To the editors:
Thanks for Michael Miner's critical look at the Tribune series on neighborhood development [September 16]. "Why Did John McCarron Do That?" is a question on many peoples' minds, and one answered reasonably well by Miner.
The one quote that best sums up McCarron's attitudes: "This was not a series about the problem of affordable housing." It certainly wasn't. It was a series that attacked every organization and individual that has tried to do anything about decent, affordable housing, and made heroes of those who profit by buying cheap into "upcoming" neighborhoods, throwing out the current residents and selling high to those who can afford to pay to live in Sheridan Park rather than Uptown.
If there is anger, it is because McCarron cut the issue just as the speculators do: development vs. anti-development. That, of course, is almost never the issue. People do not oppose developing their neighborhood; they simply ask, fairly enough, development for who? For us, or for someone new? And if for someone new, where do we go? Displacement is not a theory; it is a fact--unless you believe that native Lincoln Parkers were born with BMW's and tanning club memberships.
Organizations such as Voice of the People, which McCarron would tar as part of a deep conspiracy against development, are themselves developers. They purchase and rehab buildings. The difference is that they develop for the community, not for the highest bidder. They never found it necessary to rename themselves Voice of the People in Sheridan Park to do their job.
I don't begrudge McCarron a political agenda. H.L. Mencken once said that newspapers at their best were bundles of opinion and clearly labelled as such. McCarron's true political agenda becomes clear in Miner's column. "A ten-year vacuum" of civic leadership, McCarron bemoans. And if there is any question left, he adds "or however long it's been since the snow flew." Yes, say what you will about Mayor Bilandic, he did have a clearly articulated vision of where the city was going. Now there was the dynamic leadership not seen since. Harold Washington pales by comparison.
McCarron's vision, though, is of the past. It is of Daley and Byrne. It is of Chicago of the big projects for downtown, and crumbs for the neighborhoods. It is time to talk of real development for all Chicago.