Monday, September 24, 2007

Politics in Hyde Park: Mobocracy? or, the Power of Good Ideas?

posted by chicago pop

This post is a platform for the continuation of a debate that was getting buried in the comment box of the most recent installment of NIMBY's Corner, in which one of our gentle readers challenged the blogo-spirits that animate HPP to come out of the Matrix and do some organizing. This is a topic that's been on the back burner for a while, but now deserves to be put up front and served up.

How do neighborhood politics work in Hyde Park? How should they work? How can they work? Is the common tactic of filling rooms with warm bodies at community meetings -- highlighted most recently in the controversy over the Children's Museum in Grant Park -- the way democracy works at the neighborhood level? Or is is a function of an absence of leadership on the part of the Alderman? Is there a reason that the folks with the bad ideas organize most effectively?

We think so: it's a rule of trade politics that those whose interests are most directly threatened, have the most interest in organizing for tariffs and trade protection. Even though this hurts an economy in general, the effects are diffused across a majority that has less direct incentive to organize. The result: the interests of the few become policy for the many.

Is something similar going on in Hyde Park? Are the organized "protectionist" lobbies raising the costs of living for the majority of unorganized consumers? If so, how to correct this, in light of the much more challenging task of organizing a diffuse interest group?

The floor is open for comments.

29 comments:

Elizabeth Fama said...

As devoted HPP readers will know, I'm pretty much a single-issue voter on this blog: other than spoofy posts about dead trees, and sentimental photos of my favorite things about Hyde Park, I try to limit my serious entries to the issue of Promontory Point.

In that marathon comment section on the last NIMBY post I gave anecdotal evidence (namely my mother-in-law) that the community meetings scare away calmer, quieter people. The rancor even works against me: as passionate as I am about the Point, I DREAD going to another meeting with shouting, insult-hurling picketers. I'm used to debate, but that's not debate.

The other important idea I was trying to communicate in that comment section was that, at least in the case of the Point controversy, the issue is so complex that the "other" side (the non-Point-Saver side) of the argument has to explain many details to get our story across. That is, proposing and defending a change requires explanation, whereas opposing one just requires lung strength and a great slogan.

Them: "Save the Point!"
Us: "The Point is structurally unsound; the City has spent millions of dollars negotiating and compromising with the community; the result is a plan that's not all-limestone, but is aesthetically pleasing, reuses all of the existing limestone, has excellent, officially-sanctioned water access, and recreates the original Caldwell landscaping; the federal funds will dry up when the lakefront project is complete; Barack Obama has said he'll study the problem but he hasn't formed a committee and has no money to form a committee; the project is languishing; the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has certified that the Compromise Plan meets historic preservation standards; the IHPA also said the alternative architectural plan proposed by the Point Savers would "probably not meet" historic preservation standards."

Do you see what I mean? You probably just skipped over all that stuff I just wrote in defense of the Compromise Plan. If you were a busy person who loved the Point -- or a person who didn't even use the Point but wanted to support a "good cause" -- you'd probably subscribe to the "Save the Point" slogan.

James said...

I appreciate the platform, C-Pop. My apologies about the poseur comment. I thought about it 5 times before I hit "publish" and maybe I should have thought about 6 times. In any case, it was just a suspicion on my part and I'll delighted to be proven wrong. I've been wrong many times before, so I can handle it.

I would like to see the folks on this blog refrain from talking about hidden motivations of those you think you oppose. If someone has a conflict of interest, that's one thing, but otherwise it would help if we just tried harder to understand the opposition and refrain from ad hominems. you'll likely find that you agree with your "opposition" on so many things that you'll need them later on some issue.

C-Pop is right. Nimbyism is often more likely to stir more passion than a change that benefits a wider group of folks. So, how do we contain the Nimbyist impulse?

1) Always take a look at what they're asking for. Sometimes they'll have some legitimate issues that can be cheaply solved or otherwise bought off.

2) You should specifically seek out Irene Sherr and help her advance her market pricing initiative for parking along the 53rd St. retail corridor.

