Jackson Park Watch Update -April 2, 2017

Greetings all,

IN THIS UPDATE: 

·         Still waiting for community input opportunities for the Obama Presidential Center and golf course “transformation”

·         Actual new information on the Darrow Bridge reconstruction

·         That new economic development corporation

·         Shared concerns

Obama Foundation plans for community input still unclear

Although several public events have taken place, no opportunities or plans for meaningful community input have materialized as yet.  Further, at the March 28 invitation-only event billed as a “community meet-and-greet reception” for the Obama Presidential Center architects, Obama Foundation V.P. for Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis signaled an even longer wait for actual information on plans, saying “the president is still exploring ideas.” For more, check the Tribune article by architecture critic Blair Kamin (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obamalibrary/ct-obama-library-kamin-met-0328-20170328-story.html).

 Golf course “transformation” timeline uncertain

 There is also no news about the proposed golf course re-design. At the March 18 meeting of Alderman Hairston’s Jackson Park/South Shore Golf and Community Leadership/Advisory Council, representatives of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance (CPGA) reported that the engineering study by SmithGroupJJR, which is behind schedule, may be completed by the end of March.  The golf course design firm, TGR Design, will then adjust its initial ideas (never revealed to the public) to fit the engineering data and produce a conceptual design.  At that point – presumably late April – the Park District and the Alderman will, we hope, organize a public meeting to present the design to the community. Obviously, more than one meeting will be needed.  Information on related impacts such as traffic and parking will also be required in order for the community to fully assess the proposal.

On a related point, a March 8 Sun-Times report, quoting CPGA principal Michael Ruemmler extensively, revealed that fund-raising for the golf course project is lagging, but that Ruemmler expects it will accelerate once the design is revealed (see http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/fundraising-slows-for-jackson-parksouth-shore-golf-course-merger/).

 Actual news on the Darrow Bridge!

 In contrast, there was actual and positive news about the reconstruction of the Darrow Bridge at Alderman Hairston’s 5th ward meeting on March 28.  CDOT Assistant Chief Engineer-Bridges Luis Benitez reported that Phase One, engineering, is now underway and should be complete within the year.  Phase Two, design, will follow and should take no more than a year.  Phase Three, construction, will then start in 2019.  Funding is on hand, and the project is expected to be completed.

Benitez said that this presentation was the first of several.  JPW will share any information it has about future meetings about this project.

 That new neighborhood economic development corporation

As noted in the March 13 JPW Update, plans for a new economic development corporation for Woodlawn, Washington Park, and South Shore are underway, fueled by start-up funding from the Chicago Community Trust.  Members of the initial board are expected to be representatives from  the University of Chicago, the City, the Obama Foundation, the Washington Park Consortium, the Network of Woodlawn, and South Shore Works, as well as other community members to be selected through an open application process.   (See www.wwpss.org for information.)  JPW is not involved in on-going discussions about this issue, but we are paying attention to the potential impacts on Jackson Park itself. We note that some concerns about transparency and benefits to the broader community have been raised.

Shared concerns:  Friends of the Parks Open Letter on Jackson Park

 Many of you may have read the Open Letter on Jackson Park from Juanita Irizarry, Executive Director of Friends of the Parks, which appeared in the March 22 issue of the Hyde Park Herald.  Unfortunately the Herald did not have the space to print the full statement, which is available on the FOTP website (https://fotp.org/issues/policy/obama-presidential-library-2/ ).  This is a thoughtful account that puts the ambitious but unconnected proposals of the last two years in context and makes a commonsensical call for comprehensive planning instead of piecemeal change.  We recommend it for your review.

