Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Herald's Chicken: Herald Slams University, Coddles Obstructionists

posted by chicago pop

Herald Reporter Interviews Local Poobah

Inspired by the ongoing financial crisis, I've decided that the best way to deal with NIMBY support for the November "dry" referendum is to package it into a satirical derivative, a collateralized nonsense obligation, which is divided into separate tranches, each with a different insanity rating.

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.

Herald Editorial Policy


Greg said...

Boy, that picture reminds me of a night in Amsterdam...

Brinksmanship is scary. Lane and the 39thers think they're JFK, but they're really Krushchev. And we all live in the Soviet Union.

The fact that White Lodging is still considering building a hotel here that will create much-needed jobs for local residents is amazing, given that we're currently in the worst economic situation since the Depression. This cutting off the nose to spite the face will NOT acheive their claimed desired result.

Seriously, this ridiculous power game Greg Lane is playing is bloody selfish, irresponsible and stupid. I can tell you exactly what is going to happen here unless Elizabeth somehow pulls together enough people to vote no: the thing will pass, White Lodging will say "it's been real" and development in Hyde Park in general will grind to a halt.

Richard Gill said...

Herein, I expand upon what I wrote in response to a recent, related post on this blog.

Nothing justified the reckless and potentially disastrous threat of a dry-precinct petition. The petition led to a dry-precinct proposition that will be on the November ballot. That proposition is a ticking bomb.

In its September 24 editorial, the Hyde Park Herald attempts to spread the blame for the dry-precinct petition. That attempt does not hold up under scrutiny. White Lodging is not responsible for the dry-precinct petition. The University of Chicago is not responsible for the dry-precinct petition. Alderman Leslie Hairston is not responsible for the dry-precinct petition.

Who holds the blame? Those who conceived of the petition, those who promoted it, those who circulated it, and those who signed the petition are the ones who are to blame for it.

If the proposition passes in November, thus crippling the economic prospects of this neighborhood, it will be very clear who did it.

chicago pop said...

Well and succinctly put, Richard. The Herald editorial in question makes the "you made me do this" argument, and paints the Harper Ct crew as purely reactive, whereas many of them have been at the forefront of previous obstructionist efforts. The Herald knows that the "community" in this case is clearly wacked out, but doesn't want to say that too loudly because it doesn't want to alienate the core of it's readership.

The University needs to be approached critically, but so do the representatives of the "community". That's what the Herald never does (it prefers brown-nosing, v. illustration above) and that's why this editorial comes across as mealy mouthed.

Elizabeth Fama said...

There's also the possibility of challenging the "dry" petition, but 5 residents of the 39th precinct have to sign the challenge by tomorrow (Friday, the 26th), and so far I think there are only 4. That's why I was asking residents of the 39th to e-mail me if they wanted to personally take action.

Greg said...

Believe me, if I lived there I'd be your 5th person. I'm over by 56th and Cottage Grove though. :-(

chicago pop said...

If this were anything other than a precinct-level decision, I think this option wouldn't stand a chance.