Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hairston Flyers Illegally Stuffed into High-Rise Mailboxes

posted by richard gill

It is a Federal crime to place unauthorized items in anyone’s home mailbox. On January 28, my wife and I found a Leslie Hairston campaign flyer in our mailbox. Looking around our building’s mailroom, we saw the same Leslie Hairston flyer peeking out of most of the building’s 369 mailboxes. Whoever put the stuff there committed a crime with each slotting of the flyer.

We turned the flyer over to our building’s office, and a strongly worded notice was distributed to all residents. At present, I don’t know who the perpetrator was, but I will try to find out. If this offense occurs again, I will report it to the U.S. Postal Service, and there will be no doubt on whose behalf the offense was committed.

So here we see another transgression by the supporters of Leslie Hairston’s effort to be the 5th Ward’s Alderman for Life. These transgressions are all aimed at foiling the candidacy of Anne Marie Miles, who has mounted a credible and well-conceived campaign to be elected 5th Ward Alderman; she wants to furnish the ward with the stimulus, leadership and advocacy it sorely needs.

One may ask, what other transgressions were committed by the Hairston camp? First, there were the countless, groundless and frivolous objections to nearly every signature on Anne Marie Miles’ nominating petitions. This crude effort to simply wear Anne Marie down did not work. She persevered and has the top position on the ballot.

Then, there were the harassing threats to send building inspectors to the landlord of Anne Marie’s campaign office on 71st Street. Nice try, but Anne Marie has a lot of supporters on “Leslie’s turf”, and the campaign office found a new home. Next, a building inspector appeared (just by chance, of course) at a place displaying a sign supporting Anne Marie Miles for 5th Ward Alderman. It would be worth a look, in order to find out how this tactic may run afoul of Federal election laws, and even local laws regarding misappropriation of public monies.

And now, we have the mailbox caper.

A U.S. Postal Service press release dated September 9, 2010 says, “The U.S. Postal Service would like to warn people that only authorized U.S. Postal Service delivery personnel are allowed to place items in a mailbox. By law, a mailbox is intended only for receipt of postage-paid U.S. Mail….. the Postal Service has received complaints of flyers without paid postage being placed in mailboxes. … this type of activity is illegal by federal law.”

The Postal Service's Domestic Mail Manual states, “No part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items of matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle….” Even though homeowners purchase and maintain the residential mailboxes, the mailboxes belong to and are controlled by the U.S. Postal Service. That means that any tampering or misuse of the mailbox is a federal offense that comes with substantial penalties.

A person can only wonder what is next. If we find out about it, we’ll write about it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Once Upon a Time in Chicago Politics

Illustration: Michael Robertson, Samba for Rats.

Once upon a time on the South Side of Chicago a brave woman dared to challenge the longtime incumbent for her position as Grand High Exalted Mystic Alderman. The Challenger was diligent and hard working in her preparations for the race: she gathered more than 600 petition signatures when only 181 were necessary; she defended each and every signature in grueling, arbitrary Board of Election hearings; she turned in her petitions on time and won the lottery for first position on the ballot; she responded to the questionnaires of the local newspapers; she met with merchants and constituents in every part of her ward; she launched a compelling campaign website.

And then the time came to open her campaign office. A friend and supporter who ran a shop on 71st and Jeffery Boulevard offered to share her storefront with the brave Challenger for no fee, as a campaign contribution. The Challenger's campaign office had its grand opening on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

But the Grand High Exalted Mystic Incumbent was displeased. Her own campaign office was mere blocks away on 71st Street (and incidentally located in "Suite 2B" of the same address as her ward office, perhaps unnecessarily raising eyebrows about her compliance with section 9-25.1 of the Illinois Election Code, which forbids using ward resources for campaign purposes, but I digress). The Incumbent fumed: who was this Challenger to take the top spot on the ballot? Who was this Challenger to dare to open her campaign office so close to the Incumbent Castle?

Within forty-eight hours, the unsuspecting landlord of the Storekeeper received a phone call from the Grand High Exalted Mystic Ward Office: have your tenant evict the Challenger, or the dreaded Building Inspectors will be out to check the property, to verify whether its new use as both a retail space and office space conforms with zoning restrictions, and maybe to pillage and burn it if they were in a truly foul temper.

The Challenger, to spare her friend the Storekeeper any worries or heartache, and knowing there are some Good Ol' Boy tactics that you can't beat, packed up her office and moved, but did not give up.