3) Volunteer to serve on the "establishment" boards. I was term-limited for the HPKCC board this coming year, but am on the Nominating Committee. Contact me if you're interested. The HPKCC board meetings are open to the public; feel free to show up.

4) Form a group that grades development projects along New Urbanism lines. I've been trying to recruit Cal Audrain for this, but he's so far been able to resist my charms. The HPKCC might even be a good parent for this group, but there's nothing wrong with starting your own "self-appointed" group.

5) Run for the Co-op Board. If you think the place should be closed down, say that in your statement to the members. Even if you're not slated by the Nominations Committee, you can still get on the ballot by turning in a petition with just a few signatures. You can even run your own close-m-down slate. You just have to be able to promise to look after the members' interests if you win.

James said...

And C-Pop, you don't need to publish this comment, but you need to go back and amend you Leonid Brezhnev article. What the Herald quoted is not what was said; the former GM was never blamed for us not paying the rent to the Univ. In fact, the statement by Jim P. was actually complimentary of Carl.

If you don't correct your mistake, then what you have is a not-really-funny satire based on mistaken information. Ok, that's not a huge sin. However, there is a bigger sin involved. This blog regularly takes the Herald to task. How ironic that you fell for their mistake.

If this were a just world, you'd be walking along 56th St someday. and the littlest children at Bret Harte School would taunt you, pointing their finger at you and shouting, "He believed the Herald! He believed the Herald!"

chicago pop said...

James: I decided to publish your last comment because I think, with all due respect, that *you* should write to or contact the Herald and ask for a printed retraction. This isn't a newspaper. It's a blog. We don't report. The Herald does. I satirize what hits the table (we must have diff. senses of humor, btw :-).

If the Establishment is truly as diverse and polycentric as you describe it, then we shouldn't be the only ones taking the Herald to task, nor joking bout HP's august institutions. I would also suggest a similar public letter from some high-profile board-types taking Hans Morsbach to task for wanting to park in front of his house; as well as Jack Spicer for his height and parking requirements at McMobil. Until we're no longer the only ones publicly making these points, I won't believe that there is *not* an Establishment that refuses to criticize itself.

Elizabeth Fama said...

James,

Please don't generalize. I haven't called anyone names on this blog. I don't count "insult-hurling picketers," because that's in fact what happened at the Cultural Center. You saw a weak presentation, I saw a presentation that couldn't happen because the attack began as soon as the presenters opened their mouths.

I'm still not sure why anyone who has contributed to HPP -- even if it's just in the comment section -- could be considered a poseur ("an affected or insincere person"), unless you're trying to say that a person MUST join local organizations in order to have an opinion and a voice. Contributing articles to this blog is a lot more work than you might think, and serves a different, no less useful service (though I admit the latter is just my opinion and probably can't be quantified).

I do think Irene Sherr is a great asset to our community -- a level-headed person, and very kind, to boot.

E.F.

SR said...

I think one major factor that keeps most people away from community meetings is just the mind-crushing boredom of it all.

About a year ago there was a fatal shooting on my block that was rumored to be gang-related, so I went to the next CAPS meeting. It turned out to be 20 minutes about the shooting and 75 minutes about parking and traffic problems around one of the local gradeschools. The reason it was 75 minutes was that there was one person saying there was this traffic problem, and another person saying there was not either any traffic problem, and so we had 40 minutes of them standing up in turn and saying the exact same things over and over again to each other. The remaining 35 minutes was just the mandatory parking complaint conversation that breaks out whenever more than 10 Hyde Parkers are in a room together. (The endless discussion of parking issues is also why I gave up my HP Herald subscription after a year, I just could not bear to read one more word of whining about parking issues).

Well, never again, if gang warfare is about to break out on my block I’ll just wait to read about it in the paper like everyone else. The annual meetings of my townhouse association have usually been just the same, two or more stubborn people arguing endlessly about some trivial thing while everybody else just sits there contemplating the blissful release of death.

