posted by chicago pop
You don't have to be an urban planner to get that Stony Island Avenue from 56th Street south to the Skyway on-ramp should be one of south side Chicago's major retail stretches. It's got traffic, it's got land, and it links together middle class Hyde Park with middle class Chatham. The resulting market dynamism has the potential to bring jobs and services to these and surrounding communities.
Yet, to read the city's major papers, or to ask Leslie Hairston what has been accomplished on Stony Island since she took office in 1999 -- 12 years ago -- you get the same answer, repeated over and over again: Starbucks.
That's right, one Starbucks. In 2004. That was 7 years ago.
Voters should ask themselves just how far an Alderman can coast on a cappuccino.
If we ask the editors of our distant and less than diligent city papers what has happened to Stony Island since then, a question which they evidently failed to pose before they made their 5th Ward endorsements, they probably have no idea. Because the development deals that DIDN'T happen under Hairston far outweigh the deal that did -- that one, single Starbucks.
What DIDN'T happen under Hairston's tenure was the construction of a much-needed and job-generating hotel at Stony and 58th. What DIDN'T happen was the construction of a Target Store (considered at two separate locations on Stony) and associated retail complexes.
In both cases, Hairston lost jobs because she ran scared of unions, though her ward has some of Chicago's highest unemployment. In both cases she vacillated, unsure what path to tread between contending parties, and was ultimately outmaneuvered by bands of vocal activists. Any inventory of Hairston's 5th Ward legacy must include a dry 39th precinct.
Confronted with conflict, Hairston's leadership style is clear: "A pox on all your houses, you guys sort it out and get back to me." The contrast with outgoing 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle couldn't be more plain. Preferring to act as a referee, Hairston sits it out until the game is over, it's clear who has won, and she can safely take the winner's side. No broader vision is offered. Meanwhile, big projects collapse or move elsewhere -- like the 4th Ward, where a hotel will most likely go up at Harper Court.
So go get a coffee at the Starbucks on Stony Island Avenue and 71st Street. You'll be able to inspect the vacant lots and empty buildings down the street with your eyes wide open.