Shared concerns: Keep Grant Green

We have heard from leaders of Keep Grant Green, a downtown community group formed in response to concerns that ever-increasing use of Grant Park for commercial and tourist activities has limited green space and precluded use of the park by local residents.    Like Jackson Park, Grant Park is also both a neighborhood and a regional park, but there the scale has been tipped in the direction of tourism and revenue-generating uses. It is an object lesson for what we do not want to happen to Jackson Park.    You can explore the website and Facebook page that outline their concerns at  http://keepgrantgreen.com/  and  https://m.facebook.com/keepgrantgreen.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org/
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – March 6, 2017

Greetings all,

More join in the call for a transparent and comprehensive planning process for Jackson Park, a process grounded in robust community input.  See What can you do? (below) to keep the momentum rolling.

The end of the month brought two promising developments:

Alderman Hairston steps up:  At her monthly 5th Ward meeting on February 28, Alderman Leslie Hairston spoke of her hopes and intentions for the Jackson Park/South Shore Golf and Community/Leadership Advisory Council that she has recently formed.  Hairston reaffirmed her recent statement to the Obama Foundation, stressing that there has to be comprehensive and coordinated planning for Jackson Park as a whole.  According to Hairston, the Advisory Council will serve as two-way conduit of information between her and neighborhood residents regarding all of the many changes being proposed for Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center.  The council’s first session last week featured a general discussion, and the only substantive news was that the Park District’s consultant is behind schedule in preparing a preliminary design for the golf course. We will report to you as the Advisory Council’s work becomes clearer.  There may be opportunities for you to join in the process through topical subcommittees.

Preservation Chicago sounds the alarm:  Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center have been put on Preservation Chicago’s 2017 list of the most endangered sites in Chicago.  Recounting the important legacy of these parks and the threats to them represented by private-interest groups with no public accountability, Preservation Chicago aims to provide a preservation-oriented voice in the conversation about the future of the parks. We urge you to read the full statement on-line.  We applaud the assessment of the issue by Preservation Chicago and welcome its valuable input.

Where is the Park District?  What about the Obama Foundation? These important new actions are supported by the repeated calls by Friends of the Parks for comprehensive planning, by the Jackson Park Advisory Council’s newly-established  and soon-to-meet coordinating committee,  by the ongoing discussions led by Dr. Byron Brazier about Woodlawn’s aims for Jackson Park, and by parallel conversations in South Shore and Washington Park.   Yet to date the Park District and the Obama Foundation, the two 800-pound gorillas in the game, are on the sidelines or watching from behind the curtain.

What can you do?  E-mail Obama Foundation’s Vice President for Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis (mstrautmanis@obamapresidentialfoundation.org.  Send your message to Park District CEO Michael Kelly (michael.kelly@chicagoparkdistrict.com) and Park District Board President Jesse Ruiz (Jesse.Ruiz@dbr.com).  Ask them to step up, engage the Jackson Park community, and join the conversation about comprehensive planning for the future of the park.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org/
Like us on our Facebook page

 

Jackson Park Watch Update – February 19, 2017

Greetings all,

Good news! Others are joining JPW and Friends of the Parks to demand development of a coordinated, comprehensive plan for the future of all of Jackson Park. We note two recent developments of particular importance:

The Jackson Park Advisory Council, at its February 13 meeting, voted to establish a coordinating committee to consider two current major initiatives – the Obama Library and the golf course renovation. The committee will include representatives from the Park District, the Obama Foundation, the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance,  Chicago Department of Transportation, Alderman Hairston’s 5th Ward Office, JPAC, and Jackson Park Watch.   While this cannot be a substitute for a well-resourced, staffed and open community input process, we welcome this action and look forward to participating in the discussions.

On February 15, Alderman Hairston issued an open letter to the Obama Presidential Center calling upon the Obama Foundation to actively engage the community in discussions about its evolving plans.  Hairston called particular attention to the need to coordinate planning for the OPC and for the proposed renovated golf course:  “They should be planned together.  They are both part of Jackson Park and residents would like to have a comprehensive picture of how transportation, park use, and recreation will be addressed.”    The Alderman’s statement was covered also in the Tribune and DNAInfo.  You may want to thank Alderman Hairston and offer additional comments at ward05@cityofchicago.org.

