Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Yes, we're saving the Point, honey, now go back to bed."

posted by Elizabeth Fama

The Point Savers inspect their recent "save."

There was a letter from the supposed Community Task Force for Promontory Point in this week's Hyde Park Herald. I say "supposed" because I didn't elect them, and I don't believe they speak for the community. Regular readers of this blog know that I call them the Point Savers, or the SAVE THE POINT group.

The letter reminded me of a mother trying to calm an upset child. It was soothing. It was lilting. It repeated the words "slow and steady" like ocean waves lapping the shore. We are supposed to feel lulled into ignoring the fact that (a) the Point Savers squashed reasonable negotiations with the City, and (b) nothing -- repeat nothing -- is happening to repair the Point at all right now. Yes, the real community is a giant the supposed "community" task force prefers would remain asleep.

The main lullaby of the letter is the "news" that Obama's coalition to study alternative plans for the Point will be funded "hopefully in early spring," that it will take about a year for the "stakeholders" to draw up a preservation plan, and that Obama's staff "meets regularly" with the Point Savers. Let's deconstruct that bit by bit:

1) How can the funds can be appropriated this spring if the 2008 fiscal budget has already passed Congress?

2) Only someone very inexperienced with architectural projects could believe that it would take a year to come up with a new plan for the Point. And remember, this is supposed to be a collaborative architectural project with seven players (the City, the Park District, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Obama's staff, the alderman, and the Point Savers).

3) The "stakeholders" with the worst reputation for rejecting any and all plans are part of the process. Heaven help us.

4) Frankly (if I believed it in the first place, which I don't) I object to the idea that Obama's staff might meet regularly with the Point Savers outside of the larger coalition, which will include sane members of the Great Lakes Army Corps of Engineers. But, as I said, I just don't believe it: Obama's staff -- right down to the college students who cold-call voters -- aren't even sleeping lately, let alone thinking about the Point.

5) Who are these Point Savers anyway, and why are they representing us? The letter was placatingly condescending -- "none of this could have been accomplished without the support and patience of the community." Um, did I ask you to mess this up?

Wake up, you sleeping giants out there! Since the Point debate started seven years ago we've had the 53rd Street Vision Meeting. We no longer believe that the group with the shrillest voice or the most memorable bumper sticker gets to speak for us.

Rub your eyes! The Point is in a serious state of disrepair, and it has only gotten worse over this tough winter. The City would be just as happy to shut it down, and frankly, when you look at the photos in my last post, you wonder why its lawyers haven't already done it. I personally can't live several years without the Point, how about you?

Get out of bed! The Point hasn't been saved. It's time for the rest of us to have a say. Let's fix the Point.


Jennifer said...

"the SAVE THE POINT crew is nervous; they know they're losing street cred."

Are they really?

Jason Finkes said...

I'm all for it, I've got the bumper sticker, I've passed out the stack you sent me, I'm convinced. But what concrete steps (pun intended) can be taken? What is to be done?

Elizabeth Fama said...

Wow, you young'uns stay up late at night.

Jennifer, I may have exaggerated a little. I was saying that since the STP group seemed to be trying to soothe people that "things are happening," I can only conclude that it's because my grumbling on this blog is having a ripple effect. I think they may be worried the FIX THE POINT message is spreading. (Note: I changed the language of that sentence in the post to make it more hypothetical.)

Speaking of which, does anyone want a FIX THE POINT bumper sticker? They're quite nice, and free.

Jason, what bothers me the most is that the SAVE THE POINT group is still "representing" the community. One thing that the Co-Op fiasco showed us pretty clearly is that no matter what impression you get of public opinion in a "community" meeting, only an actual vote (after coherent presentations of the issues) will gauge the real feelings of the community. I mean, what would have happened if the SAVE THE CO-OP group had been involved in negotiations with the University and Treasure Island/Dominick's? Let's see. Nothing.

But since I'm a blogger and not an activist, I'm fighting with my keyboard to spread the word.

So I repeat...bumper stickers, anyone?

chicago pop said...

"none of this could have been accomplished without the support and patience of the community."

None of what could have been accomplished? None of nothing? Kicking something into Congressional committee is an "accomplishment"? These guys walked away from a very reasonable compromise and their maximalist demands divided the community.

This kind of rhetoric pops up all the time whenever Establishment folks want to give the impression that they are simply patient servants of the People, not folks who are pushing their own set of ideas.

SR said...

Wow, it looks like your bumper stickers have totally whipped the Save the Point committee into action! They updated their website for the first time since August 2006 this week!

So, it's true, things are really moving right along now!

Anybody have any thoughts about my suggestion posted to the Concrete vs. Limstone entry, about maybe looking into just getting some temporary repairs done (filling in the bigger holes) so nobody actually dies or anything waiting for this committee thing to play itself out? (I think I probably posted it too late for it to be noticed the first time around.)

Elizabeth Fama said...

The only way some of those cave-like holes coud be patched would be as you suggest in your previous comment: placing some large stones inside the holes or in front of them and mortaring them in place. There are a lot of places where walking on the promenade is also treacherous just because of buckling blocks, but I don't think much can be done there.

Then there's the question of swim access, which could be improved with a hand railing of some sort, or by shifting blocks and adding blocks to make it more step-like. There's a regular swimmer who uses a stiff brush to remove some slippery algae from the water-entry rocks on the north side, but it's still difficult footing if there are even small waves. (The ladders on the south side are also a contribution from a creative, metal-working swimmer.)

