Home of the 43rd Ward Democrats - Michele Smith Committeeman

featuring political news and community information for 43rd ward residents and businesses -
2527 N. Lincoln Avenue - 773-661-2133

Monday, December 28, 2009

What Do the Candidates for County Board President Say About Abortion?

O’Brien: “We all have our own personal beliefs. As Andy said, I’m a practicing Catholic. However, I do have a public statute to uphold and as I have told the people around this county, that I can decipher between church and state. I will not interrupt any services that are currently being provided at the county with relationship to a woman making a choice. I feel that that decision is between a woman or a patient and their doctor. With the Stupak amendment, I will continue to make sure that there is funding available for those particular services to women who so chose to do that and make that decision between them and their doctor. . . . My personal beliefs are not brought into my public life.”

Brown: “I am pro-choice and so I would not do anything to affect what is occurring at Cook County Hospital at this present time. I was a little disappointed that at the last minute the House had to do the compromise in order to get the conservative democrats to vote for the health care bill. And I would hope that possibly that when the bill goes over to the Senate that they would be able to rewrite that portion where the individuals that get - use the public option actually can continue to get abortions as well. So I’m a prochoice person and of course I would be - ensure that we continue to provide that service at Cook County Hospital.”

Preckwinkle: “I’m a strongly pro-choice Democrat. I have been my entire life and it’s important to understand that the abortion services that are offered at County Hospital now are modest in relation to what the possibilities are, I mean frankly. And I think this is something where we need to look to expand these services and regularize them rather than simply maintaining the status quo. Abortions at Cook County Hospital I think are $50. They are the most reasonable abortions in the area. And we ought to be providing that resource to women who make that choice as reasonably as possible. And I think that it’s important to remember that we need to be committed to this whatever the Supreme Court decides about choice. And we’re in a position where it’s uncertain the direction of which the Supreme Court is going. But we have to make that commitment locally that we’re going to provide these services for women who desperately need them.”

Questions Asked of each Candidate for County Board President

At our October candidate forum, moderater Andy Shaw asked each candidate a specific question about their past record. Here they are:

Shaw asked Brown, “You’ve been called to task for having people on your staff circulate petitions, show up at campaign rallies donate to you with presents or cash. How do you square this with a claim that you are for “professionalism over politics?”

Brown: “I will stack my record of ethics and reform up against anybody.” “I met with all 2300 employees … and I made it very clear that they do not have to donate to me or anyone else.” With regard to the allegation that petitions were passed on county time, she said, “No one to my knowledge . . . People are dropping lies out there and I’m dealing with those lies. “

Shaw asked O’Brien: “You run the water reclamation district and you’ve had a successful private sector business. . . . The MWRD has a list of 500 significant industrial polluters and on that list are some that are clients of one of your companies. How can you work at a company that helps companies that help perpetrate dirty water?”

O’Brien said he was a partner in K-Plus and a minority shareholder in other entities. “No impropriety [has been found] in relationship with any dealings with the Water Reclamation District.”

Shaw asked Preckwinkle: “The perception is that you started as a fierce critic of the Olympics but the sense was that as this race harkened that you backed off your criticism of the Olympic bid considerably.”

Preckwinkle replied, “I’m the one person who is most likely to be on the other side of the mayor. . . . It became quite clear to me early on that this was one of the three items that the mayor would consider part of his political legacy. The first being educational reform, the second being CHA transformation, the third being the Olympics. So given that fact I decided that I would try to work hard to get the best deal I could for the constituents that I represented. I make no apologies for that.”

Where do the Candidates for County Board President Stand on the Independent Board for the County Hospital System?

O’Brien: “I would like to see it go another year and a half before we do an evaluation. Some people want to keep them as a permanent board. I want to keep them, but on a contractual basis, maybe every three years, so the board and the taxpayers can evaluate what their doing and how they’re doing it.”

Preckwinkle: “We need permanent, permanent independent governance of our health care system to separate it from the patronage and political influence which has crippled it in the past. We have that independent governance now. We need to make it permanent.”

Brown: “I do believe that Cook County Hospital system is such a large organization . . .and I believe that there needs to be an independent oversight of the hospital. We would, I would look at the, with the commissioners of course, the current board and see if that is the type of format that’s necessary. But I do feel that having that independent, separate oversight, because we can’t - Generally, there was a committee, I believe, that was, or one or two commissioners that had that responsibility. But that, that is just not enough. I believe there needs to be that independent oversight. So I would be looking to continue it in some way form or fashion some kind of independent oversight of the Cook County health and Hospital system.”

