These dubious activist instruments come with high rates of self-interest, and yield significant obstruction. They may also cause long-term, systemic damage to a neighborhood, requiring frequent bailouts from the University of Chicago and Antheus Capital to keep non-insane people from moving away.
Tranche #1 of this week's featured toxic asset is the Herald's failed attempt at journalistic statesmanship. ("U. of C. Must Make Neighborhood Gesture", Wednesday, September 24, 2008)
This asset represents an attempt by our local paper to be evenhanded in assessing the Doctors Hospital controversy. Unfortunately, the Herald winds up giving yet another lap dance to the local poobahs.
"Nobody benefits if the property at Doctors Hospital is rendered virtually unusable." "Nobody is winning in this war of disrespect." "Nobody wins on Garfield Boulevard if the university winds up in a quarrel."
A few sensible lines out of about 530 words, most of which are devoted to slamming the University the way you might blame everything on either the Palestinians or the Israelis, depending on which side you're on.
A more balanced equity requirement by our editorial originators would have called for at least 30% coverage of the more colorful neighbor objections, virtually all of which have been made with extremely high levels of rational leveraging. Some hardball questioning of Pat Dowell's rhetorical posturing to the isolationist elements of her 3rd Ward constituents would have been nice, too.
Which brings us to Tranche #2, the even riskier slice with still higher rates of self-interest: a letter from Hans Morsbach ("Vote Meant to Force Discussion on Hotel"), one column over from this week's Herald editorial.
Morsbach tells us why the scorched-earth policy of our tee totalling Fighting 39ers is exactly what the University deserves:
There have been vague statements by the alderman, the university and the developer but none suggested that reasonable neighborhood concerns will be taken seriously in the future.
Yet to date, in our search for reasonable objections, we have found only the following: 1) a fear of noisy bar mitzvahs; 2) the concern that a Marriott Hotel might "block air flow," if not divert the Jet Stream from North America and into the Atlantic Ocean; 3) that the Marriott was not designed by Helmut Jahn and should be; and 4) that loud hotel parties might make it difficult for people on Harper Avenue to enjoy the sound of passing freight trains in the evening.
As for street parking, here there's no argument to be found: it's a common good, we all pay for it, and you have no more right to it because it's in front of your house than I do. Same with congestion on Stony Island: it's a major arterial, it's meant for traffic, and right now it's empty most of the time.
Obstructed vistas from Vista Homes? Every building blocks someone else's view. They just got tired of complaining about it.
It's looking like this unstable package of "reasonable objections" is in need of a major write-down.
A stalemate usually involves two parties, the same way a bad loan usually involves a greedy bank and a dumb borrower. The Herald has a lot to say about the University, but isn't specific about its opponents.
If the Herald did more than bend over for the pleasure of the architects of this and previous Hyde Park debacles, it might actually help people think for themselves about development and neighborhood politics, instead of being told what to think as they flip to the coupon insert.