There’s a certain personality type that apparently thrives on this kind of stuff however, or has some kind of superhuman patience for it, or is just more motivated than the average person. I don’t know if it maps to politics or not; all I know is, community meeting usual suspect types have it, and I don’t.

I’m not too into speculating about people’s motives for being active in NIMBY causes. One of my neighbors has been going to all the meetings opposing the McMobil development and was circulating the petition (which did not come up at the last meeting after all, but I’m sure it will at some point). He’s a very, very nice man and a good neighbor who I’m sure sincerely believes he is doing good for the neighborhood, and it was VERY hard to say no to him when he asked me to sign it. I hadn’t seen this blog yet at the time and hadn’t thought about the big-picture issues about development and whatnot at all, I just knew I was disgusted that there has been this weed-grown empty lot on 53rd Street for over a year at least, and wanted no part of anything that would likely keep it that way. I told my neighbor I couldn’t sign it because of the no-fast-food stipulation, that if they were going to make the guy have retail they couldn’t also prevent him from renting to whoever he thought would be able to keep up on the rent.

I got the feeling I was the first person he’d asked to sign it who hadn’t, or had critiqued any aspect of it (though he was very nice about it of course). A lot of my neighbors names were already on it, at least. And, honestly, if it hadn't been for the obviously ridiculous fast-food thing, I don't know what I would have given for a reason. What's on the petition is more or less what most people think is "good" for Hyde Park.

This particular guy has been living in Hyde Park for a very long time, and I do wonder how much of what people seem to assume is good for the neighborhood comes from the old urban renewal ethos (keep housing scarce and expensive, and retail unattractive to outsiders) that has just never gone away. On a more basic level, I think people complain about parking all the time because that is in fact a major quality of life issue for them, while the poor retail environment is just not as big an issue for them as it is for me BECAUSE they have cars. There’s a sort of knee-jerk reaction that more retail/housing = more parking congestion, and that’s about far as many people seem inclined to think.

chicago pop said...

SR is the 3rd HP old-timer (if I may be so bold...) that has supplied supporting data for my demographic hypothesis on Hyde Park: it's the white, liberal, over 50 crowd that make up a BIG part of the "community meeting" junkies, and is a reservoir of protesters easily seduced by anything that sounds like its against The Man, with the Point being a case-in-point. More often, it's just folks who don't want you to move their cheese. That demographic is going to change, if it hasn't started to already (and I'm part of that change), so the definition of "politically savvy" that the Spicemaster allegedly represents may have to get a new game on.

chicago pop said...

SR writes: "On a more basic level, I think people complain about parking all the time because that is in fact a major quality of life issue for them, while the poor retail environment is just not as big an issue for them as it is for me BECAUSE they have cars."

Exactly. And if we had more people in the neighborhood able to support more retail within walking distance, why then parking wouldn't be such a hassle. The folks you mention are so used to living in a semi-hollowed out neighborhood that they've forgotten what it is really like to live in a thriving neighborhood.

chicago pop said...

James has a few suggestions. Here are a few responses:
1) The very definition of reasonableness. Something we're always looking for around here.
2)Has already been accomplished.
3)Not likely
4)Likely
5)One of the more creatively insane suggestions I've heard in a while. Who has time for stunts like that? I don't want to make my own clothes, and I don't want to run my own grocery store. I want professionals to do it so I can get my shopping done.

James said...

I can understand SR's concerns about community meetings. Both the Co-op Board and HPKCC Board have free-flowing exchanges of opinion that rarely, if ever, degenerate into the kind of fiascoes SR describes.

For the meetings I run-- the Co-op Operations Committee Mtg the third Monday of every month and the HPKCC Transit Task Force meetings-- I structure them so that they don't turn into long gripe sessions. You do have to listen to other peoples' concerns, though, which can require some patience.

I find anything labeled a "hearing" to be a waste of time, though. And, sometimes, even the meetings I run will go awry.

James said...

