Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Looking for Better Judgment at the Chicago Park District

Daniel Burnham Designed Pavilion in Jackson Park on Marquette Drive in extreme state of neglect. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“The Chicago Park District should be our city’s proudest institution — a $480 million agency in charge of maintaining and programming an enviable collection of parks and green space, plus holding sway over the best public lakefront in the nation.

“But lately, the park district seems intent on lousing up everything it has going for it, from its abysmal handling of a female lifeguard’s complaints of sexual harassment by Oak Street Beach lifeguards, to the agency’s nutty decision to allow Amazon to install huge retail lockers in city parks.

“Add to these unforced errors a general slippage in parks maintenance and upkeep — in landmark Jackson Park, for instance — and patron-unfriendly moves such as surge pricing for parking on holidays.

“Add, as well, a general unease that the district’s administration has seemed out of touch at times with the best interests of the average user of the district’s facilities. That’s been nagging at us for about the last five years, ever since the district’s top executives embraced a plan to create a championship golf course from two existing — and highly affordable — South Side courses without doing their homework to answer the most basic questions, such as whether the average duffer could ever afford to play there.

“We believe the Chicago Park District needs a reset in its mission, and possibly in its leadership.

“Kelly and his team also are behind a wrongheaded deal to put more than 100 ungainly Amazon Hub lockers — some of which are 15 feet wide — in parks across the city.

“The park district, which made the decision without any public or board input, likely will net a piddling $137,000 a year from the arrangement, Block Club Chicago reported Monday,

“‘Amazon should not be occupying public space regardless of what they offer,” Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd), said Monday on Twitter. “But we have to note that 137K is a slap in the face.’

“This is true.

“‘[Corporations] like Amazon that don’t pay taxes impact our ability to fund public services, like parks,’ she wrote.

“This also is true. And the park district was wrong to even entertain such a deal.

“But it’s time that the park district board and Lightfoot, who has defended Kelly, make it clear to the superintendent that they want him to run a tighter, cleaner ship from now on — or be prepared to walk the plank if he doesn’t.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 8/24/21)

Read the full editorial at Chicago Sun-Times

Looking for better judgment at the Chicago Park District; From its mishandling of a sexual abuse scandal to allowing Amazon lockers in public parks, it’s clear the park district needs a reset in its mission, and possibly in its leadership, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 8/24/21

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