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Uptown's Noisy Minority


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Dear Editors:

I appreciate and rely on Ben Joravsky's reporting on neighborhood conflicts, and that was why I was all the more dismayed to read his January 28 article on Uptown. We hear only from "Uptown residents" (who happen to be Uptown Chicago Commission/block-club activists) and the bureaucrats they battle (Joravsky calls Organization of the NorthEast a "neighborhood group," but names it and quotes an "executive director"). By portraying the activists' activities as reacting in a spontaneous and ad hoc way to events, Joravsky reinforces the public-relations bid of their ancient Greek "Agora" name: that these are ordinary citizens fighting for democracy and publicity against hierarchy and secrecy.

If he would have just looked into the history of the "quiet corner" in question, he would have figured out that the members of this supposedly spontaneous and ad hoc group are the ones who made it quiet--by agitating under a different name until the city shut down the liquor store that was there before.

Even worse than the framing--concerned residents versus city and social service officials and their developer partners--was Joravsky's personalization of the conflict. Daley thinks it matters if it's an African-American cop that pulls the trigger on yet another black victim, and Joravsky reports on one activist's welfare past and another's race: how could such sincere and apparently diverse people be officers in a class/race war? The Organization of the NorthEast rep has it wrong: this isn't about a "mean spirit" regarding the "least fortunate." This is about a very organized, absolutely unrepresentative minority that is convinced that it speaks for the "community." It doesn't. And I for one don't care about their intentions. I just know that every single one of their activities results in community destruction: rising rents, changing demographics (fewer families and people of color, more white transients making an urban pit stop on their way to the suburbs), and frostier street relations.

"Agora" is more appropriate than its members know. It evokes a leisure class with time for politics managing us metics and slaves--and it means, finally, "marketplace."

Sophia Mihic

Uptown resident

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