C-Pop, I appreciate your answering my suggestions directly, but what's your problem with being on boards?

The HPKCC board time commitment is one two-hour meeting per month plus whatever you volunteer for. I'd guess that you'd want to volunteer for a committee having to do with development issues and that might meet a few times a year. Because there are no employees of the Conference, the Board runs things.

Under normal circumstances, the Co-op Board should meet once a month for a couple hours, although we've been meeting more often because of our real estate issues. However, your comments about the function of the Co-op Board are way off the mark.

It's not the function of the board to run the store. True, the Co-op board has been getting into some of the nitty-gritty of these real estate issues, trying to fix the huge mistakes a previous board made. But it's not our function to delve into operations. For that, we hire a professional. It's then our duty to monitor the professional and provide some guidance on high-level issues concerning the Co-op's mission.

How's that any different than how Dominick's is run? The Dominick's CEO also reports to a board (or reports to someone who eventually reports to a board), and while I haven't looked this up, I'm betting that very few of those board members are grocery professionals. The only difference is that the Co-op board members live in your community. (Maybe you trust faceless strangers more than your own neighbors.)

If you think it matters what these "establishment" boards do, then refusing to become part of them is basically choosing to be powerless. (Hence my flippant "poseur" accusation...)

chicago pop said...

"while I haven't looked this up, I'm betting that very few of those board members are grocery professionals."
--Right. But I'm betting they're *business* professionals. And somehow they manage to make sure the org. makes money.

"The only difference is that the Co-op board members live in your community. (Maybe you trust faceless strangers more than your own neighbors.)"
--That's a big difference. When I go to the operating room, the person I trust is the person who is qualified, not the yokel next door with a potato knife and a spatula!

LPB said...

James wrote: 5) Run for the Co-op Board.

Well, I already work 55 hours a week at a paid job, and the rest of my time is taken up with child care. Why should I devote any valuable time to running a supermarket to ensure that it offers quality products with good service at reasonable prices? Especially when I can already get those things at other supermarkets? When there are substitutes available, it is much easier for me to vote with my feet and funnel my dollars to the retail establishments that I believe offer me the consumer experience I'm seeking. Yes, I desire a decent supermarket. But, that doesn't mean I have to go "make" one from scratch, or to rescue a seemingly dysfunctional one from the brink, as the case may be.

chicago pop said...

The bromide about trusting one's neighbors more than faceless business managers is nonsense. It's the faceless managers and funders of the University of Chicago that keep the Co-Op afloat, and the "trusted neighbors" who somehow or another have botched it. Which is why we need a professionally run outfit dedicated to surviving in the marketplace. If not something to replace the Co-op completely, then at least something to introduce real choice and competition for the neighborhood, and the South Side.

If the Co-op were only going on the trust and goodwill of neighbors, it would be yet another vacant lot.

chicago pop said...

Now let's talk about power for a moment: looking at a few of the recent or pending changes in the neighborhood, what have any of them had to do with any boards, or petition drives, or any of the other "levers of power" that the Aldermen are sensitive to?

Harper Court is going to be sold and redeveloped. The old Hyde Park theater will never be a theater again and is going to be redeveloped as a retail complex with several national chains. A hotel is going to be built at the site of the old Doctors Hospital, and it is likely that something big will get built at 55th/Cornell, and something other than the petitioner's desire will be put in at McMobil.

What we do have boards to thank for is the present fiscal hemorrhaging of our poorly-run supermarket, and we can thank community activism for tanking $20 million in fund to make sure the Point doesn't rot in the Lake, as it's presently doing.

James said...

me: "while I haven't looked this up, I'm betting that very few of those (Dominick's) board members are grocery professionals."
C-Pop: "Right. But I'm betting they're *business* professionals."

The current Co-op board has a President who does work in Real Estate (an important competency for getting out of the 47th St. debacle), a vice-president who runs a franchised small business, a treasurer who's retired from years of owning his own company and working as a professional accountant, a secretary (that's me) who does computer support now but worked in retail, including grocery stores, for about 10 years.