The End. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

People Don't Drink in Hyde Park; Why People Drink to the Windermere Building; CMB Forgets She Has No Degree From Harvard; Local Election Blog

posted by chicago pop

"I could really use a drink right here, but guess I'll have to go to the Northside."

The Maroon to Hyde Park: Know Thyself (or ask thy business leaders and quote them in The Maroon):

“People don’t drink here.”

“People don’t really like the idea of a bar in a college neighborhood like this.”

"[A] commercial real estate agent ... “told me that I would be throwing my money away [if I tried to open a bar in Hyde Park]...."

The shocking story about how a young person wanted to open a cafe/arcade/bar somewhere in the neighborhood and was roundly chased out of Whoville by sundry Whosits. Including one real estate agent - who may fear that such a business would hurt Carol Moseley Braun's inflated property value.


An interesting video clip of the 2010 Christmas Party at MAC's Windermere House. Part Reality TV, part unpaid advertising, part infomercial, it is nonetheless interesting to hear the thoughts of Windermere residents, and to see their diversity. Black, white, military, civilian, academic, professional, young and married, old and single, Mana-hattanites in exile, and more -- all the things that make Hyde Park the demographic wild card we love are right here:


A telling gaffe from imminently destitute but eminently self-satisfied Hyde Parker, Carol Moseley Braun, in which she claims (mistakenly -- but who hasn't done this?) to own "an advanced degree from Harvard."

The Consensus is that the Consensus Candidate has no Harvard degree
[Source: Chicago Magazine]

Astonishing. Chicago Mag writes:

What’s striking about Moseley Braun’s statement is that later in the interview she had a chance to clear things up. Host Greg Jarrett opened the segment to calls, and a caller named Jeffrey remarked that he’s “impressed” by all of Moseley Braun’s accomplishments, including that she “went to Harvard.” The moment passed without a clarification from the candidate—that she was a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics in 2007, but the program did not offer a degree.

Look, it was a morning radio interview, and anyone who has given one without adequate pre-air caffeination knows how hard it can be to keep one's advanced degrees straight. (I never have, but why should that stop me from saying so?) I know, I know; in these tough times, anyone can go broke running their business into the ground, and anyone can mistakenly claim to own a Harvard PhD. Woe to those who throw stones.


And finally, from a reader, a quirky little blog devoted to the upcoming February elections. Not too much for Hyde Parkers to chew on, but there is good coverage of the mayoral race, and interesting mini-travelogues such as this one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Five Guys Burger Joint Lands on 53rd St.

posted by chicago pop

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Things seem to be happening fast in the old Herald Building at 53rd and Harper. Via the U of C's 53rd Street Blog:

Five Guys has signed on as the inaugural tenant at the soon-to-be renovated office and theater buildings at 53rd and Harper Avenue. The news comes fast on the heels of the University’s announcement that it is renovating these key buildings.

“We’re delighted to introduce this crowd favorite to our community,” said James Hennessy, Director of Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University. “The University is committed to working with the community to revitalize the 53rd Street corridor, and the arrival of Five Guys is good news for those efforts.”

With 725 locations around the country, Five Guys is just one of a number of big-name retailers the University is talking with about setting up shop in new spaces along 53rd Street, here and at the nearby Harper Court redevelopment, to blend with local businesses.

The new Five Guys in Hyde Park will occupy 2,200 square feet and could also make use of outdoor seating with a plan for attractive awnings. Officials said they expect the restaurant to open around the end of this year.

It's been a long wait. Once that corner gets turned around, I have a feeling it will be hard to remember what it was like before.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

5th Ward Candidate Debate


What: Candidate Forum, 5th Ward Aldermanic race
When: this Thursday, January 20, at 6:30 PM
Where: the Don Nash Center, 1833 East 71st Street

This event is organized by South Side Neighbors. It will be in a debate format. All of the candidates have been invited.

Anne Marie Miles
Leslie A Hairston
Michele Tankersley
Carol Hightower Chalmers
Glen Ross.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Anne Marie Miles Opens Fifth Ward Campaign Office at 71st & Jeffery on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Candidate calls for empty lots to be used for urban farming and attention to abandoned buildings

CHICAGO – January 13, 2011 – Anne Marie Miles, aldermanic candidate for the Fifth ward announced today the opening of her campaign office on Monday January 17, 2011, Martin Luther King Jr., Day from 3 pm until 6 pm. The campaign HQ will be located at 1955 E. 71st Street, near the corner of Jeffery Boulevard across from Bryn Mawr Metra station. General campaign office hours will be from 9:00am until 7:00pm Monday to Friday.

