Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hairston's Letter To 5th: Vote NO

posted by chicago pop

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.

Leslie Hairston
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.


Jeffrey said...

So Iguess an alderman taking a strong stance on an important economic development issue isn't important enough for the Herald.

Is there any reason to subscribe to the Herald. Please, somebody. Give me one good reason.

Richard Gill said...

Jeffrey -

One reason to subscribe to the Herald might be the pleasure of canceling and telling the Herald to go to stick it. Also, they're so darn cute ad cuddly, playing "newspaper."

Elizabeth Fama said...

It's pretty sad that the Herald didn't print Leslie's letter, yet saw fit to include an advertisement* from the Committee for Retention of Judges in Cook County. The suggested "YES" votes include 9 judges that are NOT recommended for retention (evaluated to be "not qualified") by either the Chicago Council of Lawyers or the Alliance of Bar Associations (or in 3 cases, both the CCL and the ABA).

*You have to read very tiny print to see that it's a paid ad. It looks like a Herald endorsement.

P.S. go to to get help on judicial retentions.

Michael said...

The simplest way to vote for judges is just to vote no on all of them - not out of some right-wing hatred for the judicial branch, but simply because most pass with such a majority that any nascent movement to toss one out needs all the help it can get.

And yes, dissing your own alderman to run letters from cranks*? Self-destructive, self-righteous, and self-indulgent.

*by cranks, their usual letter writers, not the paid ad

chicago pop said...

Leslie is steppin' up!

Anonymous said...

I hope Hairston means it when she says she'll have people lobbying for the "NO" vote near the 39th polling place.

Since the Herald chooses to squelch important public statements by elected officials in favor of rants and misinformation by out-of-touch demagogues and cranks, perhaps said officials will need to find an alternative outlet. If I had Sagan's money, I'd start my own local paper.

P.S. The only reason I read the Herald is because it's free on their website and because the Letters to the Editor are usually funnier than the Tribune's funny papers. I actually can't see why anyone would buy a subscription when you can see it for nothing every wednesday online.

edj said...

I have to agree about the hilarity of the letters. I always go to them first.

I'm glad to see the alderman stepping up on this one. It's a great letter. I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that the Herald didn't print it.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Greg, I don't have any numbers to back this up, but I'd guess that many of the 4,000 hold-out subscribers aren't heavy Internet users.

Chicago_mom said...

Ah, this is where our internet-centric ways lead us astray! I don't continue my print subscription to the HPH because I *need* to do so--after all, I can and do read it on-line most Wednesdays. I continue my print subscription because the hard copy generates such discussion and amusement within my family. I don't expect my teenagers to look up the HPH on-line, as they are too busy listening to podcasts of the Onion. But exposing them to local public issues (good) and pathetic weeklies (bad) over their breakfast cereal is an important part of the educational program around here! Sure, the kids should read the NY Times, but why not read something terrible and learn from that, too?

Besides, it's only $15 a year!

David Farley said...

Do you know that the Herald declined to print this letter, or simply didn't receive it in time for last week's issue? They have printed other pro-hotel letters recently.

chicago pop said...

The take-away here is not what the Herald did or didn't do (although people are free to speculate).

The take-away is that Hairston has publicly isolated the dry-vote folks.

Whether this has any effect on the vote remains to be seen, but it seems pretty clear that to both 4th and 5th Ward Aldermen, this crowd have made themselves political persona non grata.

I'm sure we'll hear from the Herald (after the election) what happened with this letter.

Richard Gill said...

I agree with Chicago Pop's comment about what's important as take-away from Alderman Hairston's letter. That is that she rightly and directly condemns the "dry" proposition, its supporters, and the real reason for the proposition. The proposition's purpose, as she correctly observes, is to permanently block the hotel, depriving the community of a much-needed facility. The proposition is not a well-intentioned effort to negotiate, no matter how the proposition's supporters try to spin it.

While the Herald is well deserving of all the criticism and sarcasm shown in the above comments, let's stay focused on the issue that the Alderman's letter addresses.

David Farley said...

Is this the first time our Alderman has weighed in publicly on the "vote dry" issue since the petition began circulating back on August 4th (if I'm reading the scan that was posted correctly?)

Did anything like this go directly to the residents of the 39th Precinct?

Elizabeth Fama said...

David Farley,
No, unfortunately the residents of the 39th did not get a mass mailing from Leslie or from the University. What they did get was (1) a postcard from the union urging them to vote yes, (2) a letter from 4th ward resident Judith Stein urging them to vote no, and (3) a letter signed by John Cochrane, Peter Rossi, Stacey Kole, and me, urging them to vote no. (Stein's letter and our letter were also printed in the Herald.)

mchinand said...

If the Herald didn't get Hairston's letter in time to make into last week's print edition, they could have at least put it in the 'breaking news' section on their website. I just checked though, and they removed that section altogether. The story about the University buying land in the Washington Park neighborhood remained 'breaking' for several weeks.

Elizabeth Fama said...

For a week or so there was another "breaking news" post on the Herald's web site with a description of a suspect at large.

chicago pop said...

For a week or so there was another "breaking news" post on the Herald's web site with a description of a suspect at large.

That must have been an HPP blogger.

David Farley said...

For what it's worth, the letter did run in today's Herald.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Too little, too late.