I fear that by asking for the latter (making swim access safer), we'd just get swimming aggressively shut down. As a swimmer, my instinct is selfish ("Shhh! don't tell them it's dangerous"). As a person who worries about my neighbors, I have to override that instinct. As a person who wants to see the Point repaired, I wonder if asking for repairs that cause the lawyers to shut down the Point due to unsafe conditions might "wake the sleeping giant" and actually help bring the voice of the real community out into the open.

We could draft a letter to Leslie Hairston requesting repairs. I could print some photos of the areas we think need it, to make it a sort of "proposal" she could send to the City and CPD.

What do others think of that idea?

chicago pop said...

I think it's probably not a bad idea to repair the most evident safety hazards at the Point, but I think it should be done in a way that highlights from the get-go the glaring lack of stewardship and foresight on the part of the Executive Committee Community Task Force for Promontory Point, which consists of Fred Blum, Bruce Johnstone, Don Lamb, Greg Lane, Connie Spreen, and Jack Spicer.

Glad to see they're involved enough with the physical state of the Point to update their website once every 2 years.

They've left us with an aggravated safety hazard and if it's patched up temporarily it should be clear that they had nothing to do with it, and if anyone gets hurt, that they have everything to do with it.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Well, after long thought I come down on the side of HPP being the weapon of knowledge and discussion in the community, and not an "activist" organization that forms committees to make proposals.

I've always argued that the average Hyde Parker who supported the SAVE THE POINT group simply didn't understand how complicated the controversy was, or what the City was offering.

So perhaps this is the best use of our energies: to continue to challenge the claim of any one group to represent the voice of the community. And we can do that by informing people, and by being the forum for discussion that the Herald, for instance, has never been.

When the Point politics heat up again and there's a moment of community decision, I want everyone to be on the same page, with no self-appointed leaders and no blind followers.

EdJ said...

Even though we are not creating a formal organization, it might make sense to send a link to the blog (and a couple of bumper stickers) to Horace Foxall, the Army Corps preservation expert who will lead the effort. He seems to have a very good reputation in preservation circles. He should know that that committee does not speak for the community and that there is a significant segment of the neighborhood that wants to see the most recent plan executed as quickly as possible. It shouldn't take him too long to go through the regs and requirements to make the determination that that plan is a good one for the Point.

LPB said...

edj - Great idea!!

As an observer of the whole Point drama Part I, it seems like the STP group did a great job of spinning/marketing its cause last time around. Forearmed is forewarned this time around.

Hopefully, with the help of this blog -- and Elizabeth's dogged persistence :-) -- members of the Hyde Park community will be much better informed in order to assess appeals from any self-designated Point-related "community" groups.

chicago pop said...

When the Point politics heat up again and there's a moment of community decision, I want everyone to be on the same page, with no self-appointed leaders and no blind followers.

That was kind of poetic. :)

gogomama said...

I like the idea of contacting the alderman about patching the worst of the gaping holes.

An additional problem no one seems to mention here is the rats. Big rats. Lots of them. With bold personalities. Rats who display the same lack of fear as the squirrels on the quad. They live at the Point, and they live in even greater numbers among the collapsing limestone structure just south of Pebble Beach, around 49th-48th. The problem really started to take off after LSD was resurfaced a few years back and the sewer lines were re-set.

For all the fuss over the beloved Point, why does one so rarely hear complaints about the rats?

bornatreese said...

Elizabeth, would you be willing to publish some of your earlier informative entry "what if everything you thought" in the Herald? (If they'd print it).. It needs to be seen by this community.

chicago pop said...

bornatresse has a good idea with reference to that particular post of Beth's which sums things up nicely.

Who knows they might print it.

Along with that, or separately, I'd be perfectly happy to re-post that and/or other posts. It's something the blogger crew has talked about doing before.

Peter Rossi said...

nothing to the Herald. This is an obsolete dinosaur that exists only to prop up the dying NIMBY movement.

The idea that Herald would publish any sort of objective information or alternative points of view is a joke.

Over the years, the Herald has refused to publish letters and other points of view on the Point.

By sending stuff to the Herald, you continue the notion that this pathetic excuse for a newspaper is important in our community.

I think the recent Co-Op coverage has removed any doubts about the usefulness of this paper.

chicago pop said...

I think the recent Co-Op coverage has removed any doubts about the usefulness of this paper.

Here here. We'll repost it on the blog at some point, but nothing to the Herald.

Some of us are still hoping that the predictions of the Herald's post-Co-Op financial collapse may yet prove true. Depends how long Sagan wants to keep a megaphone for his political nostalgia going.

If readers like Elizabeth's above-mentioned post, send the link to a friend.

And get yourself a bumper sticker!

Mike said...

What about an article/letter in the Maroon to bring a wider audience to the cause? I know it doesn't necessarily reach the whole HP community but it's a start. Where else in HP can people pick up a copy besides on campus? I know they used to have them at the Co-op along with the rest of the free newspapers. Unfortunately, this time of year, the Point isn't as topical as it would be in the spring or summer when more people visit it. I guess tying it in with the update to the STP website might make a good article.

Peter Rossi said...


great idea. the Maroon and the HPP are the only sources of news on the Point right now.