Yes, this is indeed the busiest time of year. However, this year there is important parks business that deserves and requires your attention and action in the coming weeks, even amid your traditional pleasures and pastimes.
MIDWAY PLAISANCE –
CPD Community Zoom Meeting on Tuesday, December 13, 5:30 pm
The Chicago Park District has scheduled the 5th (and final) Community Meeting for its proposal for “Midway Plaisance East End Improvements.” This will be a virtual meeting – a webinar via Zoom. You can register for the meeting here.
Records of all prior community meetings and versions of the proposal are finally available on the CPD Capital Projects—Projects in Design website. Oddly there is no mention of or registration link on that website now for the upcoming 5th Community Meeting. That announcement went only to prior meeting attendees or commentators, but anyone can participate.
The announcement promises an overview of community feedback about the 4th Community Meeting and a presentation of the final design plans for the universally accessible play space. JPW outlined objections to and specific concerns about the CPD proposal in the prior Update and submitted those comments to the Park District. We remain hopeful that the “final” proposal will be responsive to the many questions that have been repeatedly raised about the project.
JACKSON PARK ADVISORY COUNCIL –
Run-off Election, Wednesday, December 21, 7:00 pm, at South Shore Cultural Center
As many of you witnessed and the Herald reported, the annual meeting of JPAC – held on Nov. 22 to elect officers for 2023 – was a weighty event. The Herald characterized the election as a struggle between opposing definitions of the role of a Park Advisory Council: to support the actions and programs of the Park District without question or to weigh in on “policy” issues, such as the construction of the Obama Presidential Center.
The either/or dichotomy about the nature of JPAC does not seem accurate or necessary. We see no conflict in JPAC embracing both roles. It can and should be an advocate for Jackson Park and for users of the park, not only by supporting park stewardship and programs, but also by accurately representing the full range of community sentiments about park operations and major new initiatives such as the OPC or the Tiger Woods golf course. Weighing in on such “policy” issues is presumably what the adjective “advisory” means in the title Park Advisory Council.
We see the election run-off as an opportunity to recalibrate JPAC meetings from monologues to dialogues and to re-establish JPAC as an active advocate for Jackson Park rather than a passive rubber stamp for top-down decisions.
The Nov. 22 meeting, awkwardly rescheduled to bump up against Thanksgiving, featured the unexpected withdrawal of current officers from consideration and the nomination of new candidates for the four leadership positions. Three officers – VP Spencer Bibbs, Secretary Russell Pike and Treasurer Eric Rogers – were elected. However, there was a tie vote for the presidential candidates, requiring another special election meeting.
After some delay, the date for the special election has just been announced as Wednesday, December 21. There are objections to this date, which awkwardly falls in the middle of the very busiest week of the holiday season when many will be traveling. But, until there is further notice, we urge you to mark your calendar for Dec. 21 if you meet the eligibility standards.
An official of the Park District, which counts ballots and certifies the election, has stated that “[t]he list of eligible voters will remain unaltered from the November elections. Members must have attended 2 JPAC meetings between 12/21 and 11/22 in order to be eligible to vote in the special election.”(We note that there is some concern and confusion also about this defined span.)
The candidates for president are Duwain Bailey and Michael Scott. Basic information about their backgrounds and positions is provided in the Herald article and more information will be available before Dec. 21. We believe Michael Scott offers the best opportunity to balance the JPAC leadership team and to assure that JPAC is opened to diverse voices and perspectives.
Good question. Why should you take time now to participate in the design review for the Midway or in the JPAC elections? Why, especially when it is commonly understood that the Park District spotlights Park Advisory Councils that support its actions and ignores or stonewalls PACs and advocacy groups that have differing visions for their parks. But in both cases the CPD practices the same top-down management that is responsive less to community interests and feedback than to mayoral dictates and to private monied interests. As a result, parks, especially larger parks, are treated as revenue-generating spaces for rental or for development rather than as community treasures and valuable public assets in their own right.
So why bother? First, because public parks are inherently worth preserving and supporting as civic assets essential for our individual and collective well-being. Second, because there is a new wave of park activism across the city. The protests by Douglass Park residents against the intrusions of Riot Fest have led to more scrutiny by the Park District Board over the leasing of park space for large for-profit events. It is a small step toward accountability, but it seems to indicate that the new Park District superintendent and the new chair and members of its Board of Commissioners are paying attention to which way the wind is blowing. The overwhelming support in the November election for a non-binding referendum to stop the cutting of trees in Jackson Park and to preserve trees at the South Shore Cultural Center Park signals the centrality of parks in the now prominent discussions of environmental protection, justice and equity. Third, because the upcoming city elections offer an opportunity to elevate park issues so that all candidates for mayor or alderman are asked their position on the protection and expansion of parks generally and on park issues specific to their constituency. And fourth, because it is important to continue to fight for free and open access to our public parks and to resist their privatization, commercialization and monetization. Like schools, health care and safety, parks are one of our basic public rights.
FOTP RECOGNIZES NEW VIPs
Park advocacy is not a one-and-done effort. Perseverance is the key, and Friends of the Parks has been leading the way since 1975. One of its first initiatives that year was a clean-up of Jackson Park.
On Saturday, December 10, as part of its annual Parks as Democracy Conference, FOTP presented its 2022 Volunteers-in-Parks Awards to recognize exceptional efforts on behalf of Chicago’s public parks. Among those recognized:
Susannah Ribstein, steward of the South Shore Nature Sanctuary, received the VIP Award for Stewardship
Promontory Point Conservancy received the VIP Award for Advocacy.
JPW supports both of these initiatives and welcomes their recognition by FOTP as part of a stellar group of VIPs.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!
Thanks to all who have supported us financially. As always, we will welcome your contributions. If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you.
You can contribute in three ways:
- You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.
- You can contribute via PayPal here. (If you encounter difficulties with PayPal, please let us know.)
- You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 67 E. Madison St., Suite 1817, Chicago IL 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters. Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch.
As always, we thank you.
Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch