched momentum gather for placing the Obama Presidential Library in a major park. With the rest of the South Side, Hyde Parkers long to have the library of this remarkable man nearby, but a park — public land – is not the place for it. Siting the library anywhere on Chicago’s South Side would immediately result in a burst of community development not seen since urban renewal more than 50 years ago. Public transit would improve, businesses would move in, walkways would be beautified with trees and flowers and potholes would disappear as fast as a snowflake on a hot tin roof. All this would happen, regardless of whether the library was placed next to, across from or down the street from either Washington Park or Jackson Park. In fact, building the library on the west side of King Drive between 51st and 55th streets and connecting it to Washington Park by an overpass or underpass would be a win-win situation for the community and park!

Nearly 150 years ago, Jackson and Washington parks were designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who envisaged them as green respites providing relief from the hurly-burly of city life. Olmsted disapproved of elaborate landscaping, most buildings, even statues in the parks he designed. Constructing the Obama Library in either of our great parks demeans the vision of this great man, and dishonors the memory of dedicated local park advocates including George Overton, George Cooley, Gerda Schild and beloved photographer and environmental activist Nancy Hays. We can, we must do better than this.

Frances S. Vandervoort

Vue53 fight may be over

To the Editor:
Last week the Appellate Court upheld Judge Pantle’s dismissal on procedural grounds of our lawsuit challenging the McMobil rezoning. We are disappointed that the merits of the case will not be discussed in court, and that Vue53, which we still consider illegally zoned as well as wrong for the neighborhood, will presumably be built as proposed.

We would like to thank the many, many people who contributed to this effort. It was clear that neither the university nor the alderman expected this much passionate opposition. They should pay more attention: They have been asking the question since 2007 and have never gotten the answer they wanted from the public. Of course, they did not really need community support, only the alderman’s blessing, and Will Burns was only too happy to oblige. While Burns managed re-election this past month with 55 percent of the vote in the ward, his support in the precinct which includes the McMobil site fell from 63 percent in 2011 to 40 percent last month.

The university spent an enormous amount of money fighting us and were clearly prepared to spend much more to make sure that Vue53 could keep its full 165 feet of height rather than put any money towards making a smaller building affordable for the developer. Of course, they had a $23.4 million taxpayer subsidy for Harper Court, so in more ways than one we are all paying for their choices.

We would like both our supporters and our opponents to know that over the past year the university refused to discuss any compromise that would change the project and we refused all settlement offers that did not include changes to the project.

Going forward, we assume that there will be no further residential development proposed on university-owned land until Phase 2 of Harper Court is completed, that no further TIF money will be requested by the university, that the workforce at the Vue53 site will be both diverse and local and that if Vue53 is completed there will be complete transparency from the university and the developer as to who benefits from the affordable housing.

Michael Scott
James Des Jardins
Mark Graham
Lorraine Pettigrew

Vue53 is not right for its location

To the Editor:
Although there have not been many articles lately concerning the building that has been proposed for 53rd Street at Kenwood, silence means that no progress has been made to prevent the 13 story building from going up. Whatever encouraged Ald. Will Burns (4th) to change the zoning there in order to allow that building to be built, it was not in the interest of the neighborhood. A building that tall is out of character for that neighborhood. It is an old neighborhood with established homes and small apartment buildings that are important for the residents as well as people who have respect for not ruining a beautiful neighborhood.

The Ronald McDonald House is a prime example of how a building can be built taking into account of how much space is needed. It is a large house located at 5444 S. Drexel Ave, actually on 55th Street. The Ronald McDonald House is large with more than ample parking space available for people who stay there when their family members are in the hospital. The traffic from there does not inconvenience anyone: They chose a good location.

Vue 53, as it is called, is not a place for a high-rise building and certainly no place for any kind of business that would bring in additional cars. Parking there is already difficult; with a building that large, it would ruin the neighborhood permanently. It should not be allowed. When Chicago was trying to get the Olympics, the University of Chicago bought up some local property. Why not look elsewhere for that building if the developers really like the idea and design?

Donna Graham