Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Latin School, Vi Daley should be better citizens

As an alumnus of Latin School, I am ashamed at the craven and undemocratic way it is acting regarding its taking of public land in Lincoln Park for a soccer field.

When I was on the school's soccer team, we had no more right to Lincoln Park than anyone else. We were grateful that it was our backyard sports arena. And still, the ruts made in the muddy soccer field were primarily our own. We had an effective monopoly on it and were happy to share it.

I find it increasingly difficult to believe that Ald. Vi Daley didn't know about plans like this one. The odds of her inadvertently losing control over yet another public matter, through what she repeatedly has attempted to characterize as a confusing web of bureaucracy, defies probability.

When the already massive Parrillo project on Burling was "accidentally" granted a zoning boost by the city's zoning administrator in Spring 2006 under the noses of the Lincoln Central Association, next-door neighbors, and even Vi Daley, she tried to act shocked, though zoning experts and staff say such a change would be categorically impossible without the alderman's approval.

When De Paul's historic Hayes-Healy building was "accidentally" demolished to make way for the Fullerton El platform in March 2006, because the landmarks division "mistakenly" approved the permit, Vi Daley tried to act shocked. And when inappropriate station designs were implemented without the promised public input, Vi Daley blamed it on an unfortunate "miscommunication" between three agencies.

And now, my alma mater -- land-rich but landlocked -- decides it wants to monopolize precious public land. Once disappointed by a public outcry, just before a difficult election Latin quietly signs a contract with the park, and just after the election Vi Daley is "blindsided" by the plans. We learned statistics at that school, too. All of this is too improbable to believe.

You don't see Ald. Reilly in the 42nd Ward having such problems. He has the Chicago Children's Museum situation well under control. They will not occupy Grant Park. You don't see Ald. Fioretti in the 2nd Ward with such problems. He has put the brakes on two high-rise developments by influential wheeler-dealers. Scott Waguespack in the 32nd Ward has just put the brakes on a major development in Bucktown. Nothing happens in Chicago by accident.

No, these surprises only happen in the 43rd Ward. And they happen with surprising regularity.

The higher commitment of the world's Latin schools has been toward conveying to their students a timeless sense of noble citizenship. We read from books with high-road titles and concepts borrowed from the great Cicerone periodism, "civis Romanus sum" -- I am a Roman citizen -- which emphasize the public duties of that title. Our sports teams are even called the Romans. On the other hand, Rome did have her share of cringing politicians. Vi Daley is just such a pleasant person, it's hard to believe she might deceive the community, isn't it?

With all due respect and best wishes, Latin School should not have any more privilege to one blade of grass on our public land than any other individual or group in the city. There should be no more giving away of our scarce resources. The Latin community should be good citizens and acknowledge this.