Michele’s comment: The Independent Board governing the County Hospital is critical to increasing the quality and decreasing the cost of the hospital system. The possibility of returning the system to political oversight should be completely unacceptable.

Where do the Candidates for County Board President Stand on The County Sales Tax

Preckwinkle: “I will eliminate the tax incrementally over my term.” Preckwinkle wants to do it incrementally because “when your income goes down you have to cut expenses, but you want to do that responsibly.” On getting more government funding for the county: “That you take federal money or when you take money from state programs you have to be accountable. You have say what you used the money for and who you hired and the county has had the policy, frankly, unspoken, of not wanting to be accountable to outside entities for they way they spent their money so they didn’t apply for it. Now this is ridiculous because it could take the burden off of our local taxpayer.”

“Health care advocates … say that the county doesn’t apply for lots of money that’s available from the federal government to provide health services and I think it’s because of this historical reason.”

O’Brien: “My intention is to repeal it the first day I get in office. Because what happens is if you extend it over a long period of time you start becoming dependent on the use of that particular revenue. I think what needs to be done is it needs to be repealed and there needs to be an audit of all the operations throughout the county . . . purchasing, labor and other personnel matters. … We have to take a look at everything up and down
across the board.

Brown: “We need to strategically lower the sales tax while finding additional revenue. . . .What I would do is . . . similar to what I did as Clerk of the Court. I created a revenue increase initiative task force upon taking office. And that task force looked at every non-tax revenue that was available . . . .” “We have a lot of assets that could be advertised on.

Michele’s comment: The sales tax has just been cut ½ of a percent, so we are halfway to a total repeal. But I favor studying the operations of the County to see how best to reduce costs

Monday, December 21, 2009

What Does the Community Want at Lincoln Park Hospital?

My newsletter last week describing the proposed redevelopment of Lincoln Park Hospital drew an awful lot of comments. Here are some of the comments:

People who live near the hospital said:

“I support your position regarding Lincoln Park Hospital as a resident in this district and as an individual who was a member of the medical staff of the hospital for 54 years.”
“I am in complete agreement with you.”
“I am concerned by the building of a 12 story condo building in the heart of Lincoln Park.”
“I am opposed to any taller structure in our area.”
“I am interested in keeping the neighborhood with the neighborhood feel.”
“I would not like to see a high rise condominium complex and retail center built on the site of the former Lincoln Park Hospital.”
“I am adamantly opposed to any retail on Webster.”
“Webster east of Lincoln is a charming Lincoln Park residential neighborhood and it should remain that way.”
“I am against a high rise development or the development of a shopping center of any sort.”
“I moved to Cleveland Ave. 25 years ago -- since then, I have not been able to add one brick to the front of my house. And now the powers that be may allow a high rise residential building to be constructed only one block away?”
“It is insane to be building more retail and high rise buildings in this environment. Let me know what I can do to fight this.”
“I definitely oppose the retail plan.”
“It sounds terrible.”
“There is no need for large retail in that neighborhood.”
“I agree that the retail scheme being proposed seems very inappropriate, let alone that it ignores zoning.”
“I am concerned about this potential zoning disaster.”
“I am opposed to the plans for Lincoln Park Hospital.”
“I would like to voice my strong opposition to adding retail shops to the property at Lincoln and Webster. The LAST thing we need in this area is additional retail shops.”
“I am a concerned neighbor.”
“I think this is a terrific letter.”
“I am absolutely opposed to the current plan set forth to built retail and large scale condominiums. Aside for aesthetics, my major concern is about added traffic and congestion in an already congested area.”
“I am one of the original settlers on Geneva Terrace, since 1963. I have lived through many of these fights and I know how powerful we can and have been when we work together.”
“We STRONGLY support your position on the redevelopment of Lincoln Park Hospital. The last thing we need is more retail on Lincoln.”
“We are very interested in joining the opposition.”

