That’s what 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno called the Logan Square activists who criticized him when I reported recently on his plans to speak at a $50-a-plate “Discussion of Gentrification.”
Like me, the Idiots found it ironic and, yes, possibly idiotic that it would cost $50 per person to attend a community discussion on gentrification.
The Idiots and I pointed out that the issue affects many people who may be struggling with rising rents and might not be able to afford to drop that kind of cash on dinner with a side of civic engagement.
But the Idiots were even more dumbfounded to see where the “Community Dining” forum ended up on Wednesday evening.
The event was moved from the restaurant where it was originally going to be held to a new site: a 5-bedroom, 7-bath private home that last sold for $1.55 million.
As some of the 50 or so smartly dressed guests arrived in a Land Rover, a couple dozen Idiots protested peacefully on the sidewalk in front of the mansion, a few blocks from Milwaukee and California.
“Insult to injury, man,” Idiot organizer Justine Bayod-Espoz said of the venue change to a 5,412-square-foot house that’s the very picture of North Side gentrification.
Another Idiot held up a sign that read, “Moreno, tu corazón es de piedra,” which means, “Moreno, you have a heart of stone.”
The rest of the Idiots, known officially as the Somos Logan Square community group, stood with their backs to the home’s wrought-iron front fence and held up signs spelling out “LUXURY=DISPLACEMENT.”
In the mansion’s well-equipped kitchen, the beef tenderloin being sliced and served near the Viking oven was a perfect medium-rare.
According to a property listing, the home is a “spectacular contemporary single-family home in West Bucktown on four levels.”
Wait a second — West Bucktown?! Is that how the Realtors decided to re-christen Logan Square?
Anyway, the West Bucktown mansion also features a “recreation level” with a “fully equipped media room,” a “four-plus car garage,” a “luxurious spa bath” and “two rooftop decks w/ jacuzzi and skyline views.”
Dressed in a dark suit and tie for the event, the alderman offered no apologies to the Idiots and accepted no blame for the posh location or the entry fee.
“It’s not my event,” Moreno told me. “I’m a guest. I got invited. It’s in my ward.”
The organizer was Paul Sippil, who lives outside the 1st Ward, in the Gold Coast. Sippil said he has organized such “Community Dining” events in various neighborhoods of Chicago for about two years. The goal, he said, was to “strengthen the social bonds” through “shared meals sourced mostly from local and sustainable farms.”
Sippil looked at me like I’m an Idiot when I asked if the house — which is worth more than three times the median list price in Logan Square — was a sensible location for a forum on gentrification. He said it provided a “great location” for his event.
After dinner and drinks, Moreno gave a short speech on how he views development in the ward: “One person’s economic development is another person’s gentrification.”
He said he’s been far better than other aldermen at ensuring newly constructed projects offer more affordable housing units than the city requires.
“Our ward is one of the most socioeconomically diverse wards in the city,” he said. “I represent everybody in the ward.”
Longtime homeowners who survived the era of high crime in the neighborhood are now able to sell and retire to Florida or Puerto Rico, Moreno said. “Shouldn’t they be able to do that?”
Things only got a bit testy when an Idiot infiltrator revealed her true identify by asking Moreno a pointed question.
The alderman asked the young woman how long she has lived in the neighborhood. She said she’s been there a couple years.
“Some would argue that people who moved into here two years ago are gentrifiers,” Moreno said. “You’re a gentrifier!”
At least he didn’t call her an Idiot.Tweets by @dmihalopoulos