We applaud both of these steps and hope they that lead to a planning process for Jackson Park that is both more transparent and fully open to broad community review and input.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org
Like us on our Facebook page.

JACKSON PARK WATCH UPDATE – February 6, 2017

Greetings all,

This is a crazy time. JPW coordinators share the angst, but we are keeping on.  You can help by submitting comments or questions to both the Park District and the Obama Foundation – see *** below.

Now: the road closure proposal

Proposals to slice and dice Jackson Park into disjointed pieces keep coming fast and furious! The latest is the Obama Foundation idea – just recently “floated” although it has been out there for several years – of closing Cornell Drive between 60th and 67th (see http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obamalibrary/ct-obama-library-roadways-met-20170127-story.html). Again we see a proposal put out there by one special interest without full information or attention to park-wide traffic circulation issues, a proposal that raises a host of questions:

  • While many would love to see more parkland, just what would happen to all that traffic?
  • How about a traffic study that is publicly released? (JPW knows that a study was done by the University and given to the Obama Foundation a couple of years ago, but has been unable to secure a copy.)
  • What would it cost us, the taxpayers?
  • Where is the plan for community input?
  • Where is the comprehensive plan for Jackson Park as a whole that is necessary to put such a proposal into perspective and context?

In today’s DNAInfo (see link below), Alderman Leslie Hairston expressed major concerns about the impact of the proposed road closure on traffic through Jackson Park. Even more importantly, to quote the article:

Hairston has expressed concerns in the past that the large number of projects planned for Jackson Park are too siloed and progressing without enough attention on how they will all interact with each other. “I would like to look at the totality,” Hairston said.

As calls for an overall plan for the whole of Jackson Park gain traction, this is great news. Please take time to thank Hairston at ward05@cityofchicago.org.

https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170206/woodlawn/jackson-park-obama-library-cornell-drive-road-closure-skyway-shortcut-ald-leslie-hairston

Meeting with the Obama Foundation

JPW coordinators Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid recently met with Obama Foundation V.P. for civic engagement Michael Strautmanis and posed questions about the road closure idea. They also urged the Obama Foundation leadership to:

  • launch a community engagement process to review and comment on plans for the Obama Library building(s) and landscaping while they are being developed, not after,
  • take an active and public role in the search for a suitable new location for the athletic field that it is displacing, and
  • work with the Park District on an overall plan for the entire park before it is hopelessly segmented.

In response, Strautmanis stated that the Obama Foundation will move quickly to hold public discussions with community groups about the development of the designs for the Obama Presidential Center with the goal of having final designs by the end of 2017. However, he could not yet announce a specific schedule of meetings or the groups to be invited. Strautmanis also expressed the Foundation’s strong interest in and commitment to working with the Park District and the community to develop a comprehensive plan for Jackson Park that would both preserve and enhance the park for local users and accommodate visitors to the Obama Presidential Center.

***Strautmanis also emphasized that the Obama Foundation is seeking comments on what it should do as it launches a program focused on citizenship. One obvious answer is to begin by working at the local level. JPW encourages submission of comments encouraging the Obama Foundation to be a model of community engagement by working with the Park District – and pushing it if needed – to ensure substantive community input on all of the many plans now afloat to make massive changes in historic Jackson Park. Comments (and questions) can be submitted at https://www.obama.org/your-voice/.

More on the golf course

As the SmithGroupJJR engineering study of the South Shore and Jackson Park golf courses proceeds, more intriguing details surface. For example, costs: in a recent article (http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/former-emanuel-aide-out-of-the-shadows-on-golf-project/), it was estimated that the underpass at 67th and South Shore Drive could cost at least $11m. Where is that money coming from?

More information on the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance is essential. JPW coordinators Nelms and Schmid will shortly meet with Brian Hogan, one of the members of the CPGA board of directors and its publicist, and will share what they learn.

On the positive side, Alderman Leslie Hairston has invited Jackson Park Watch to participate in the golf course advisory group she is setting up. Brenda Nelms will be representing JPW and keeping us informed.