Other Lincoln Parkers said:

“My husband and I wish to convey our concern for the retail plans that would drastically change the nature and character of the neighborhood.”
“I, as a resident in Lincoln Park for over thirty years, am very opposed to any high rise condo building and retail shops where Lincoln Park Hospital is now.”
“This is really the most wrong time ever to build new retail spaces - especially in this neighborhood.”
“I for one am opposed to more retail and hi-rise condos in the area – traffic is already a nightmare and it would change the feel of the neighborhood in a negative way.”
“I agree with your recent email!!!!!”
“I agree with you totally about the site and the proposed usage and I have met individually with one of the potential developers and expressed my concerns. Please keep me informed as I am very much opposed to the current plan.”
“I have been a resident of Lincoln Park since 1974. I own several properties in the area and think enough development is enough.”
“My Husband, and myself have fought long and very hard to keep the nature of our neighborhood
as intact as possible.”
“Let me know how I can help defeat this current retail/condo development plan for the Lincoln Park hospital site.”
“Please keep me informed about what we can do to preserve the residential low rise character of the neighborhood.”
“No malls in Lincoln Park Hospital area.”
“I am very concerned about the redevelopment.”
“We agree with the tenor and substance of your email on the subject of redevelopment at Lincoln Park Hospital.”
“Excellent e-mail re: Lincoln Park Hospital’s problematic growing plans. We’re behind you & in agreement that the plan should be redrawn to fit the landmark area of low- rise homes and townhouses.”
“We don’t need another high rise and especially more (soon-to-be shuttered) retail spaces. The impact of Children’s Memorial will be huge on our neighborhood as well. I’m OK with new building that is in keeping with the neighborhood.”

I received only three comments that were somewhat favorable:

The Webster retail will be “2 units no larger then 15,000 each. The remaining of the retail will be on the north side of the street on Webster and Geneva Terrace.”
“I do like the idea of adaptive reuse e.g. affordable apartments and/or senior apartments rather than a tear-down of that asbestos laden fortress. (Augustana Hospital went down with NO safeguards, no plastic).”
“Lincoln Park needs a mega business/retail infusion. So before we shun significant retail development in an existing commercial corridor that has built in parking, we should carefully consider the significant downside implications of our hair trigger preservationists.”
If you haven’t commented before, please comment here!

What's Going On At Lincoln Park Hospital?

Our neighborhood is about to undergo its greatest change in 50 years. Lincoln Park Hospital, a 3 acre site, is already vacant and has been purchased by a developer, and Children's Memorial, two blocks away, is closing in 2012. What is built on these sites will have a tremendous impact on our community - and we need to get it right. The current plan being put forth has already met with substantial community opposition. Here's the background and what you can do about the proposal.

There has been a small hospital on the corner of Geneva and Webster for a century. Even then, the neighborhood was residential, with small shops and bars along Lincoln and Larrabee. In the 60s, the city designated the area around the hospital a "conservation area" and later designated it an official city historic landmark district. In the 70s, the commercial area on Larrabee was demolished and developed into the Walpole Point townhouses, as part of an overall plan to make the area residential.

The current hospital tower was built in 1972, over the opposition of then-Alderman Bill Singer and after a lawsuit by the Mid-North Association tried to stop it because the proposed hospital violated the residential plans for the neighborhood. The neighbors especially opposed the parking garage because Webster Street had always been low-rise residential - three flats and single family. More suits followed each time the hospital wanted to expand. The neighbors eventually were able to limit the height of the hospital tower and the parking garage, and received other concessions.

Today, the landmark Mid-North historic district and townhouses surround the hospital. But a developer wants to build two large (total 50,000 sq. ft.) retail stores on Webster, put retail on Geneva Terrace, enlarge the parking garage for those stores, and convert the hospital into a twelve-story condominium building with 330 units. After all, the developer argues, the tower and garage are already there. Why not reuse them - even if that ignores the underlying low-rise residential zoning of the land, the historic agreements with the community, and the impact on a quiet residential neighborhood?

Our community has fought long and hard to save its historic residential character and not let it be overrun with high rises, retail malls and traffic. We have invested in our historic homes because we value the look and feel of this community. If a high rise is allowed at Lincoln Park Hospital, what will be the impact a block away, at Children's? And we don't need even more retail in our neighborhood, especially large stores. There are 46 empty storefronts within several blocks of the Lincoln Park Hospital.

It boils down to this - it may be hard for neighbors to fight building a hospital, but DARN if we have to let someone take advantage of concessions given to a hospital to build a high rise and a strip mall in the middle of an historic district.

If you don't think the community can make a difference, you are wrong. Augustana Hospital stood on the property between Sedgwick, Lincoln and Dickens. When it closed, a builder proposed two high-rise apartment buildings. The neighbors fought back and achieved the very successful Pointe townhouse complex. And another group of neighbors stopped the development of a huge indoor auto mall on Wells Street just two years ago.

There are neighbors already organizing to put the community's voice front and center in this dispute, and I support them. If you are concerned about this potential zoning disaster, please contact me at michele43rd@gmail.com and email sanedevelopment@aol.com if you want to be kept informed about what your neighbors and neighborhood associations are doing.

Let's support sane development in our community.