Monday, May 3, 2010

Hairston Panders to Voters with Free Beach Parking (Those Who Can Get It)

posted by richard gill

Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston has announced plans to use money in her ward menu budget to pay for public parking this summer at the 63rd Street Beach, according to a story dated April 30, 2010 in the on-line Chicago Maroon. This follows on the Chicago Park District’s implementation of parking charges this year at its facilities citywide.

It is not the intention of this posting to delve into the various merits and drawbacks of implementing parking-for-pay where it was previously free. That has been covered heavily on this blog and almost everywhere else.

It is, however, the intention of this posting, to question the validity and the Alderman’s motivation for using public money to enable people to avoid paying a legal tax. Parking fees are, after all, a user tax. Is this what the menu budget is supposed to be for? There are other far-more pressing needs in the ward, one of which is the miles and miles of broken pavement and teeth-rattling potholes still left over from last winter. Then there are youth issues, crime issues and other things.

As for motivation, the Alderman says she’s against making people pay to park at the beach and will fight against it. Sounds sincere, sort of. But let’s not forget that it’s a hot-button political issue, and Alderman Hairston wants to get re-elected in February 2011. Voters always remember a political freebie.

Yes, be sure to remember. If you live in Chicago, you pay for Alderman Hairston’s “free” parking at the beach. Remember that in February…..February 22, to be specific.


Anonymous said...

I'll give her this: She's really good at buttering up self-entitled NIMBYs and directing their outrage into votes for herself.

I wonder if anyone will even run against her? Wasn't she unopposed in the last election?

ScottM said...

This is exceptionally stupid of her. She is basically giving away her ward funds to others that have to drive to the lakefront (which are likely not her constituents.)

Anonymous said...

Sure Scott, you and I recognize this is an incredibly stupid and wasteful use of public funds.

But Hairston recognizes that "free parking" is a hotbed issue for Hyde Park NIMBYs. So even if her squandering this money is clearly absurd to you and I, it will greatly please her extremely vocal power base, may of whom want to continue parking for free in front of their condos along South Shore Drive.

David Farley said...

How many people park at the 63rd St. Beach parking lot and walk to and fro to their lakefront condos? Why would the people complaining about paying for parking at the 55th St. lot even care about this? They won't even park a block away from that lot for free, as far as I can see.

chicago pop said...

David Farley raises a good point. This measure is meant to appeal to the 5th Ward's Woodlawn constituency, not her Hyde Park constituency. Each group has its own particular claim of entitlement to free parking. By making a high-profile but ineffective media fuss about pay for parking she convinces Hyde Park NIMBYs that she's listening to them. By paying off parking fees as 63rd Street she's convincing the Woodlawn users of that beach that she can deliver perks to a disadvantaged clientele. Everyone is happy. And the Alderman gets re-elected. Without having done anything other than spend some cash.

chicago pop said...

As ScottM points out, our taxpayer dollars are going to pay for whoever can get their car to 63rd Street beach first and let it sit there all day -- a great service to the poorest of the poor, obviously. It's not a rational way to make sure limited parking spots are shared as fairly as possible among the greater number of people who want them, and so is in effect a lottery with no payoff to the taxpayers who fund it. (Unless there are time limits, I don't know).

In any case, it's pretty clear that she's buying off the constituency that uses that lot heavily in the summer, betting that they'd be more upset with her for making them pay trivial amounts than they would if she spent less on potholes, parks, and sidewalks.

gogomama said...

In the past, some nearby residents have used that lot for routine overnight parking. I believe I read that under the Park District's new plan, monthly permits were to be sold for this lot. Will the ward funds be used underwrite those monthly permits as well? Does this have anything to do with development of Shoreland, or am I in Chinatown with this?

Jerry said...

I can't believe people are so riled up about paying $4 to park at the lakefront. Since pay boxes have been installed, I've been able to find parking almost anywhere in the City. It's GREAT. If I have to run in to a store for 30 mins or and hour, there is almost always an open space. The real problem is for the people who used to leave their cars there all day and pump quarters in. That is NOT what meter parking is meant for. The only issue I have is why Daley sold off this lucrative revenue source for a fraction of what it's worth. The City should have raised rates a long time ago.