Miles will be inviting constituents, business owners and the media to the campaign offices starting next week. “We needed to be in the heart of the Fifth ward community,” stated Miles. “There is no doubt that constituent services, abandoned buildings and empty lots are a major problem in this vicinity, we must have our fingers on the pulse of the community.”

“It is evident that constituents are not happy,” noted Miles. “The Fifth Ward no longer represents the independent vibrant community it once was for so many years. Consistency is required regarding constituent services, and we must find ways to turn empty lots into useful spaces, such as urban farming, as well as working with local police to fight crime. Gangs cannot be allowed to be a permanent fixture on the streets, disturbing businesses and putting fear in citizens.”

Miles noted that the priority of the Fifth Ward must be economic revitalization, with an alderman who is willing to confront the difficult issues that are affecting the ward, and one who is able to provide a productive plan for economic development, encouragement for children to graduate from high school, and facilitating more community program development.

Miles became committed to run for Fifth Ward aldermanic race, after she learned that vital ward funds were being used to pay for free parking spaces for people who live in co-ops and condos along the lake; while the city saw the highest youth unemployment rates in years.

Anne Marie Miles is an advocate, community activist and a loyal, passionate Fifth Ward supporter. She is involved with parent associations and local community groups focused on improving children’s lives and reducing teen violence. Miles is the former Secretary and President of the University of Chicago Comer Hospital Service Committee, and has worked for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services providing free legal services to lower income residents. She is currently on the steering committee of Safe Youth Chicago of the Union League Club of Chicago.

National Children's Study

posted by Elizabeth Fama

I received this interesting letter from Roger Knight, which I pass along to our blog readers:

Subject: Local Study Looks at How the Environment Affects Children’s Health
Dear Ms. Fama,

The National Children’s Study (NCS), a study that could ultimately improve the health and well-being of children for generations to come, is now recruiting participants here in Hyde Park, one of 15 Cook County communities chosen for this research. Starting on January 17, 2011, Hyde Park residents will start receiving letters in the mail asking them to contact the Greater Chicago Study Center (GCSC) to find out how to get involved in the NCS. During the next couple of weeks, community outreach workers will be out in Hyde Park distributing flyers, attending public meetings, and answering questions about this groundbreaking research. The National Children’s Study will be the largest long-term study ever of children’s health in the United States—examining the effects of family history and the environment on 100,000 children nationwide.
Not only is this the largest study of children’s health ever conducted in the United States, but it is also the first to examine the environment’s effects specifically on children. Children relate to the environment differently than adults. They take in more air, food, and water for their weight than adults and spend more time outdoors. The NCS could help us better understand why children are sick or healthy and lead to the development of new medicines and health and safety guidelines to better protect children’s health for generations to come.
The Greater Chicago Study Center, a consortium of Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) launched its campaign to recruit local area women on November 9, 2010. Local community organizations and healthcare providers are working with the GCSC to identify and recruit eligible women. Hyde Park residents also are encouraged to contact the GCSC at 1-866-315-7124 to find out if they or someone they know is able to join the Study. Multilingual staff are ready to answer their questions.
Roger Knight
Community Outreach and Engagement Liaison
Greater Chicago Study Center
National Children's Study
Office: (312) 996-9781

To find out if you're eligible to enroll in this study, call 1-866-315-7124.

In a follow-up e-mail, Mr. Knight said, "Even if you’re not eligible to enroll, there are other ways in which you can support the study. The Community Engagement team is reaching out to schools, community organizations, churches and clinics in Hyde Park. They're also passing out flyers at different locations, including grocery stores, Metra stops, etc." He requested that residents let him know of any groups that he should be reaching out to, or events that NCS should attend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Newsflash: U of C to Begin Renovation of 53rd St. Buildings, New Tenants Announced

posted by chicago pop

For immediate release: January 10, 2011

University announces renovation of 53rd Street buildings

University officials announced at the Jan. 10 meeting of the 53rd Street TIF Council that the University will undertake a major renovation of the theater and office buildings at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.

Work will begin Thursday on the adaptive reuse project slated for completion this fall, which will provide a home for new restaurant, retail and other tenants. University officials told the TIF Council that they expect to provide news about those tenants in coming weeks and months.

“The University has an interest in saving these buildings,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, Vice President for Civic Engagement. “We believe they are a key piece of our shared efforts with the city to revitalize this important Hyde Park corridor.” The University has owned the 13,000 square-foot office building at 1452-1456 E. 53rd St. since 2003. OKW Architects of Chicago will serve as the lead architect on the renovation of that building, while HSA Commercial Real Estate, a national, full-service real estate firm, will serve as the property manager.

