Monday Letters: S. Side residents left out of park decisions

SHARE Monday Letters: S. Side residents left out of park decisions

Skylanding, a permanent art display created by Yoko Ono, in Jackson Park. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Your Oct. 17 piece on Yoko Ono’s sculpture in Jackson Park mentioned a $29 million investment in the park, including a new music pavilion. This pavilion is the subject of hot debate in the community.

At a May 31 meeting convened by Ald. Leslie Hairston, with Chicago Parks Supt. Mike Kelly and Wilmette resident Bob Karr, who heads Project 120, in attendance, four people spoke in favor of the pavilion while 38 spoke against it. The majority want the park kept as one of the few places on the South Side where families can picnic and local residents can enjoy nature.

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For over a year, community residents have tried to find out — through FOIA requests and through at monthly meetings with the Park District Commissioners — who is making decisions about what happens in Jackson Park, how any new art or building is being funded, and how those funds are raised. We have been stonewalled at every turn.

I would love to know how the Sun-Times came by this $29 million figure. Who gave you this number? Is this money in place? If so, who raised it? If the pavilion is a done deal, who decided that and under what authority?

By the way, community residents were barred from the sculpture opening. I guess you have to live in Wilmette to have access to Chicago’s South Side parks.

Sara N. Paretsky, Hyde Park

Huge cost

On Oct. 5, certain commissioners introduced a Minimum Wage Increase Ordinance for all Cook County businesses with a vote scheduled for Oct. 25. This quick action leaves local businesses with only a few days to analyze the financial impact and assess their ability to cover this immense and unexpected new cost.

Businesses were not informed of this huge cost increase nor did they have an opportunity to prepare or budget for it. With their yearly budgets already set, they will now be forced to increase their staff salaries by 27 percent literally overnight and 58 percent over the next 20 months. This massive wage increase will undoubtedly create a substantial financial disadvantage for Cook County businesses and will hurt the extensive efforts by suburban municipalities to attract new businesses, create new economic development opportunities and grow jobs.

Recent actions by the Cook County Board to pile on a massive minimum wage hike, an expensive paid sick leave regulation and a costly beverage tax all at once will be devastating to our local economy and will no doubt shutter the doors of many businesses along with the loss of numerous jobs for our hardworking residents. All of this excessive government regulation thrown onto small businesses is a formula for economic disaster.

The Illinois State Supreme Court has concluded that local labor conditions in our state should rest with the Illinois General Assembly who are charged with legislating “carefully crafted and balanced economic policies”; not local home rule units of government. And the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has opined that “Cook County lacks the home rule authority to enact such an ordinance.” That’s why I strongly urge any of my board colleagues who want to legislate fiscal policies over private employers to seek office in the Illinois General Assembly which is the appropriate venue to do so. Not the Cook County Board.

Sean M. Morrison

Cook County commissioner, 17th District

More to be done

The right to vote in America has taken a slow and tortuous course. It wasn’t until 1870 that black men were given the right to vote with passage of the 15th Amendment. Even then, in practice many were still not able to vote because of literacy tests and other obstacles, like the poll tax, designed to discourage and disenfranchise minorities. The poll tax was a prerequisite to registering to vote in a number of states, and minority voters often did not have the money to pay the tax.

In 1920 women were given the right to vote by the 19th Amendment. But, the obstacles still abounded to discourage minority men and women from voting.

Finally, in 1964 the 24th Amendment outlawed the poll tax.

Then the Voting Rights Act of 1965 did a number of things to break down some of the remaining barriers to voting. It (1) outlawed literacy tests, (2) authorized the federal government to aid in minority registration and to monitor voting, particularly by minorities, and (3) outlawed political systems that operated to deny minorities the chance to participate fully in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice.

The spirit of the last of these — “political systems that deny citizens the chance to fully participate and elect candidates of their choice” — are in the news today. Federal courts have recently voided North Carolina and Texas voter ID laws that disproportionately discriminate against minorities.

Then there’s Illinois. Illinois has carefully gerrymandered its districts so that regardless of how people vote, the party in power remains in power. The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that the question of map drawing cannot appear on the November ballot. Thus, gerrymandering will remain in the hands of state power brokers like House Speaker Michael Madigan.

When Donald Trump talks about vote fraud, we’ve come a long way to ensure against it. But, clearly, there’s still more that needs to be done.

Robert L. Foster, Schaumburg

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