WoodLawn Jack said...

I think this is more of her way of saying "the issue is taken care of"--never mind that she was asleep at the wheel in 2009 when other alderman were grilling the park district over this. Or in 2008 when the plan was originally announced.

Amazing how none of that registered on the elected official for the affected ward. But when her voters see construction workers digging holes and bringing in power lines suddenly it is--"Why wasn't I informed of this?" "We need a community meeting."

WoodLawn Jack said...

And it isn't even an original plan . . .

Personally if my alderman was going to pony up for a bunch of yobs to park for free I'd be pretty PO'd.

chicago pop said...

@gogomama: the 55th St lot is not, so far as I know, being paid for by Hairston. That lot is all set with an hourly section and an area for monthly permit parkers. It has caused a stir, locals object and Hairston supports them, but there's nothing she can do aside from pay for it, and since she's paying for the 63rd St Beach lot already, that probably doesn't leave much in the kitty. The 55th St lot issue is unrelated to the Shoreland project and its own parking issues.

@Woodlawn Jack -- I'd be PO'd, too.

David Farley said...

The previous alderman (I can't remember her name) built her reputation on never listening to her constituents concerns, reasonable or not. I think she lasted one term. A lesson may have been learned there.

chicago pop said...

To a fault, if so.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I didn't think Barbara Holt was a bad alderman. She lost her seat to Ms. Hairston because of misguided activists who were up in arms that she agreed to the installation of the Bixler fountain on 57th St. without "consulting the community" (she had meetings with the Ray School and the Parents Association, and if I recall correctly, Friends of the Park, but that was apparently not enough). Fountain is to Holt as snow storm is to Bilandic.

Getting into office that way surely influenced Ms. Hairston's impulse to involve the community in everything, rather than make executive decisions (see: the Point, the Marriott hotel, the Shoreland, St. Stephens, etc). And now, of course, the fountain is iconic and would probably be the beneficiary of activism if anyone tried to take it away.

IHeartLenoxLohr said...

"our taxpayer dollars are going to pay for whoever can get their car to 63rd Street beach first and let it sit there all day -- a great service to the poorest of the poor, obviously."

I assume, Chicago Pop, that you are being sarcastic. I have lived in Woodlawn now for more than 8 years, and I can tell you that this community needs a hell of a lot more than free parking spaces at the beach. It is very, very clear that Leslie has only specific, small groups on her service radar.

As a ward resident and involved community member (professionally and personally), I would gladly speak up for and support a responsible candidate. But no one is stepping up! Why is that? Time is running out, and it'll be a looooong couple of years if she goes unchallenged again. Anyone? Anyone?

chicago pop said...

I assume, Chicago Pop, that you are being sarcastic.

Of course.

WoodLawn Jack said...

Hairston does seem to be a little late with everything. Letter to the herald appearing after the hotel vote, missing the 2008 park district budget (lake front parking), various cta changes. Maybe she has determined that her surprised look is her best look.

As far as placating constituents--I really don't get how paying for the lot to continue to be free is that great of a boon. Just seems much more likely that "locals" will be losing potential spots to people who live further away. As others have noted--since the new parking regime was instituted finding parking has become so much easier.

Paying for parking at the South Shore Cultural Center is the one I find funniest. I think the whole lake front parking thing was really just a ruse to charge there to see if there would be a back lash from golfers. Since there hasn't been one there will be meters at all the courses in 2011.

chicago pop said...

IHeartLenoxLohr asks the million $$$$ question: who can run against Hairston and do us the favor of turning her out?

IHeart(etc) also makes a good point that Hairston focuses on fairly small groups in these various maneuvers (63rd Street beach users; the residents of ONE BUILDING (5490); the residents of ONE PRECINCT (39th/5th Ward), etc) which gives the impression of, true, listening to her constituents, but also of being extremely fearful of any kind of mass mobilization against her composed, however improbably, of these disaggregated grumps.

