November 6, 2012. Memorize that date, because if the 39th Precinct votes itself "dry" in 11 days, then four years from now is the soonest they'd be able to vote themselves "wet" again. Not only that, it would require putting a "wet" referendum on the 2012 ballot, which means hiring a lawyer like Michael Kasper to file the papers again (will Unite-HERE pay for that?), gathering close to 160 signatures on a petition by going door-to-door on Blackstone, Harper, Stony Island, 57th, and 59th Streets, and then campaigning in the neighborhood to encourage people to vote. Somehow I don't see the current crop of activists going through all that trouble to bring in a new developer. Do you?
That's the little secret that our Born Again Teetotalers, Greg Lane, Alma and Ray Kuby, Jack Spicer, Hans Morsbach, and Allan Rechtschaffen aren't telling you when they say this referendum is a reversible "negotiating tool." But I'm calling them on it. This action is so hard to reverse, and so discouraging to future developers, it's a blocking tool, pure and simple.
An article in today's Chicago Tribune ("Precinct may voting [sic] itself dry," 10/24/08) reports that the judge has dismissed the challenge six residents brought against the dry petition. The challenge was based on signature irregularities and signature-gathering mistakes. As it turns out, the petitioners (some of whom work for Unite-HERE) knocked on an awful lot of doors, and honest intent was the standard the judge used, so not enough signatures could be discarded to remove the referendum from the ballot.
In the Tribune article, precinct resident Ray Kuby says,
"...if you [the university] want to negotiate with us, we do have negotiating power....This is direct democracy. We don't have to go through placating our alderman or anything else. We will just vote ourselves."He goes on to say that referendum was "not a way to block the project, but would simply put the decision to proceed into the hands of the residents most likely to be affected by the hotel's presence." We've heard that argument before in a few convoluted Hyde Park Herald letters to the editor.
Not blocking the project? Not opposed to all future development? I'm sorry, but that emperor is so naked.