Questioning the bond plan for South Shore

To the Editor:

I am grateful to Herald reporter Aaron Gettinger for his pertinent questions for Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) regarding her odd announcement that an unnamed government entity is going to float a bond issue of unknown size for the purpose of improving South Shore. (See the Herald website,, for the story. Editor’s note: the article also appears in this printed editon,) It was Mr. Gettinger’s follow-up which revealed that the particulars of this bond issue do not exist, making it a textbook example of an election season promise. As a candidate for the position of Fifth Ward alderman myself, I can tell you I know what those promises are worth and how easily the electorate sees through them.

Nevertheless, we reveal ourselves through the stories we tell. Hairston says we will only prosper if our communities are united and then immediately states that this ephemeral bond issue will not be used to benefit Grand Crossing, Woodlawn, or Hyde Park (which all partly sit in the Fifth Ward). It is a gift to her South Shore voters – the loyalty of whom, one might infer, is in question. She has no interest in being a unifying force – that’s just something one says in press releases.

The more than 3,000 registered voters in Woodlawn might be stung but would not be surprised to hear that Leslie Hairston does not think Woodlawn has unmet needs. Her profound disinterest in the neighborhood is probably why fewer than 20 percent of Woodlawn voters in the Fifth picked her in the last election. Grand Crossing’s more than 1,900 Fifth Ward voters might also be unhappy to be so easily dismissed. Hyde Parkers, I believe, recognize the economic crisis in the south end of the ward and will not be offended by being excluded — but will also not be fooled by this slapped-together plan.

This scheme is not only devoid of detail, it is also a dangerous idea. Borrowing money from anywhere you can get it is not the kind of fiscally responsible strategizing I want from my City Council or my alderman. How about you?

In my view, if borrowing is needed, it should be carefully planned and designed to have an impact on the most needed levels, which must include individual and family asset development. There is a huge need for rebuilding the assets in our communities that have been stripped away through illegal, predatory practices, including mortgage fraud. Even by conservative measures, white families have ten times the wealth of African American families. This, it seems, even with an imaginary pot of money, is unimportant to Hairston, although it is at the root of our ward’s economic challenges. Instead, she plans to give grants to undisclosed community organizations. With no process and an election a month away, I suppose these groups will have to guess at how Hairston will deem them worthy, which is a pretty cynical way to get folks on your side in an election year.

This is what I believe: There is no plan, just a tossed-together collection of buzzwords and vague promises to get electoral support the cheap and easy way. For a real economic plan, visit

We have seen 20 years of what Hairston’s economic plans look like in the south end of the ward. If it weren’t for the University of Chicago, the north end would not look much different. People deserve better. Our communities deserve serious plans – and serious leadership – for a change.

Gabriel Piemonte

Candidate, Fifth Ward alderman