A letter from 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, dated Friday October 24, and submitted to but not printed by the Hyde Park Herald, expresses disappointment with 5th Ward residents who she describes as pursuing an "end game" out of "intransigence and bad faith," and that "voting the precinct dry is not a negotiating tool."
Hairston stresses the economic damage to the entire 5th Ward that would result from the actions of a handful of relatively privileged people.
Full text is as follows (original document at bottom):
Letter to the Editor
Hyde Park Herald
October 24, 2008
I am very disappointed that some 5th Ward residents have decided to join with people who live outside the ward in an effort to vote the 39th Precinct dry.
I understand resident's concern regarding the hotel proposal being offered by White Lodging and the University of Chicago at the Doctors Hospital site. I also understand their concern to retain the architectural integrity of the hospital building in any proposed development.
That is why I worked to bring both sides back together at a public meeting, this summer, after White Lodging had walked way from the project. At the meeting, White Lodging tried to allay residents' fears by promising to work with them to come up with a compromise solution. Before we had a chance to see whether White Lodging would proceed in good faith, I learned some residents were circulating petitions to vote the precinct dry.
Contrary to what residents are being told, voting the precinct dry is not a negotiating tool, it is an end game that reeks of intransigence and bad faith. Once the precinct is voted dry, we are stuck with it for at least four years -- until there is another election. No hotels or restaurants will consider moving into a precinct that bans the sale of liquor.
As Alderman, I am also responsible for economic development in the ward. Starbucks did not build its first drive-through store on the South Side out of altruism. It took hard work to convince the company a 5th Ward site would be profitable. Aldi's did not decide to open the first grocery store on Cottage Grove Avenue between 35th and 95th Streets because the company could not find another location. My office had to demonstrate an existing need and that it would be a win-win for everyone.
The Vote-Dry referendum is not a victory for anyone. If it passes, some may believe they really stuck it to the university, but in the end the 5th Ward will be the loser. Not only will no viable development take place on the Doctors Hospital site, but 5th Ward residents will be perceived as unwilling to negotiate on issues where there are different perspectives.
5th Ward Alderman
Hairston gets it right that the rest of the 5th Ward outside 39th Precinct, and the rest of us in Hyde Park, stand to get taken down in a decades-old grudge match being waged by people who are still fighting the fights of 40+ years ago.
Obama wants to get past the cultural politics of 60s dorm rooms; we want to get past the cultural politics of Harper Avenue. Both are dead-ends, outdated worldviews from a previous generation.
The Harper Avenue version, when acted on in the present, leaves holes in our urban fabric, and no longer points to what is best for all of Hyde Park and surrounding neighborhoods.