Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Herald's Chicken: Confuse the Point

House bill brings Point preservation step closer” informs the Hyde Park Herald (August 8, 2007). The article trumpets the passage (by the House only) of a rider to water legislation that requests a “third party” study to develop a plan for the Point revetment. The idea is that our representatives are going to bail us out and come to the rescue of the stalled plans for rehabbing the Point. In fact, this legislation still requires Senate approval as well as funding (much legislation has been passed without the appropriations required to give it teeth). So it is a real stretch to claim that this will bring “preservation” a “step closer.”

This is just one more shadow dance in a stalled process. There have already been at least four studies commissioned to design a new revetment for the Point: 1). The original proposal by the city presented in January, 2001; 2) A modified engineering study and proposal presented by the city in May, 2001; 3) “an architectural proposal” created at the direction of the “community” task force in 2002; and 4) a compromise plan proposed by the city in late 2003. This last proposal made by the city calls for the reuse of 100 per cent of the existing limestone and has received approval of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (a state agency whose approval is required on all revetment work). In Spring 2006, Senator Obama called a meeting of the “stakeholders” and promised a resolution within six months. The City and Park District have, understandably, washed their hands of the affair after having spent more than a million dollars on studies, made a number of unprecedented concessions, and gotten nowhere.

It is unrealistic to expect either the Senator or Representative Jackson to solve the problems of the Point revetment controversy for us. We need a plan for replacing the revetment that meets Army Corps of Engineers standards (or they will not give us funding) and is esthetically pleasing. The third party study that is called for will be conducted by Army Corps personnel (albeit from other districts). These personnel must adhere to their own agency’s engineering standards. The only designs that meet Army Corps engineering standards have a concrete and steel core. The best that could be hoped for is a design that is concrete at the core and covered with a layer of limestone blocks. Leaving aside whether this is possible (anchoring the “veneer” of limestone block to the core), it would require at least 30 per cent more limestone block than is currently on site. There has been a lot of talk about how limestone block is cheap. But there is no way this additional material could cost less than several million dollars. This means that Senator Obama and Rep Jackson will have to introduce legislation to appropriate federal funds to supplement the more than $24 million in city and federal funds already earmarked for the Point.

But, in the end, the process has been hijacked by a self-appointed “community” task force who refuse to agree to any plan for the repair of the Point revetment. This group can only disapprove of plans, sneering that they want a “preservation” plan. The rub is that they can’t tell policymakers what preservation means. Thus, any attempt at compromise is doomed to failure. Any viable plan for the Point will involve compromise.

It appears that the article is based on two interviews that the Herald reporter conducted with Hyde Park resident, Jack Spicer, and a member of Senator Obama’s staff. The reporter claims that the last compromise plan was offered by the city “after Jackson and Obama intervened on behalf of the community.” This is unsupported by the facts. If the reporter bothered to read the clippings file (which should include many old Herald stories as well as extensive coverage by the Tribune and Sun-Times), she would have found that the compromise plan was offered in late 2003, before Senator Obama made any public statements on the Point. Representatives from Jackson’s office were attending some meetings but no “intervention” has ever been reported. If the reporter has new evidence that an “intervention” occurred at the behest of Jackson, she should quote directly from her sources. One wonders how this bit of journalistic creativity was inspired.

The story concludes on a note of optimism – “Now, the actual money has to be obtained.” We must understand that this is not money to rebuild the Point, but to conduct yet another study in search for a plan to be presented to a group that can’t define what an acceptable plan is. It is amply clear that what the “task force” really wants is to see nothing done on the Point. This condemns one of our neighborhood’s treasures to a slow death.


Famac said...

This article and more on Doctor Wax - it really is the worse propaganda disguised as news.

chicago pop said...

This is the post I've been waiting for!

All the absurdities of Establishment behavior are clarified in this one supremely symbolic issue: 1) willful obstruction without a realistic or flexible vision of alternatives; which is directly related to 2) a backward, literally reactionary posture that focuses on "resisting" change-from-outside rather than seeking to engage with the future in a positive way; 3)a small group of activists who claim to speak for a much larger "community" which exists primarily in their imagination;4)rapidly deteriorating conditions that are blamed on others rather than on the activists themselves and their defunct ideology (can anyone say "Hyde Park Co-Op?" Harper Court?)

Let's be thankful that this group doesn't have real power; otherwise their true respect for the "community" would become clear.

Peter Rossi said...

chicago pop said it so well.

Was Lincoln talking about HP in his famous quote? It remains to be seen.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Chicago Pop, I disagree that the "activists" have no power. They have the power to stall - which is turning out to be a significant tool - because the alderwoman is fooled into worrying that they MAY in fact represent her constituency, so she won't act against them. Furthermore, the City and the Park District are tired of being screamed at (literally) at public meetings by the Point Savers, and they appear to be abandoning the Point project as a result. (If they're not abandoning it, they're putting it off until the end of the lakeshore project, and we run the risk of having reduced funding and NO community input. I can imagine them thumbing their noses at us by, for example, building in such a way that swimming access is taken away, and enforcing No Swimming signs.)

chicago pop said...

Efam, you're right, obstructionism IS a form of power, and it's wielded mightily, as you know better than I. Just how do these folks get veto power over everything, anyway?

chicago pop said...

"the alderwoman is fooled into worrying that they MAY in fact represent her constituency, so she won't act against them."

Hopefully one by-product of keeping the blog up is to rally folks who don't necessarily agree with The Establishment so that we can make our presence know to the Alderpersons, and to keep a list of names of sympathizers (starting with sensible letter-writers to the Herald) in case there's ever a need for a petition.