***Also on the mildly positive side: In addition to the initial Q&A that it prepared in mid-January, the Park District has now posted on its website homepage a button for submitting “comments, concerns, or questions” about the golf course proposal (http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/ – scroll down and look on the left hand side). JPW has asked whether the comments will be answered privately or made public, and has not received any answer to date. Nonetheless, JPW encourages everyone to submit comments and questions as events warrant.

Speaking of comments:

We know that some people encountered difficulties utilizing the link to the Friends of the Parks survey form in a recent JPW Update. If you haven’t been able to fill out their survey, we encourage you to try again here (http://tinyurl.com/gmxdflg).

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators, Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

 

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Jackson Park Watch Update – January 14, 2017

Greetings all,

JPW Issues in the spotlight

Transparency!  Community input on major decisions!  Priority in Jackson Park for local uses and local users!   These issues, first defined by JPW with regard to Project 120’s plans, have now taken front and center stage as pushback against the Chicago Park District’s plan to for an elite golf course in Jackson Park and South Shore grows.  A partial survey of recent print media shows the JPW concerns are widespread:

Yesterday’s 01/13/17 Tribune editorial takes up the issue, with a headline asserting “Big plans on the South Side for a Tiger Woods Course can’t shut out locals.”  The editorial raises major concerns about backroom decision-making, the lack of community input, and potential adverse impacts on local park uses and park users.  Read the full editorial at:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-golf-jackson-park-tiger-woods-edit-1113-md-20170112-story.html

A Tribune article (01/12/17) highlighted the contradiction between Park District assertions that the plan was “not a done deal” and the Park Board’s decision the day before to move ahead with a contract to start on the project.  Read the article at http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/golf/ct-jackson-park-golf-course-begins-met-20170111-story.html.

A Sun-Times article (01/10/17) highlighted a call by Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry for the Park District board to call off a vote for the contract starting work.  Read the article at http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/park-board-urged-to-call-off-vote-on-golf-course-contract/

There have been multiple articles in the Hyde Park Herald and DNAInfo as well as in other sources.  An interview with JPW’s Margaret Schmid aired on Chicago Tonight on 01/11/17, and the controversy was included in last night’s Chicago Tonight’s Week in Review.

What’s next?

Park District CEO Mike Kelly will be at Alderman Leslie Hairston’s January 24 ward meeting to talk about the golf course.  JPW and others will be urging a huge turnout.  PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO BE THERE – NUMBERS SPEAK VOLUMES.  The meeting will be from 6 to 8 at the South Shore Fine Arts Academy, 1415 E. 70th St. There is a small parking lot off of Dorchester, to the west of the school, and there is free parking on the streets.  You will hear from us again before this meeting with more information, including, we hope, the exact time Mr. Kelly will be there.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators, Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

To unsubscribe from this g-list, simply send “unsubscribe” to jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com.

Jackson Park Watch Update – January 2, 2017

GREETINGS ALL, AND BEST WISHES FOR 2017!

Thanks to everyone who has been with us from the beginning – January 2016 – and to all who have joined us along the way. Our message is getting out there and is having an impact. We want to keep growing the JPW network, so please share this widely, and ask your friends and neighbors to sign on to receive Jackson Park Watch Updates (they can e-mail jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com with “sign me up”).

In this Update:

  • Park District officials admit no Board vote on Sky Landing sculpture, assert none needed
  • Golf course plan revealed as private deal with, once again, no Board vote
  • “No fishing in lagoons” said to be only temporary; now sign needs revision

Sky Landing FOIA leads to surprising assertions

JPW’s latest FOIA asking about the approval process for the Sky Landing sculpture on Wooded Island yielded a Construction and Donation Agreement seemingly signed after the sculpture was installed. (Those wishing a copy of the Construction and Donation Agreement can e-mail jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will send you a copy. It will be posted on the JPW website in the near future.)