The non-officers include another person who's owned a decent-sized business, performs budgeting analysis for the state and has a wife with a very successful retail business. Then there's a woman who works in an esoteric area of international banking, another woman who analyzes contracts for the school system, a lawyer with lots of experience in bankruptcy and a man who owns his own software support company. (I'm less sure about what the two alternates do for a living.)

James said...

C-Pop:"Now let's talk about power for a moment: looking at a few of the recent or pending changes in the neighborhood, what have any of them had to do with any boards, or petition drives, or any of the other 'levers of power' that the Aldermen are sensitive to?"

How about coming up with a consistent narrative? Generally, when people use the word "establishment", they mean the people who run things. If the establishment is irrelevant, then it's not THE establishment.

It's true that ad hoc committees have been a powerful means for blocking or influencing change in HP. But the "establishment" groups, especially HPKCC and TIF, often give these ad hoc committees a stamp of approval that helps them get taken seriously.

J-Spice and other Point Task Force people made their presentations before the HPKCC board; where were the folks with alternate plans? We've heard from both Eli Unger at Antaeus and the neighborhood group that opposes the condos at 56th and Cornell. Eli won points for a project that will increase density, I'm telling you.

chicago pop said...

Sounds like a good board, and one that probably shouldn't get too much bigger. With qualifications like that there shouldn't be any excuses for not getting the thing up and running in no time. Unless past mistakes are so grave that there is really no reason to be wasting anyone's time by keeping the Co-op alive.

Meanwhile, another option would be nice.

chicago pop said...

I didn't say the Establishment outfits are irrelevant. Quite the contrary. They're damaging.

First of all, what gives the HPKCC or any other outfit the right to act as gatekeeper for anything, especially a plan that had been negotiated by an entirely different set of stakeholders than the TF? Did the HPKCC just forget about those original groups, which did all of the original legwork in a series of negotiations that went on for quite some time? If any group doesn't appear before an unelected group such as the HPKCC, does that mean they don't exist? Or that this particular voluntarist group hasn't done it's due diligence, and listens to the squeakiest wheel?

So that's the narrative. As you say, the Establishment gives its stamp of approval to things that don't work, time and again, not because they represent the "community" or are based on any truly democratic sampling of popular sentiment, but because they suit the world-view and sympathies of these groups.

That, to come back to the theme of this post, may be how power works in this neighborhood, but it's not democratic and it hasn't produced results.

James said...

lpb: "Well, I already work 55 hours a week at a paid job, and the rest of my time is taken up with child care."

Ok, you're not going to have time to serve on the Co-op Board, then. But there are plenty of people who have time to volunteer.

C-Pop:"It's the faceless managers and funders of the University of Chicago that keep the Co-Op afloat, and the "trusted neighbors" who somehow or another have botched it. "

I have no idea where you got this idea. Maybe if you explained it a little better, it might make some sense.

You know, the Co-op is 75 years old now. There's an implication in some of these remarks that some conspiracy has kept the Co-op in business, apparently to spite the neighborhood. The truth is that there used to be other grocery stores in HP, chains even, but they folded or closed their locations here. The 55th St store does excellent volume on a square foot basis, generally turns a profit of $1 million a year and has, at times in its history, actually been a leader in its industry.

C-Pop:"If not something to replace the Co-op completely, then at least something to introduce real choice and competition for the neighborhood, and the South Side."

Right. Hyde Parkers deserve a choice of grocery stores. Monopoly situations tend to be very bad. Even when they offer a reasonably good service, people still feel trapped. The right and fair way to get rid of the Co-op would be to have another HP grocer that ran it out of business due to better service. Let the market decide.

So, who's the most responsible for the monopolization of the grocery retail sector in HP? Certainly, the former Co-op board that bought Mr. G's and went into 47th St deserves a good piece of the blame. On the other hand, more recent Co-op boards have sold the old Mr. G's to a competitor and closed 47th St. We've done what we could to undo the monopolization.