Which is all the opposite of leadership. Her actions have been entirely reactive. Something happens which she can't/won't/doesn't control, people get pissed, she makes a scene, nothing changes. All based, I infer, on the idea that if enough people get pissed across her ward, it will mathematically add up to a potential defeat at the hands of the opposing candidate.

This purely reactive approach to electoral politics, let's call it the "molecular/mechanical", leaves no room for another approach that is equally compatible with modern urban democracy, based on something called leadership. Let's call this the "associative/charismatic" model.

It identifies goals, persuades the public of their worthiness, and assembles coalitions to make them happen. It recognizes that there will be opposition, but develops strategies to develop alliances and partnerships to co-opt or minimize it.

This last bit, the thing about leadership, goals, etc., is what's not happening in the 5th ward. This is why Hairston's bizarre focus on small constituencies takes such prominence.

In the case of the 5th Ward, it's all about how many bones you can toss out, not about getting bigger and better bones for everyone.

IHeartLenoxLohr said...

Reactive. Exactly. It's as though her MO is "I'm just going to take it easy, not work too hard, see what upsets someone, and then I will make an ingratiating effort to allay concerns by pandering to their individual complaints." Play acting. And really, why try hard when your job is pretty much GUARANTEED?!

I was talking with someone in the political arena about whether there was a chance Hairston could/would be challenged/ousted. The response was that it was going to be a tough road due to the fact that her neighboring aldermen don't seem to have any big beef with her. I personally wonder what Preckwinkle would say if someone challenged Hairston. Is that concern enough to keep people from testing the waters?

Also, and I don't intend to sound classist, but just how do the voting percentages break down for the segments of the 5th ward in the "wealthier, more educated" Hyde Park and the "poorer" Woodlawn? I know that a majority of the people on my block (and surrounding blocks) would not actually get out to vote in an aldermanic election because they simply don't care enough about their community or believe that change could benefit them directly. Again, the politically involved friend said to me that Woodlawn residents would vote if "the candidate was not African American." So, does that mean that a non-AA candidate doesn't stand a chance, whether qualified or not? Personally, I don't care what race the candidate is as long as they are looking to make positive change and properly represent the ward. I just find it odd that on one side we have this Cook County race and attention given to who that alderman may be. And on the other side of 55th street, it's as if there wasn't a chance for change.

Anonymous said...

... I just wish she would prioritize taking care of the mechanics of her ward. Isn't this the basic role of government? To take care of public spaces?

Where is the garbage pick up on 57th? Those overflowing cans are absurd. Where is the playground cleaning? How about those potholes? Why is anything else in the ward prioritized (including free parking at the beach) when basic maintenance is not tended to?


edj said...

Is there anything that isn't crumbling in that ward? The Point, the streets, Doctors' Hospital, underpasses (or are they overpasses?)? I'm glad to see Alderman Hairston is taking a lead. She seems about as level-headed as 56th Street. Thank God I live in the 4th.

On a related note, I am going to call into 311 to let them know a few streets where they need to come out and make a few more potholes to even out the pavement. At this point, it's probably easier.

bertha said...

The trash situation in the lake front parks is a mystery. On Monday morning (Memorial Day) I counted five overflowing trash cans on the Point. This was no where near enough cans for the number of people who use that area. Bear in mind there was still another day of trash ahead. Further down at the basketball courts near 45th street there were four empty trash cans sitting there, looking at what another, as there was not a person in sight.

Wouldn't you think on Memorial Day weekend they'd do an extra trash pickup? Well--they were--down at 31st street. There I saw park employees on Memorial Day morning roaming the beach house and the children's park, picking up trash! Let's talk about clout and getting things done in this great city of ours.

I'd also like to add that the plastic trash cans were a stupid idea for the lake front. They blow over when it is windy, causing garbage to spill out all over the place.