I was at a dinner party last weekend with a woman who just happened to be a former Director of Lakefront Operations at the Chicago Park District (she's now the director of a non-profit). Naturally we got to talking about Promontory Point, and she expressed without solicitation the same opinion I've had about the Point for years: Hyde Parkers have bickered and stalled and obstructed so long that the funding has disappeared, and one of these fine days Mayor Daley will shut it down and build whatever the heck he wants there, for our own safety.
Mayor Daley finds Hyde Parkers a nuisance at worst, and may in fact find us amusing. After Meigs got carved up with big, bulldozed X's on my birthday in 2003, it dawned on me that the very same strategy would work at the Point: ignore our silly local controversy until 1. someone is injured or killed at the Point, or 2. enough erosion has occurred to declare it a hazard to people (shhh, that's already happened) and a flood risk to Lake Shore Drive (less of a worry but more important to the Army Corps of Engineers). And after Daley barricades it, it's not likely that the Army Corps will build the Compromise Plan, with its two deep-water swimming access sites, and re-use of the existing limestone. That's an expensive plan that we were darned lucky to be granted (and to help design) the first time, during an economic boom, and my dinner companion said the lakefront funds are gone now.
So I whined to her, "But our hands are tied! We're being forced to wait for 'Senator' Obama's 3rd-party review process." And then she said something absolutely brilliant, that had not occurred to me because I secretly disapprove of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. She said, "Someone should go after stimulus dollars to build the Compromise Plan. It's shovel-ready, isn't it?"
And yes, if we're lucky, it may well be. I believe the engineering plan was one of those "35%-complete" plans (or whatever percentage indicates it can be signed-off for construction).
But how could we achieve this? Who could do it? Alderman Hairston? Could she simply say to now-President Obama, "Screw the 3rd-party process that never got off the ground, I'm approving the Compromise Plan"? Could she persuade Daley to aggressively solicit ARRA funds for the Compromise Plan, with her blessing?
It would be a bold move. Too bold for her, I fear.
No, the outcome that seems more and more certain, given the level of decay at the Point, the non-existence of the 3rd-party review, and the lack of decisiveness of our alderman, is that we'll have no say in what gets built there.