When JPW’s Brenda Nelms raised questions about the apparent date discrepancy and other issues at the Dec. 14 CPD Board meeting (see 12-14-16-b-nelms-statement-to-park-district-board), she was interrupted by Park District CEO Michael Kelly and Board President Jesse Ruiz, who called upon the Park District’s general counsel Tim King, who was seated in the audience.  In response to the question from Ruiz as to whether there was anything the Board should have reviewed and voted on, King responded first that the installation was not something that CPD’s Park Enhancements Committee needed to review as it was part of the Mayor’s initiative for public art, an assertion counter to the history of the project as we know it. He further asserted that because no Park District money was involved, there was no need for the Park District board to vote on it either.  On the face of it, this seems to indicate that if someone has both an idea for a sculpture and the money to cover the costs and if Mike Kelly (or perhaps Mayor Emanuel) likes the idea, it’s a done deal.

King’s statements raise interesting issues: Are there no criteria? Is there no official vetting process for permanent art installations beyond Mike Kelly? What about a religious theme? Overtly sexual themes? Or, say, a gilded statute of a current political leader? Clearly, this is something we will pursue further.

PGA golf course process questioned

The announcement by Mayor Emanuel and Park District CEO Kelly of a $30 million plan to “upgrade” the existing and much loved Jackson Park golf course to PGA standards – again without community input or Park District Board approval – immediately raised the familiar questions of transparency and community engagement among others. (see our December 17 Jackson Park Watch Update.)

As it happens, not long after that announcement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel released 2,700 pages of official communications from his personal e-mail account in response to a lawsuit by the Better Government Association. Reviewing them, Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet found e-mail traffic between the Mayor and Mike Kelly, among others, discussing the golf course plan as far back as August. ( http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/sweet-rahm-emails-reveal-secret-golf-course-planning/) Jackson Park Watch was credited as a source in Sweet’s article and was also included in coverage of questions about the golf course proposal in a report on NBC 5 Chicago News. (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/emanuel-emails-chicago-south-side-golf-course-408341915.html)

Much scrutiny of the proposed golf course deal as well as more review of what else might be in the Mayor’s e-mail stash are sure to follow. Stay tuned!

That new “no fishing” rule

JPW has been questioning some of the restrictions posted on Wooded Island after it was reopened to the public, in particular the rule “no fishing in the lagoons,” which is both new and seen by many as banning a long-standing local use and group of users. We have now been told by Park District official Julia Bachrach that this is not intended as a new rule and that in any event it is only temporary. We have argued that it would be in the interests of everyone concerned – including the Park District – to amend the signs to make that clear. To date the Park District has not responded, but we will continue to push for a clarification.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators
Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

(To unsubscribe from this g-list, simply send “unsubscribe” to jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com.)

JPW Special Golf Course Update – December 17, 2016

Greetings all,

Surprise! You no doubt know by now that our Mayor and his hand-picked Park District CEO Mike Kelly have announced a surprise holiday gift to us all – the pending establishment of a public/private partnership to raise $30 million to convert the existing Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses into a single 18-hole professional championship-caliber golf course by 2020.  (see http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/golf/ct-tiger-woods-south-side-golf-project-spt-1218-20161216-story.html; see also http://hpherald.co/2016/12/16/tiger-woods-will-lead-design-for-golf-complex-in-jackson-park/ )

Questions abound:   

  • Transparency? Although rumors about this have been floating, where was the transparent public process?
  • Community input? If this were to happen, it would have a massive impact on the park and surrounding community, especially in South Shore.  What does the community want?
  • Process? While the announcement has the air of a “done deal,” can the Mayor and his appointed Park District CEO really do anything they want in Jackson Park, as appears to have been the case with the Yoko Ono Sky Landing sculpture?  Wouldn’t this need, at the minimum, approval by the Park District Board, albeit also hand-picked by the Mayor?
  • Priorities? Mike Kelly says that the goal is to use $6m of taxpayer money.  Why should this take priority over other pressing Jackson Park needs?  A new or at least renovated field house?  Repair of broken paths?  Accessible bathrooms?  What about adverse impacts on the existing golfers, who could well be priced out, and on other uses and users in the rest of the park?
  • Environmental impact? And how about an environmental impact analysis?  Golf course construction typically means killing all existing plant material and taking the area down to bare soil.  A heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers is required to keep golf courses in championship shape.  All of these factors need to be explored, and publicly discussed.

