August 13, 2008

The Gale Park Letter

Surely everyone didn’t think it was over did they? Especially after Moore's long, belated email that appeared to be an announcement. Let’s backtrack to one week before the Gale Park public facility was opened to everyone on August 1, 2008.

Eva received a call from Matt Marino on July 25th stating the building would be opened by the Park District. She asked for a letter from said government entity stating as much. Marino called back and told her a letter would be drafted and sent by Tim King of the Park District. Following subsequent follow-up calls, still no letter has been received. SOCC – Save Our Community Center - sent a similar letter of request to Tim Mitchell and Gery Chico.

So, today, Eva and I attended the monthly Park District Board meeting at 4PM. Eva’s allocated two minute ‘talk time’ centered around several issues. First, she thanked the commissioners for opening the facility as a public building. They smiled and the audience applauded their approval for Gale Park. Then she mentioned not receiving the letter stating it would be a public facility…that’s when frowns etched across some faces. Eva also mentioned there was concern that the facility was not open on Sundays and the furrows deepened. It’s also when the verbal antics began.

The typical haughty response was ‘well, it’s opened as a park district facility isn’t it’? Then came the diatribe from one commissioner who shouldn’t be getting himself involved in the issue if it concerns a Boys and Girls Club. That would be Mr. Bob Pickens who last month praised the work of the BGC. It’s always amusing when asking anyone ‘in power’ for a truthful response to a question because he/she habitually gets huffy and starts up on integrity! Mr. Pickens couldn’t resist the insulting method of intimidation by saying that we got what we wanted, a park district building, and we were heard last month. Well, were we really?

In the world I live in 8 hours a day, the deal isn’t done until a contract is signed stating what is encompassed in the deal so there are no open ends or loopholes for anyone to wriggle through later on.

No one asked about integrity, the question was: What can we do to work with the park district to have the facility open on Sunday? Simply put, the equally arrogant response was how much money could the taxpayers raise? Then it veered into the BGC again and how the club was willing to raise X amount of money and how Tim Mitchell and Gery Chico are willing to look over any proposals that save them money and enhance their parks! The tirade continued to how Senator Steans offered funding and Mitchell rattled off the list of funders.

Gentlemen, they may be your parks but the people are footing the bills through their taxes, so the people should have a stake in the decision making process. As it is, the dialogue appears to be continuing between the aldermanic elements and the park district to possibly allow the BGC to conduct ‘supplemental activities’ on Sundays at Gale. Therefore, no letter!

Whether or not they were taken aback, Eva announced that Mr. Mitchell was invited to attend a meeting called by someone a tad higher up the ladder than the blog lurker who is concerned about the absence of Sunday programming by the park district.

After the meeting, I had to ask the boards’ yuppie puppie why he was making faces at me during certain portions of the meeting. Naturally he denied his sophomoric attempts at intimidation - lord knows I’ve had enough experience in the last 6 years living in this ward! At any rate, the young man can sit in denial, but there happened to be a live audience watching today. He probably wasn’t expecting to be called out on his lack of professionalism. I’m sorry son, but if you want to sit in a seat of power then exert it wisely like an adult.

Regarding Mr. Pickens, well, last month after publicly stating that his wife is employed by the BGC organization he continued his praises of the club after todays meeting. I asked why he never praised the employees of the park district. He didn’t respond. He is proud of his wife’s title of Vice President and large salary and he has that right. However, to me, it is a very large conflict of interest for him to be involved in any kind of decision making regarding a park district offering up a whole public building or a day of programming to the BGC. It’s not a question of integrity necessarily, it’s a question of his association to the organization and his partiality to it. To Pickens credit, he did state after the meeting that that he did not approve of the process around the proposed Gale/BGC ‘agreement’.

As for Mitchell and Chico, it’s apparent and very obvious they’ll do everything in their power to continue stashing money away for the Olympics that have yet to be placed in Chicago. It’s also obvious that they’re still discussing BGC options with Moore and crew. It wasn’t confirmed but it was not denied either. No mention was made of local NFP’s in the area that have been providing youth programming for years and years. Not one word.

The highlight of the meeting was Alderman Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward who addressed the issue of allowing deep water swimming off Promontory Point at 55th Street in Jackson Park. It seems swimming for more than 50 years was halted this year by the police department ticketing swimmers. She asked why northside beaches allow deep water swimming, why, as a triathlete and a swimmer, she has to go outside her southside neighborhood/ward just to swim. Definition: Deep water means one can not touch bottom and still see land. The commissioners tried the same tactic with her as they’ve done with other ‘park speakers’. It did NOT work with Hairston. For every ball they tossed in her court, she tossed about three returns to them. At one point, when Mr. Chico stated he needed more information he’d only been there for 8 months, Hairston suggested he do his homework and be quiet. When she was told to write them a proposal, she told them to give her old proposals that worked for the northside so she’d have a map and to save a lot of time.

WGN News was there taping the event.

Another point of interest: The Board and several of their hand chosen PAC members have finally come to an agreement on PAC guidelines. The board approved them in this mornings committee meetings – however, allegedly, further editing still has to be completed before the guidelines are available to everyone. Now isn’t that a discrepancy? If this is true it translates to: We won’t keep our word and send a signed letter but we will approve unfinished verbiage on citywide guidelines. Take that PACs, we’ve just snookered you into approving a document that we retain the right to edit after receiving your approval!


Save Street End Beaches said...

Thanks for the update, Toni, and to you and Eva for going to the meeting. I wonder what the union has to say about the continued discussion of privatization.

Toni said...

BTW - Mr. Pickens is the gentleman who adamantly insisted that Gale Park be named after his late Olympic friend Wyllie White. That's the issue that got him talking after last months meeting.