Friday, February 8, 2008

The Preservation Con Game and the Point

posted by Peter Rossi

Are you in favor of preservation? "You bet."

Do you want to preserve the Point? "Of course, I do; this is a beautiful and absolutely unique place on Chicago's lakefront."

Does it follow then that you want to preserve the Point revetment? A few self-appointed community "activists" want you to jump to this conclusion and blindly follow their lead.

For seven years, this group has done everything in their power to table all plans to fix the Point revetment. There is no end in sight.

It is possible to preserve our beloved Point. We can also preserve and even improve our access to the lake. We can restore the Caldwell landscaping. We cannot preserve the Point revetment. It must be rebuilt.

The revetment has been irreparably damaged along its entire 6000 foot length. In some places, the original revetment has become nothing but a jumbled pile of limestone blocks. In others, the original revetment has been replaced with a hideous "pill box" or coffin stretch of concrete. In still others, the substructure of crushed stone is gone and the blocks are hanging, unsupported, waiting to fall in. These photos tell the tale of woe (check out Beth Fama's excellent post for more details and pics):

Collapse of Revetment "Steps"

Failed Promenade
(photos by E. Fama)

In order to fix the Point revetment, you have to remove the existing limestone blocks and build a new substructure. Extensive Army Corp of Engineers studies have shown that the only substructure that can work is a steel piling wall backed by a concrete base. The limestone blocks can then be returned and added both above and below a concrete base promenade.

The Save the Pointers and their fellow travelers would have you believe that they want a "preservation plan" for the revetment. They cannot define what they mean by "preservation." To define preservation would expose the basic fallacy and open up the possibility that some plan might actually be acceptable. "I know it when I see it" seems to be the definition of preservation that applies here.

Those who argue for the excellent Compromise Plan can be conveniently labelled as anti-preservation while those whose real agenda is to do nothing can disguise themselves as "preservation" advocates.

While all of this obfuscation goes on, the revetment crumbles into the lake and the land behind the revetment is ignored. The beautiful landscaping that this revetment once protected has been allowed to decline to little more than a patch of grass and some spindly trees.

Behind this preservation con game is the cyncial belief that the users of the Point can be tricked into supporting vague proposals for "preservation." No progress can be portrayed as a "success." "Success" is achieved simply by rejecting plans to fix the revetment.

The stark truth is that the outcome of the preservation con game will be no progress for more than ten years.*

It is time enough to demand progress. FIX THE POINT!

*It has already been seven years since the first proposal was advanced to fix the Point. The Save the Pointers are waiting on a review by an Army Corps official that by their own estimate will take at least 1.5 more years. We still don't know what this review will achieve. Will a new plan be developed that is acceptable to all parties? Is there any grounds for optimism? I think not. In the end, final plans must be drawn, bids let, and construction must start. There is no way this could happen any sooner than four years from now even assuming that the Save the Pointers execute a complete about-face.


Elizabeth Fama said...

Sorry, my first comment didn't meet my niceness standards, so I trashed it.

As Peter points out, the final plan for the Point can't deviate much from the Compromise Plan, because the core and promenade must be made of concrete and steel. So from this point on (with Obama) we're probably only going to achieve small changes -- if any -- involving the placement of the limestone blocks that the City and Army Corps have already promised to reuse.

It's a shame that the second Task Force (the SAVE THE POINT GROUP, which has needlessly delayed a sensible plan for 4 years and counting) will steal all the thunder from the first Executive Committee of the Task Force, which won all the major concessions in a matter of 8 or 9 months.

There, that's how I wanted to say it.

(G) didyounowrong said...

Keep your eyes peeled for the very sharp "Fix The Point" bumper sticker I have on my car, courtesy of Ms. Fama. :-)

Elizabeth Fama said...

Git yer bumper stickers here!

Come 'n git 'em!

I have plenty more, just write me an e-mail requesting one. I will keep your name and address strictly confidential, and only use it for the purpose of mailing out the sticker.

EdJ said...

I know there has been discussion abou how the Herald is unresponsive to certain viewpoints. Why don't we try having people start to write letters to the editor every week. If the letters don't get printed I suggest that we forward them on to the Maroon with a preface that the letter was sent to the Herald, but that the Herald chose not to print it. Or send the unprinted ones here to keep a record of what the Herald chooses not to print.

Peter Rossi said...