The project scope includes fa├žade work, tuck-pointing and a complete rehabilitation of the interior to make appropriate space for the new tenants and enhance its overall character. Other plans include new windows, signage and outdoor seating capabilities.

University officials said the refurbished office building, which has been vacant for seven years, will generate considerable interest among commercial tenants. The ground floor and second floor each occupy approximately 5,000 square feet. Restaurants and retail operations are planned for the ground floor and the second floor will have multiple uses, including potential office space.

The University also owns the former theater building, which is slated for upgrades in the latter part of the year. Officials said more information on the renovation project for that building would be available by spring.

How Hairston Lost Two Target Stores on Stony Island Avenue

posted by chicago pop

"Our commercial corridor reflects who we are as a community and I don't want to look like someone vomited."

--5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, Hyde Park Herald, 2005

"Every day, grown men come into my office on 71st Street looking for jobs that don't exist ... Before I vote to dictate the wages that big box retailers should pay, I need to have those retail jobs in the 5th Ward. You can't pay a living wage or any wage for that matter if you don't have businesses."

--5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, Hyde Park Herald, 2006

When Leslie Hairston assumed the position of Alderman in the 5th Ward back in 1999, there was great expectation that Stony Island Avenue would experience the kind of commercial renaissance that was occurring along North Side corridors such as Clybourn and Elston. As the Tribune reported the sentiment at the time, "Between 60,000 and 90,000 cars travel through the intersection of 71st and Stony Island daily. The [new Starbucks at 71st and Stony] is close to Metra's Bryn Mawr station, while Stony Island leads to Lake Shore Drive about a mile away."

Expectations for development were very high, and Hairston kept them there.

Over a decade later, the reality of development on Stony Island falls far short of the hopes that came in with Hairston. It is therefore useful to ask whether, after all this time, Hairston has the ability to get commercial development done in her ward.

While Hairston made headlines early on with the opening of the first Starbucks south of Hyde Park and in a black neighborhood at 71st and Stony, the commercial redevelopment of this major corridor has visibly stalled.

By our count, Hairston lost two bids for a Target Store at different sites along Stony Island: one at Stony and 71st, and a second at Stony and Marquette Drive. Meanwhile, during the time that she has been alderman, a Target Store opened in Chatham at 85th and Cottage Grove (2002), a Target Store has opened in the 34th Ward at Marshfield Avenue and 119th (2008), and another recently opened in "downbeat Uptown" (July 2010), an event so improbable and significant as to catch the attention of the New York Times.

Back on Stony Island, however, no Target, no IKEA, mo Kmart, no Bed, Bath, & Beyond -- all names that were bandied about at a 5th Ward meeting 1999. Hairston's failure to make any of this happen has been partly due to an unwillingness to take firm positions -- for or against use of eminent domain to clear land for a project (Target on Stony); for or against organized labor (Target on Stony, the Marriott at Drs Hospital) -- and amounting to an inability to do what needs to be done to close a deal. Her flip-flop on the 2006 Big Box ordinance, which she supported before she rejected, probably helped to kill whatever chance she still had for landing a Target Store at Stony Island and Marquette.

And, if ever deals were to be done in Chicago, it was during the first two terms of Hairston's office, (1999-2007) when real estate was booming nationwide. A TIF District was created along 71st Street and Stony Island just a year before Hairston took office, in 1998. According to the planning firm contracted by the city to draw up the TIF District, S.B. Friedman and Company, "Stony Island Avenue appears to have the potential to become a significant, modern big-box commercial center, which would build on existing Sears and Jewel stores to create the necessary critical mass to establish Stony Island Avenue as a major shopping destination for South Side residents."

At a community meeting shortly after taking office, the buzz was palpable. As the Hyde Park Herald reported at the time (July 1999),

""We want to turn Stony Island Avenue into the Clybourn Avenue of the South Side," JYZ Development president Zeb McLaurin told a crowd of more than 300 people at Ald. Leslie Hairston's Fifth Ward Community Meeting.

National chains like IKEA and Kmart are being targeted to fill the street's prime retail location at 79th Street and Stony Island Avenue and other local and national stores could fill in spots along Stony Island Avenue up to 67th Street, developers said.

Although the shape of the first proposed Target project was never made public, a source close to the deal in the early 2000's reveals that the company was interested in a site in the newly-created TIF district at 71st Street, as part of a mixed retail-residential development that would have required some property condemnation. Hairston was not enthusiastic about the prospect. Parties to the deal kept the idea alive, however, at least as late at 2005, when Hairston herself announced that "Target is making serious plans to build a store ... on Stony Island Avenue, either at 67th or 71st Streets."