To sum up: While not yet a certainty, this appears to be yet another step in a money-driven process of divvying up historical Jackson Park into segments without regard to the integrity of the Park, to the current, diverse local uses and users, or to the long-term impact on the community.  Instead of moving ahead, action on this project should be halted until there has been a unified, comprehensive planning process addressing the future of the entire Park, including the Obama Presidential Library – a planning process that is transparent and includes robust and substantive community engagement.

Suggestion for a good holiday gift:  Friends of the Parks has been a consistent help to JPW, giving advice, opening doors, making contacts, providing invaluable information.  FOTP Executive Director Juanita Irizarry’s comments about this golf course proposal are yet another indication of FOTP’s incisive, on-target approach to Chicago’s parks. (see http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/obama-library-in-Jackson-park-spurs-big-golf-course-redesign) To help FOTP help JPW’s work, consider making a donation to FOTP or becoming a member as you plan your holiday giving.  See https://fotp.org/.

And speaking of holidays, best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators
Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

(To unsubscribe from this g-list, simply send “unsubscribe” to jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com.)

Jackson Park Watch Special Update – November 29, 2016

Greetings all,

Just this morning the Tribune featured a major article about Jackson Park (see link below) and we want to be sure you all are aware of it.  As it happens, Tribune reporter Kathy Bergen had reached out to us as a source for information about Jackson Park and the Obama Library, and the idea of a broader article about possible changes to the park came up in that conversation.  We had several opportunities to talk with her as she developed the article, and think she did a great job of capturing the issues.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-obama-library-jackson-park-changes-met-20161117-story.html

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators
Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – November 28, 2016

Greetings all,

A lot has been happening since our last Update. Here are the highlights.

New restrictions on Wooded Island?

New signs went up on Wooded Island just as it was finally reopened to the public. (See photo at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch ) The signs list a host of new rules including:

* no fishing in the lagoons;
* no dogs on Wooded Island;
* stay on the pathways;
* no climbing on the rocks;
* don’t touch the sculpture.

We are asking JPAC to discuss these new rules at its December meeting: Who made these up, when and why? What about community input? What happened to the promise, repeatedly voiced by Louise McCurry and others, that the GLFER project would make fishing better than ever? (After all, GLFER stands for Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration.) And what!, no dogs on Wooded Island????  Interested community members might want to be there at 7 p.m., Monday, 12/12, at the Jackson Park Field House, 64th and Stony Island. There is ample street parking close by.

In addition to asking JPAC to protest these restrictions to the Park District, JPW coordinators Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid will take the issue to the Park District Commissioners at their monthly board meeting on December 14.

Sky Landing installation prompts more FOIAs

Some people love Yoko Ono’s Sky Landing, some not so much. Regardless, the unanswered questions surrounding how a celebrity and a private entity could get permission to install a permanent sculpture in a public park without any public involvement – not even a vote by the Park District Board! – continue to raise a host of red flags. Will we wake up one day to find bulldozers at work on the pavilion that Project 120 so desperately wants?

In a continued drive to forestall such a terrible transformation of Jackson Park, JPW has submitted a new and expanded round of Freedom of Information Act requests with assistance from attorneys at a top firm specializing in public interest law. The new FOIA requests focus on three areas: (1) terms for the installation of Sky Landing; (2) development of Project 120’s plans for the Phoenix Pavilion and of a Revised Framework Plan for Jackson Park; (3) circumstances surrounding the Memorandum of Understanding of July 2014. We will keep everyone posted.

Not-for-profit organization?