I'm sorry but I think it is more important to completely ignore the Herald. Make it solely a respository of NIMBY nonsense.

By sending letters, we only re-invigorate this rag.

By sending a letter, I believe you validate the Herald as the official "bulletin board" of the community. With a paid circulation of less than 5000, the Herald has shrunk to near obscurity. (note: the Maroon has a circulation of 7500).

Also, in the past they have seen fit to edit the letters to change or remove important information.

The problem is that the editors of this paper are in bed with the NIMBYs.

Of course, this is only my opinion. You should do whatever you see fit. I'm done -- I'm disgusted with having letters censored, letters not printed, having quotes made up and attributed to me and others.

For example, when we persuaded more than 300 Hyde Parkers to sign a petition in favor of the Compromise Plan, the Herald devoted it lead story to a pathetic attempt to discredit our group. The Herald refused to print our letter with the list of people who signed. The Point Savers sent in letters with just a handful (20-30) signatures but these were printed.

We asked the Herald to print details of the Compromise Plan and they buried them in the inside along with misleading captions.

You saw what they did on the Co-Op which was even more ridiculous.

at HPP, we are challenging the Herald and making it obsolete.

sending letters to the Tribune is another matter. These NIMBYs never got anything there. However, we got plenty of reasonable coverage in the early days of the Point mess. We even persuaded the Trib to run an editorial about fixing the Point.

chicago pop said...

Here's another suggestion, if folks have a yen to write a letter, or an email:

Send something to our friend Alec Brandon, of the Maroon, who also posts at The Editor's Blog (on our blogroll). And check out the Editor's Blog itslef, for everything from sports to the party primaries to undergraduate culture.

Alec does a great job covering local news and politics, and comments on HPP regularly. Let him know he has your support, and if you have juicy info, send it to him and he can write about it. Help keep the undergraduate (and graduate) reserve army from getting suckered by The Establishment.

chicago pop said...

[A reader ("SR") requested that this comment be resubmitted with slight modification. -- CP]

SR writes:

The Herald is also published online and may have a larger audience than the circulation figures reveal (I look at it every once in a while and I'm not a subscriber, for example).

It's also the ONLY source of information about the neighborhood for most older residents, who may either subscribe or just hear about what's going on from neighbors who do, and who are just not on the web at all. 3/4 quarters of the members of my townhouse association don't even have email addresses; of those who do, only the under-45 set actually read the web at all. Most of them will never see either this or the Maroon's Editor's blog before they go into the grave, no matter how much traffic the sites are getting.

The Maroon is read mostly by students and faculty and U of C staff and isn't distributed very far from campus. Again, only a fraction of the membership of my townhouse association goes anywhere near campus on any kind of regular basis, and those who do are in the younger set.

I know for a fact that every single one of these people has been approached by a neighbor to sign two NIMBY petitions in the past six months, because I have been.

The Herald may suck in all kinds of ways, but it's the only way to reach the people who otherwise just go along with whatever neighbors ask them to sign, because they assume their neighbors are nice people doing good things, and have never heard an opposing point of view because they only read the Herald.

As bad as the Herald coverage of the Coop thing was, they did at least print some letters supporting Option A. I presume they only did so because they got rafts of them and felt they had to print at least a couple. So getting lots of letters written to the Herald about a given issue is probably a pretty good idea.

chicago pop said...

SR: Your post is an excellent argument for why you should be writing lots of letters to
the Herald.

Why don't you lead the way? I think some of your ideas deserve more exposure.

Famac said...

The merits of anonimity on this board were proven in today's Herald.

chicago pop said...

Hooray for someone, whose name I will pass over, but who clearly has been following the "Fix the Point" discussion on this blog, for putting their dinero where their boca is and shooting a letter off to the Herald.

This discussion makes clear that people have different strategies for shaping opinion (write to the Herald; don't write to the Herald). Peter Rossi and I don't write them anymore, but obviously people are free to do what they wish.

And when such a powerful, well-written missive in favor of "Fix the Point Now" sees the light of day, I say: good job!

Elizabeth Fama said...

Yes, many thanks to our eloquent reader for submitting that sane letter to the Herald. I appreciate it immensely.

When SR's FIXTHEPOINT.ORG web site is "fully operational" (as Emperor Palpatine would say), another letter to the Herald editor announcing its cyber launch will be in order...