No more was heard of a Target at this location, however, and the deal fell through. It is now only another of many legends in the sad annals of South Side crypto-development.

That same year, Target's interest in Stony Island again touched the written record when Hairston claimed to hold in her very hands "a letter of intent from Target to build a new store at Marquette and Stony Island." By then, she had changed her mind about property condemnation, and was reminding her audience of property speculators that "People should be compensated, but this is not the lottery," so look out.

Cue the national media attention stirred up by Chicago's Big Box ordinance. At that time, Hairston supported the ordinance that would have required large-scale retailers to pay a certain minimum wage. She was clearly sanguine about constituent support for her position on wages, and Target's tolerance for uncertainty in its business environment.

As the Sun-Times reported back in 2006:
[T]he developer [Target] has told her the store is "on hold" and that Target may close existing Chicago stores if the big-box ordinance goes through. Hairston called it [Target's threat to scrap its planned store on Stony Island] little more than a scare tactic. And even if the threat turns out to be real, she's standing firm in support of organized labor.

As it turned out, Hairston misjudged reality on both counts, later changing her position on the Big Box minimum wage ordinance, and losing the Target at Stony and Marquette, despite the precious letter of intent. It all went much as it would in 2009, when she failed to judge the stretegic positions of various parties, especially labor, during the Drs Hospital/Marriott Hotel controversy.

After all this -- the disappearance of a Target deal at 71st, and the implosion of another on on Marquette after Hairston's Big Box flip-flop in 2006 -- what does the Hyde Park Herald conclude? "Give Hairston another term," its editors wrote on 21 February 2007, well after both plans had fallen through. "Hairston is also working on bringing a Target to the area."

So, after 12 years in office, where does Stony Island stand? Approximately one Starbucks the richer. This is apparently all that is needed. After all, as Leslie Hairston herself put it, "You are officially a neighborhood when you get a Starbucks."

Might as well stop there.

Disappointing, Toni: Preckwinkle Endorses Hairston

posted by chicago pop

Preckwinkle Catches the Carol Moseley Braun Syndrome & Backs Local Mediocrity

We're sorry to see former alderman Toni Preckwinkle leave the 4th Ward, and we like her pick for a 4th Ward successor (Will Burns), but what gives with her heavy lifting for a South Side mediocrity like Leslie "used to success" Hairston? Sista' Hood? We'll call it the Carol Moseley "I don't want to" Braun Syndrome (CMBS), and note that it seems to be spreading on the South Side this year. Symptoms typically include a lack of recent accomplishments, and being in need of a job.

In extreme cases, candidates with CMBS have 4 mortgages of up to $1.85 million on their home, while running business losses of a quarter million dollars, but nonetheless receive the glowing support of the South Side Establishment.

In a post-Daley election in which everything else is up for grabs, it's hard to understand the backing Preckwinkle is giving to Hairston. So I have to ask her the same thing I would have asked Jessie Jackson about CMB: Is this really the best you've got to offer, or is this just a friend who needs a job?

Does someone need this job?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Host a 2011 Electoral House Party for Sustainable Development!

How can the next Mayor and City Council build on Chicago’s reputation as one of the greenest cities in America?
CNT has developed a set of 22 policy recommendations to make a case for how Chicago’s next leaders can apply sustainable development principles to green the city and strengthen the local economy. Read it now >>

But we need your participation to help make sustainability a key issue in the city’s upcoming historic election! We must show candidates it is a priority for us and keep the conversation going among family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

Are you interested in hosting a house party to discuss how sustainable development is economic development?

To get involved, contact Emily Robinson at or 773.269.4043.
If you provide the venue and group of interested Chicagoans, CNT will provide staff and resources to facilitate the discussion!

Harold Washington Park Advisory Council Elections Wednesday January 12

Use the awesome playground? Play tennis on the lakefront courts? Walk your dog or jog on the path? Play chess, fly kites, play soccer, or count the passing clouds? Harold Washington Park, one of the shining gems among Hyde Park's open spaces, facilitates these and many other activities.

If you want to guarantee that the park is taken care of, well maintained, and wisely shepherded into the future, please come to the first meeting of the new Harold Washington Park Advisory Council!


Location: Hyde Park Art Center
Date: Wednesday, January 12
Time: 6:30PM - 7:30PM
Agenda: Election of Council Officers

The nominees are:
President (David Hoyt)
Vice President (John Doll)
Treasurer (Joe Kelly)
Secretary (Open)