As JPW work becomes more intense and we begin to incur some significant costs, JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret have considered forming a not-for-profit organization and soliciting contributions to allow JPW work to continue. Here, too, we will keep you posted. At this point we cannot accept any contributions due to the absence of an appropriate organizational structure.

Comprehensive planning for Jackson Park – a new initiative

JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret have been invited to participate in an initiative led by Dr. Byron Brazier of the Apostolic Church of God to develop a single, comprehensive new plan for Jackson Park, encompassing the Obama Library and addressing its impact across the entire park.  At the first meeting, Dr. Brazier outlined a complex multi-step process to promote small group discussion and then engagement with the park’s full community. We are intrigued and hope the initiative will prove productive. At a minimum, it is another forum to advance JPW interests in community input, transparency, and preservation of as much of the Park as possible for local uses and local users.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators
Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

(To unsubscribe from this g-list, simply send “unsubscribe” to jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com.)

Jackson Park Watch Update – October 24, 2016

Greetings all,

Yoko Ono’s sculpture “unveiled”

As JPW Update readers most certainly know, the Project 120/Yoko Ono “Sky Landing” sculpture was officially dedicated at a lavish invitation-only event on Wooded Island Monday Oct. 17; interested community members were actually turned away at the check-in point. JPW had been invited and Margaret attended (Brenda was away).  She reports that about 300 other people were there, the vast majority not local.  There was a long list of speakers, including Alderman Leslie Hairston, and of course Park District CEO Mike Kelly, the Mayor, Project 120 Bob Karr, and Yoko Ono herself, who gave brief comments.  No one from either the University or the Obama Foundation spoke or was acknowledged.  The program included an elaborate modern dance performance, live original music, and song.  It was quite a show.  But it is quite remarkable that this has occurred:  a private entity has been able to have a major permanent piece of art installed in a prominent location in a major historical Chicago public park without any notice to the public, without any public participation, and without leaving a trace in the public record.  Stealth privatization?

Wooded Island reopened

Wooded Island was reopened to the public the following Saturday Oct. 22, and there were quite a number of visitors both Saturday and Sunday.  The fencing remains up around the lagoon and the planting are very clearly both immature and incomplete. Apparently the Island itself will remain open even as the rest of the US Army Corps “GLFER” environmental restoration project continues.  At the moment, the Island south of Osaka Garden has been weed-whacked and tidied up, perhaps for the Yoko Ono event and subsequent opening to the public, and has lots of open space. Brenda and Margaret encourage everyone to go and check it all out, and to share any comments with the Park District’s “contact us” mailbox http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/contact or by writing Park District Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly at the Chicago Park District, 541 N. Fairbanks Ct., Chicago 60611.

Mike Kelly responds – at last, but only partially

For several months, JPW has spoken during the “People in the Parks” forum that is part of the monthly meetings of the Park District Board, raising questions about Sky Landing, focusing on the seemingly mysterious process by which the Sky Landing sculpture installation was authorized, who paid for it, who owned it, and the like.  JPW presentations (two minutes only, as per Park District protocol) have been greeted with total silence until this past Wednesday (10/18), not even a “thank you for your interest.” But this past Wednesday Mike Kelly actually responded, at least in part, saying that the Sky Landing sculpture was donated by Yoko Ono and Project 120 and that while the Park District owns it, it will not pay for maintenance.  So at last we have confirmation of the actual source of the sculpture, information that all of our prior questions and FOIA requests had not to date been able to uncover.

We continue to look for the secret “paper” (or now digital) trail of the decisions that documented the donation and authorized the installation of the statue. It is inconceivable that there were no agreements, no matter how shielded from public view, and we need to uncover them.  Most significantly, at this point the precedent that appears to have been established is that a private entity – Project 120 in this instance – with sufficient funds can be given control of a part of a Chicago park and can install a project of its choosing in its own private part of that park.  This smells much like a back door form of privatization, and we fear the consequences: will we wake up one day to find that construction of Project 120’s proposed pavilion has begun?

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch

http://jacksonparkwatch.org

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