Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ad-hoc neighborhood organizations

During 2001 and 2002, the Lincoln Park Improvement Task Force came and went, without much ceremony, over the development of the Columbus Hospital site by American INVSCO. Jim Bidwill of 2626 Lakeview had to build a community group from scratch for his concerns to be heard, and it served as a check and balance against the powerful Park West Neighborhood Association and the Diversey Harbor Lakeview Association. In a related move, another anti-downzoning fighter, developer Al Hanna, singlehandedly fought PWNA's move to downzone the area northwest of Clark and Fullerton.

(History: Columbus Hospital exits Lincoln Park after 97 years Daley pushes downzoning for hospital site, developer moves ahead Lincoln Park association PWNA under fire in downzoning lawsuit Lincoln Park downzoning comes under attack Invsco presentation strikes out Agreement on condos for Columbus Hospital site Lincoln Park Improvement Task Force looks ahead)

You can see the similarities in the Lincoln Avenue SSA debate, where the five community groups skirting the tax area paid little attention, allowing the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce to have its way with the property tax increase. The only choice was to rise up angry and form another "ad hoc" organization, the Alliance of Lincoln Avenue Residents and Merchants (ALARM). You can also see similarities in the recent Sheffield landmarking issue.

All that effort by LPITF - "all pulled together by the will of one man" - and now it's vanished. Jim Bidwill said, "Our goal is to become the largest organization representing businesses and residents in Lincoln Park." Inside wrote, "The Task Force represents residents and local merchants, and Bidwell emphasizes that the group is not a mouthpiece for larger players or a fleeting ad hoc voice." But in fact it was fleeting.

My aim in this entry is to point up the anguish our "nonideological" city officials create among neighbors when they let policy be driven by community groups alone. Angry, frustrated outsiders are forced to rise up and give legitimacy to their unheard concerns. In my opinion, one dissenting voice, unincorporated as it may be, should be enough to raise concern about any proposal. That is what the deliberative process is about: any rational objection must be debated. A wise alderman would anticipate the concerns, notify, bring in the stakeholders, moderate, and find compromise.


Blogger Peter Zelchenko said...

This is from the Web site of the anonymous Mark at It's too strongly worded for my tastes, but the sentiment demonstrates how dangerous it is to concentrate representative power without any checks and balances. I certainly don't think it would be any better just to cooperate with the DPD, but feudal neighborhood organizations that are not thorough are a big part of the problem:

"When the community discovered that Vi Daley was instructing Chicago's Landmarks Commission to rubber stamp the recomendations of the OTTA's historic committee, 30 new neighbors volunteered to participate. How often do 30 citizens step up out of nowhere to try and fix something? They were all rejected. Vi Daley's coalition of activists is not pro-democracy.

"These association activists are so drunk with power, they think they are the government. Neighborhood associations should be for organizing tee ball leagues, but some of them have written land use plans and architectural design standards. They care little for rule of law and do not accept that Chicago has a Department of Planning and Development or a Department of Zoning. I think they want their own police departments."

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Zelchenko you seem sincere.
If you are a serious candiate
please refrain from being dragged into
demonizing the people who will continue to
work for the 43rd Ward AFTER the election....
commmunity groups.
Some of us were urban pioneers here.
We planted the trees and installed the pavers
on our parkways and opened businesses before the city did anything.
The groups are full of quirky people and points
of view..but so are neighborhoods.
In this climate of apathy and cynicism, volunteer bashing is childish and self indulgent.
It discourages others from volunteering for fear of being ridiculed. The way to change community groups is to join them. Time for the next generation to step up.
This election is too important for name-calling
on a vicious blogsite.
I am disappointed you would associate yourself
with this.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to thank the last blogger for defending
community organizations that do much for
the very people who claim to be "outsiders."
These outsiders sound like people who just want things their way, right away without working with others.
Staying anonymous while trashing someone's
good name is not fair or productive. I sit on a
local group board and I can tell you one voice
at a meeting can make a difference. Community groups must stay apolitical
and work with anyone who is elected. If someone doesn't like a point of view
how about getting involved?
The courts did not agree with the tactic of filing a nusiance suit againsit the Park West Community Group and its volunteer president as Hannah did.
However, at least Hannah has the guts to publically standup for what he believes.
If Old Town or Park West need new blood then
join them. I wonder if Mark has ever taken his precious time to get involved in his community?
I wonder if he voted in the primary? Is he a
member of his community group or did he
storm in one day demanding control?
He sounds immature and isolated like a sniper.
Setting up a blogsite and taking personal shots at private citizens is cheap.
We have real problems that need answers.
Apathy and a lack of participation
have fostered real corrpution we all detest.
I hope you will not tarnish your good name by
associating yourself with this mentality.

8:38 AM  

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