...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon


The Mega Mall Monkey and Fire Station II


For most of my career, I was the Chicago sales representative for Broyhill Furniture Industries, a nationally known southern manufacturer.


Part of the job was to give seminars for our client’s sales force in order to convince them of the benefits of our products and to show them ways to relate this to their customers, in other words, sell our stuff.


My sales manager told me that I could/would have the required expertise from all levels of the company to back me up. I could call on him, on the color consultant, on a worker from the factory, on the fabric buyer and if the customer was big enough (read $) maybe even get a personal message from the CEO.


We called them “Dog and Pony Shows”.  If run smoothly, they were tremendously successful. I was reminded of all this as I sat in Alderman Joe Moore’s meeting at Pottawatomie Park last July1st concerning the plans for the Fire Station II and the rehab of the Mega Mall.


There was Salesman Joe - with his impressive array of backup people. Let’s see, as I remember, there was the Fire Commissioner who tried to convince us that he was perfectly satisfied with this second choice (if so, why wasn’t it his first choice)?   Then citing the heat, Taste of Chicago and a long ride to his home on the far Southside, he left.


There was the representative from the City of Chicago Department of Transportation who presumably lived closer to Pottawatomie Park because he stayed He told us with great authority that there was no need for signalization on Clark Street in front of the station or at the intersection of Clark Jarvis and Rogers for exiting fire trucks: because of the circular driveway, trucks could easily negotiate city traffic. Have they ever been on Clark Street on any given Saturday? Perhaps there will be a local ordinance prohibiting fires on Saturday.


The architect waxed eloquently on the aesthetics of this squat T-shaped second choice.  We were also reminded that Mayor Daley (the CEO) had seen and endorsed it. There would be landscaping—lots of landscaping.  It seems as if I heard that same story at the construction of the 24th Police Station! And, oh yes, as if it really needed to be said — there would be separate facilities for men and women.  Praise be!!


Then came the never-ending, indeterminate round of citizens’ questions.  Many of the same ones — many times.  I often wondered when I held seminars if anyone listened to the questions much less the answers. But as my sales manager said,” in order for the day to be successful you must include the audience. It does not matter if they repeat the questions. They think that then they are part of the process.  Let it continue as long as possible and feasible”


That is why, when I noticed that many were leaving, I suggested that perhaps it might be a good idea to move on to the Mega Mall portion and then return to Fire Station II afterwards. I was told in no uncertain terms that if anyone was interested in the Mega Mall that they would have to wait. It must be noted that the selection of a different site for Fire Station II was to preserve the Mega Mall and save the businesses of its many merchants .The plans for the Mega Mall, it would seem, were as important to the project as the selection of the new fire station site.


Finally when the audience was less than half the original number Salesman Joe turned to the Mega Mall question.


This folks, is a maneuver I learned long ago when I was often a moderator for community meetings for the original Rogers Park Community Council (RPCC).  Faced with intelligent, expert and well-prepared opposition we would wait until late in the meeting when attendance had thinned and attention span had diminished and the audience was mostly ours before getting into anything controversial (or which might possibly require a vote-legal or straw).


The architect had two small presentation boards which were passed around the audience as he spoke - very nice attention diversion tactic.  He spoke of the new facade, landscaping, parking (entrance and exit at only two points) and striping to be done in the parking lot. The money will come in part from the City of Chicago Facade Rebate Program and in part from the lessee (Mr. Park).  One can only assume that Mr. Parks’ lessees will provide Parks’ contribution in the form of higher rents. According to the architect the absentee owner (Gary Solomon) could not care less about what happens to the property.  He is reported to have said that if the city wants it they can buy it. The timetable is - permits in early September with completion before Christmas.   I think they mean THIS YEAR.  There is to be no interior work in any form. As Alderman/Salesman Joe said and I quote, ”It is like putting lipstick on a pig”— not exactly a hearty endorsement.


Of course there will be lots of wrought iron. This is, after all, Chicago.


Many readers may remember th old organ grinder and his monkey who used to travel the streets of Chicago.  While the man worked the crank of his piano player box instrument, the monkey would work the crowd and beg for coins. To make his monkey more appealing, the owner would dress him in fine silk costumes of many intense colors.  But folks, we knew then and we know now – you can dress a monkey in silk…but it is still a monkey!!


One final thought, who do you suppose has contributed more to the 49th Ward Democratic Party campaign fund: the two owners of the to-be-condemned property or the many merchants in the Mega Mall?


Joe, spare me any indignant responses.  Save them for the coming campaign.   


...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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