January 24, 1999
...And That's My Opinionã
By Sandy Goldman
Beyond the Blue Horizon...
It was one of those bright sunny afternoons...crisp and clear. The skies were a beautiful blue with nary a cloud in sight. The TWA flight was circling above Chicago, waiting for instructions from the O'Hare Control Tower. I looked below and there it was...there was no doubt...Rogers Park!
I could see my house and the Loyola Park Fieldhouse. I could see the large capital letters L-E-O-N-E B-E-A-C-H on the roof of the building north of the ball diamond.
On the north there was the site of the newly razed Shell Station, once a Standard Oil Station with the city's tallest electric sign: the size of a basketball court and probably 4 stories high...gone!!
The CTA Maintenance Yard came into view and the unmistakable El structure and then Gale School. To the south of the school a large structureless expanse, was covered with mounds of dirty gray snow, transported from who knows where.
"Damn", I muttered to myself as I looked down at the former site of Kentucky Fried Chicken. "I wanted to be there at its destruction." I was, you see, as President of the original Rogers Park Community Council, witness to its construction.
KFC was to be the keystone of the revival of Howard Street, said its planners. It was a proposal of the Howard Paulina Development Corporation (the political and economic arm of former Ald. David Orr (49th) and predecessor of DevCorp North, the political and economic arm of the present Alderman, Joe Moore...but I digress.) The president of HPDC circulated among the community groups (there were many - maybe too many - then as now...but I digress again.)
She was upbeat and persuasive. Community meetings were held throughout the area. A large assemblage at Wisdom Bridge Theater (since departed) gave a rousing vote of confidence to both the project, the presentation and to the attorney who presented the case for KFC, a former city-planning official. Company representatives showed original plans and then revised, altered and changed them according to the wishes of the community, the Alderman, the State Rep., the Ward Committeeman and everybody else who had a thought. They promised anything and everything: landscaping, street lighting and security around the clock. "Give us our permits and we shall open the doors to Oz and the yellow brick road." Not an exact quote, but we all heard the message and we believed. We were energized and we were enamored, certain of its potential and so certain of its success that eventually our only concern was that it would be too successful. As one wag wrote, there was the fear that Howard Street might duplicate the "glitter gulch" which was taking place on Dempster Street, west of McCormick Blvd. There was fear that one franchise after another would seek sites and locate on Howard Street, to the detriment of local merchants who would be replaced by removal or rising rents. Of course, it never came to be. Neither the fears nor the hopes were realized.
As I stared out the window at the blue horizon and the familiar territory below, my thoughts were interrupted just as were our hopes those many years ago. " The captain has turned on the seat belt sign for our approach into O'Hare. Please be sure your seat backs (and your thoughts) are in the upright position. " We touched down, the doors opened and we walked into the busy terminal...January 1999.
What a difference time makes...or does it?
Meanwhile, back on the ground, one would hardly notice that there is an election pending in the 49th Ward. "Teflon " Joe Moore approaches the polls a presumed shoo-in as the "development candidate". No matter that it all occurred in spite of him: Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, Combined Property, Crossroads Development, Hispanic Housing, Walsh Construction, Lord Enterprises, Mayor Daley, et al...and the market place: these are the forces that have instigated and promised successful development in Rogers Park.
Joe Moore has been in the right place at the right time throughout his political career, from Network 49 to the aldermanic offices. We never even saw David Orr's mouth move!
Perennial candidate Grady Humphrey emerges again for whatever his gain. Karen Hoover, perhaps the most knowledgeable candidate on community issues and positions, may suffer from the vestiges of a previous campaign. The other candidates, Glenn Brooks and Gregory Balos are well intentioned, I'm sure, but totally unknown.
Winning elections takes more than knowledge and good intentions. It takes money, (some say in the 6 figures), and it takes manpower, (some say more than 300 workers) who possess an overwhelming zealousness and conviction. They must be willing to, in effect, jump through hoops of fire or walk on hot coals to help their candidate.
We saw it in the last congressional race. We saw old timers, new timers, local political junkies and political science majors from colleges all over the Midwest come to talk the talk and walk the walk: to beat the bushes, ring the doorbells, shake the hands and be at the El Stations at 7:30 in the morning.
Justified or not, zealots are hard to beat!
Good luck to you all: the ins and the outs.
A final note...I've just heard that Wally Philips, former WGN stalwart, is starting a weekly two hour radio show on WAIT (850). The time and day are to be announced.
NOW, all's right with the world!!!
...And that's my opinion.
And I'm Sandy Goldman
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