[Re: "You Can't Fool Mrs. Sykes," September 15]
To the editor and Ben Joravsky,
Some of Mayor Daley's chickens are coming home to roost. Specifically his lack of people skills, more specifically that he doesn't understand democracy. Harold Washington's understanding of those skills was critical in the creation of the Local School Councils. Paul Vallas's superstructure, bless his heart, owes credit to the foundation that school councils provide. That he and Daley fight the school councils illustrates their lack of that fundamental understanding. So now Daley finds his fights are not just in classrooms but also in the streets.
Car usage, like tobacco usage, is an addiction that once begun is very hard to stop. I didn't use cars regularly until I married into one when I was 37. By the time I was 40, I was a two-car user. Now, at 54, I will soon be a member of a three-car family. I live a block from one el station and work a block from another; that is to say I live in the city. While some addicts don't recognize the damage done, both to themselves and their society, I do.
Yet while I can repair the damage car usage does to myself simply by giving up the habit, my own actions alone cannot repair the damage that car usage does to our urban environment. Just as the societal damage of treating drug usage as a legal problem is not cured by individuals giving up those drugs, but rather only by society changing to treating that drug usage as a medical problem, so can the urban societal damage of car usage be treated only at a social level.
Of course, there is no quick fix nor magic bullet. It will be a lot of little things. The rubric of traffic calming is just a handy way of referring to a collection of concrete remedies. I don't even know if Daley uses the phrase "traffic calming," or whether it has just been a natural progression for him: trees, bikes, median planters, trolleys--maybe he doesn't think in generalities but just sees things in Europe that he likes. Like gondolas.
But it doesn't matter. Now a lot of good, sincere, and/or intelligent people are seeing the elements of traffic calming and wanting them in their neighborhoods. Decent, ordinary people who use cars as well as walk and bike, but are tired of speeders in front of their houses near where their children play and speeders racing up and down their business streets where they are out of their cars to shop. As traffic continues to get worse, more people will want more calming.
Like schooling, calming is close to home. It cannot be done right without participation from those affected. Hear the chickens coming to roost? At 81, my guess is that Mary Sykes doesn't drive a lot, and that when she does she drives appropriately for her 80-year-old reactions. My guess is that traffic calming would fit her like a stereotypical white glove. There's something horribly wrong when someone as plugged into her community as she is is left out of whatever cobbled together process exists in Norwood Park to advance traffic calming. Hear the chickens, Mayor Daley?
I don't know anything about Norwood Park but I do know some about Andersonville. I know people are afraid of calming. Like addicts, like all of us afraid of sudden change. We've been like frogs in slowly heating water for the last 10 to 20 years as cars have increasingly taken over our neighborhoods. That, of course, is the change we should be afraid of. Naturally there are going to be fights. Calming is a very emotional issue. And there is no established democratic mechanism to facilitate it. There ought to be something along the lines of a Streets and Sanitation Council; something elected and empowered. But that's Daley's Achilles' heel. He doesn't know how to relate to people like Mary Sykes.
As an aside, some people in Andersonville were three-to-one against a bunch of stupid red cylinders; three-to-one against confused walkers and drivers who didn't know when to stop and when to go in what looked like a cross between a construction site and a UFO staging area. Needless to say, it bore no relation to traffic calming.