So, who's the other big player in this neighborhood? Who could find land for another large grocer if they really wanted to? If folks want to call the Univ and gripe about the Co-op, that's their right and I don't blame them. But they should make it clear that they want competition, not just another grocery store in the Co-op's place.

And there's some real opportunity in HP for some small-footprint grocers like Trader Joe's. An Asian market might do very well here. Village Foods is pretty awful, too. If they carved out a better niche, that would help.

The neighborhood expects the Co-op to be all things to all people, rather than carving out a niche and doing that one thing well. That's an impossible mission.

Discussions about how bad the Co-op is should evolve into the broader discussion of how we could improve the retail grocery sector in HP.

chicago pop said...

For the record, the "alternate plans" belonged to J-Spice, which would have been well-known to anyone not entering the situation in medias res, including the Aldermen and Senator, and the august folks at HPKCC, who first two of which could have acted far more forcefully and impartially to bring this situation to some resolution.

chicago pop said...

James: "Discussions about how bad the Co-op is should evolve into the broader discussion of how we could improve the retail grocery sector in HP."

OK, here I'm with you. But while the public does that, the Co-op should make money and sell groceries. That's all I expect; if the Board has gets frustrated trying to be all things to all people, that's another story. Let's see if the Board can get straight on a workable mission, for which they'll be accountable.

And yes, the U of C should be pressured to bring in other supermarkets.

chicago pop said...

C-Pop:"It's the faceless managers and funders of the University of Chicago that keep the Co-Op afloat, and the "trusted neighbors" who somehow or another have botched it. "

If the Co-op is nearly a million dollars behind in its rent, then it's being floated by its landlord. Which means a free ride from the U of C.

James said...

C-Pop:'First of all, what gives the HPKCC or any other outfit the right to act as gatekeeper for anything, especially a plan that had been negotiated by an entirely different set of stakeholders than the TF?"

Boy, you're all over the place. You imply that the TF (and who appointed them?) should be the gatekeeper rather than any other group. Thing is, HPKCC has no power in the community other than influence-- just like your blog here. The aldermen listen to us because we tend to represent sectors of the community which are involved and active. Now, really, why is it right for folks on this blog to take positions on private companies like the Co-op and the Herald, but HPKCC somehow should have no First Amendment rights?

C-Pop:"That, to come back to the theme of this post, may be how power works in this neighborhood, but it's not democratic and it hasn't produced results."

Both the HPKCC and the Co-op Board are elected by members and both are very cheap to join, $25 and $30, respectively. (That's in marked contrast to the Harper Court board, which is self-perpetuating, btw.) HPKCC is democratic and it has produced results. You just don't like the results.

I also suspect you have no idea how much diversity of opinion there is on the HPKCC board.

You know, there are things I don't like about HP, like the poor competition in the retail grocery sector. But this neighborhood is a pretty damned good one to live in. If you don't think so, you have plenty of other choices to move to, including tons of neighborhoods with no watchful eyes or suburbs that allow whatever kind of development that comes along. The HP establishment has plenty to be proud of.

James said...

"If the Co-op is nearly a million dollars behind in its rent, then it's being floated by its landlord. Which means a free ride from the U of C."

There are other possibilities here that you're overlooking.

chicago pop said...

Everyone's got 1st Amendment Rights. No one has a monopoly on the voice of the "community." That's something that's made clear on this blog.

Encouraging people to move out of the neighborhood is a sure way to solve Hyde Park's problems.

I intend to stay.

SR said...

"SR is the 3rd HP old-timer (if I may be so bold...) that has supplied supporting data for my demographic hypothesis on Hyde Park: it's the white, liberal, over 50 crowd that make up a BIG part of the "community meeting" junkies ..."

C-pop, I didn't say anything about anybody being white :-). Differences of opinion about most neighborhood issues in Hyde Park tend to break down along economic rather than racial lines (hence the bitter old joke about urban renewal: "Hyde Park: Black and white united against the poor"-- It's "funny" because it's more or less true), and within that, there’s renters vs. owners, students vs. permanent residents, U of C folk vs. the non-affiliated, etc.

