Above is a reproduction of some of the more humorous campaign literature to emerge from what may be Leslie Hairston's first attempt to really convince voters that she has accomplished something. As nothing seems quite so factual and objective as a map, we are here presented with a color-coded and exhaustive geographical index of stuff that, presumably, would not be included if Leslie Hairston had not been in office. If it has happened since 1999, we are to take it, Leslie made it happen.
Let's unfold it and take a look.
As far as we can see, wherever a small business, a nonprofit organization, or a private housing project is concerned, the folks deserving the credit are the entrepreneurs, fund-raisers, administrators, developers and businesspeople who came up with the ideas, capital, and elbow grease to make things happen.
Or maybe we are just unaware of Hairston's role as the driving force behind Zaleski and Horvath Market Cafe's opening on 57th Street. (Not mentioned, curiously, is the closure of Hans Morsbach's University Market in the same space -- does she get credit for that, too?) Likewise, Hyde Park Animal Clinic and Maravillas, both long-time Hyde Park businesses, were relocated with the help of the U of C in preparation for the demolition of Harper Court. Hairston claims credit for them as well.
Other interesting claims are "Shoreland Restoration" -- which came quite close to being "Shoreland Abandonment" as a result of Hairston's threat to can the project if MAC didn't cave in to the self-interested demands of a small group of neighbors. The millions of dollars being sunk into restoration of the Del Prado building on Hyde Park Boulevard must also be grace à Leslie Hairston, not MAC Properties.
Best of all is "New Housing F," Solstice on the Park, which Hairston can take credit for simply not blocking. Which of course is all the credit she should get, because it hasn't yet and may never be built.
On it goes, the list of things-not-blocked. The methodology is not terribly precise or transparent. If it exists now and didn't before 1999, it all reflects the glory of Alderman Hairston. If it's gone -- like the Cafe Florian on 57th Street -- it isn't listed; and if it simply changed hands -- as with Cafe 57, formerly Istria, also on 57th Street -- it is also listed. The new LED pylons at the Midway crossings, the Chicago Park District landscaping and pedestrian underpasses at 57th and Lake Shore -- was there any conflict involving these projects that required real leadership? Did the initiative for these originate in the 5th Ward office on 71st Street, or did Hairston just not object when other entities took the initiative?
Not objecting is, of course, the inverse of objecting, and the fact that items can be lined up this way as being a credit to the Alderman for simply having happened, points to the ridiculous concentration of power in the hands of all Chicago Aldermen.
What we do know with more certainty is that, when big projects were on the line in Hairston's 5th Ward, they typically didn't happen. We've outlined how Target Stores -- considered at two separate locations on Stony Island -- didn't happen. You can decide whether PopinNuts Gourmet Popcorn ("New and Reinvested Businesses #21") makes up for that or not. We've also outlined how a modern hotel -- supported by the Museum of Science and Industry, the University of Chicago, and much of Hyde Park, and also on Stony Island -- didn't happen.
Likewise, the beautiful pedestrian underpass at Lake Shore Drive and 57th adjoins the collapsing Promontory Point, the current decay of which reflects more realistically on Hairston's leadership than any single retail opening she cares to list.
So about this map you might say, to paraphrase the suggestion offered by Yahoo or Mapquest whenever plotting a route online, "it's a good idea to do a reality check." Before plotting a trip, or casting your vote.