I think james is right that the character of all of these community organizations is determined by who shows up for the meetings, and indeed retirees seem to have more time for it than other people do, so the “over-50” part is true, and so is the “liberal.”

“Old hippie,” I’m not so sure. It’s been sort of interesting for me to observe that some of the people who have been most active over the years in my townhouse association are the folk who date from the time when Hyde Park was one of the only places in the entire country where mixed-race families could live in peace, and I’m guessing moved here for that reason. This really is a special neighborhood in a lot of ways (and the unique character of many individual neighborhoods is part of what makes Chicago Chicago; I don’t see the resistence to change as being part of a suburban outlook necessarily as is sometimes argued on this blog), and there’s a lot worth protecting here. You walk around these “thriving” neighborhoods on the north side, everybody’s white and 20-35, no kids older than 5, no teenagers, no old people, it never feels like anybody out on the sidewalk with you actually lives there, or if they do they’re just passing through. I’m not sure I want that here at all (one interesting question to me is if the neighborhood really has to turn into *that* in order to have better amenities, or if there’s some sort of in-between way it could be). I think many people are motivated to be involved in community stuff because of real affection for the place as it is and has been.

“First of all, what gives the HPKCC or any other outfit the right to act as gatekeeper for anything,”

Well, not to sound all aggressive or anything, but where do you get off with the new urbanism stuff then? It’s an alternate urban planning theory brought to us by people who assume they know what’s good for us too, primarily in (mostly futile) opposition to nearly every decision the “market” has made about the suburbs.

But of course that's a rhetorical question anyway. In reality this is not a free-market environment, no neighborhood where 60% of the property is held by a non-profit entity possibly could be. Most of what happens in the neighborhood is caused or influenced by actors other than the invisible hand, I think anybody who lives here has every right to seek to influence how that goes.

chicago pop said...

Posted by James but lost in the shuffle on 9/26/07:

C-Pop:"the Co-op should make money and sell groceries. That's all I expect."

The 55th St store makes plenty of money. And we do sell groceries.

When I was in Austin, I worked in a grocery store that may well be the best in the world, the original Central Market. Plus, I worked for a very successful Texas chain for about 5 years-- HEB. I know what a good store looks like and what a fabulous store looks like and I know as well as anyone that the Co-op has often been neither.

I'm not going to excuse away the register scanning problems from last Fall or the shelf outages a couple years ago or so much bad Produce. However, I think we've fixed some of the major problems. The new registers make checkout much speedier. The new manager has already done a lot in Produce and with prices. I expect the Co-op to be functional over the next year-- not a leader in the industry, but functional.

*****

C-Pop:"Encouraging people to move out of the neighborhood is a sure way to solve Hyde Park's problems."

There are plenty of folks waiting to replace them.

Listen, if someone would be happier in another neighborhood, then they should consider moving there. That's just freedom of choice. I prefer a city with distinct neighborhoods so that I can find one that's exactly right for me. It would be silly for someone who likes HP to move to Lakeview and tell people there that their neighborhood should be more like HP. If someone wants to be able to park 2 cars right in front of the house, move to the suburbs.

For all the griping about retail, folks forget that HP is the best neighborhood in the Midwest for my favorite retail segment.

James said...

Let me re-state something I wrote that didn't come out exactly like I meant it.

There's only so much change we can expect Hyde Parkers to accommodate. The neighborhood has a special character with both good points and bad points. We don't want it to be like all other places, but we want to make some improvements without losing the good features we enjoy. I'd like a little more retail choice and improved transit, for example, but I'd hate to lose HP's trees in a blaze of redevelopment-- ditto some of the cooler buildings.

If people want HP to change more than just a little, they'd probably be better off moving to a neighborhood more suitable to their tastes rather than beating their head up against the wall for the next 20 years and making the rest of us miserable.