Articles - Archived 2016 Series

We will post articles here that we believe are relevant to the positive life of Southeast Chicago Community.  Contentiousness can be found on Facebook and most social media, as well as on metropolitan and national media.  We choose to limit our material to that which, in our opinion, does not erode the soul of the community.  However, we will also reserve the right to comment, too, about community matters that concern us. Our site, our choice. -- k/j

Speaking of Grassroots Advocacy . . . 

As we thought we were winding down the year, 2016, another uplifting story came our way, and we are delighted to share it here, with you.   Puja Bhattacharjee, a reporter writing for Medill Reports Chicago, a publication of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, researched and interviewed Carolyn Marsh regarding her long campaign on behalf of the environment in the Hammond-Whiting complex.  This link ( leads to that article, which is an inspiring read.   Well done, Carolyn, well done, Medill Reports Chicago!


This Night Before Christmas, 12/24/16


Kevin P. Murphy

‘Tis the night before Christmas, and all through the land,

The Union is crumbling, Integrity banned.

The Stocks are still climbing, but tables are bare,

Only the privileged can live without care.

Most decent Americans -- and there are quite a few,

Are now filled with dread, don’t know what to do,

For the future that once called this land to the fore,

Has been trampled, and scuttled, and beckons no more. 

The young ones are all tucked away in their phones,

So, there is little chance that they’ll hear homeless moans.

The culture that once a nation cemented, 

Is now virtualized, in scenarios demented.

That was how I hoped to greet the coming of Christmas Day, this year -- with a darker view of “The Night Before Christmas.”  But, alas, my poetic skills are too limited for such a demanding task.  

Still, I feel the need to comment, as we face into the uncertainty of major political change in our nation -- and isn’t each regime change wrapped in uncertainty?   I guess it is the lot of elder folk, looking at the incredibly short personal road ahead while feeling, none-the-less, the contemporary mood of future anxiety as if we were going to be there, contending with the challenges, too.  I guess that’s how we know that we are still alive, right -- the ability to worry about things we’ll probably not experience?

So, here it is, my Night Before Christmas:

I despair, right now, at what seems to be monumental self-absorption among “the youth” of our nation.   From my perspective, that could mean a large chunk of our population but, in reality, I’m thinking of the youngest American adults, and even slightly younger, like my granddaughter’s generation -- the youth who will be taking the nation through 21 into the 22nd century.  

Limited geographic contact, enhanced by digital isolation, makes those members of the human race almost invisible, almost unknown to me.   I see a dumbing down of literacy, an overwhelming sense of entitlement, and a disconnection from a cultural past that -- flaws notwithstanding -- provided a shared ethos that made it possible to do what a fine Civil War general pointed out was a rarity in human history: giving our lives to HELP -- not exploit -- other human beings (something we managed to do at least twice, more, before the world became “modern”).    

I have seen, in my 80+ years, many examples of monumental, self-aggrandizing stupidity (as in shooting-oneself-in-one’s-foot-during-peacetime stupidity), in educational and religious institutions, in families, in government, in companies and in corporations.  I have also seen wondrous examples of genius, selflessness, intelligence, and creative problem solving in such settings -- but they were invariably scarce, compared to the other.  

But, as the Wright Brothers made it clear that we can fly, so, too, do the scarce examples prove that we CAN excel in those various settings.  We can nurture exceptional family life; we can operate government functions economically, efficiently, intelligently and humanely; we can operate companies, corporations and institutions economically, efficiently, intelligently, humanely, and profitably -- to the extent that “exceptional” becomes the norm.  

The proof of those assertions, for me, is empirical observation -- and occasional participation -- in successful examples of most of the aforementioned settings.   While falling victim to the alarming headlines so cherished by most media outlets -- I was blindsided, just now, by memories of the terrific people I have been blessed to observe, and their mostly low-profile successes in making seemingly impossible progress possible.  

From the confines of our Southeast Chicago community, and its neighbors across the state line, have come grass roots champions whose modest, but firm, efforts have revitalized a dying landscape; invoked economic, educational, and health-sustaining resources for the resourceless, in our economically battered community; faced down monolithic corporate environmental indifference, occasionally even “converting” such entities to meaningful community involvement; developed a burgeoning artistic community whose future influence we can only begin to imagine; and sustained one another through corporate abandonment, economic collapse, personal losses, and political uncertainty, to remain amazingly like the real-life embodiment of a Charles Dickens novel’s finest souls.

So, despite my aforementioned despair for our future, my attempt, this Christmas Eve-ning, to describe that desolation has, instead, reawakened a realization that the future is still ours to shape, that the examples given us by Lee, and Marian, by Victor, by Bob and Marian, by Michael, by John, by Carolyn, by Mark, by Patty, by the Rebeccas, by Jon, and by Suzanne -- to name but a few, are the proof that we can do it, more importantly, that we must do it.

Right now, I hear no reindeer, nor jolly old elf, but I see no harm in wishing us all a promising Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Holiday Season -- and, by golly, it still is ”This Night Before Christmas!”     


Scanning Internet News Headlines Can Produce Deep, Unexpected Sadness

by Kevin P. Murphy

November 14, 2016: 

I remember vividly the moment when I learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated.  

I also remember the Sunday morning in 1941 when we learned that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, although I was too young, then, to grasp the significance of that news (our radio had malfunctioned, and we didn’t learn until a thoughtful neighbor came to inform us of that tragic event).

And I will — as long as my memory functions — remember the moment when I learned, this afternoon, that PBS political correspondent and host, Gwen Ifill, has died from cancer.

Others will -- quite properly -- share detailed examples of her grace, intelligence, poise, and constant professionalism, others who had worked regularly with her, who had known her personally, and who have legitimacy when they laud her wide range of professional virtues.  

I am just a TV viewer, vastly removed from her company as a person.  But I am one of an audience who believed, firmly, that my trust and Gwen Ifill were inseparable, and I am one of that audience who found themselves unexpectedly crying after stumbling over an Internet headline this afternoon.

The Best Nest — Hegewisch Marsh — Big Marsh Saga Continues

November 21, 2016:  From the City of Chicago’s “Chicago Sustainability News” e-mail newsletter of this date:

On November 6th, City officials joined members of the Calumet community to celebrate the official opening of the 40-acre Bike Park at Big Marsh on the City's southeast side. The Bike Park at Big Marsh is a signature project under Mayor Emanuel's Building on Burnham plan, a comprehensive vision to invest in Chicago's parks and open spaces.***

Pity that the Colonial Government of Chicag-wow has no interest in learning the names of the involved communities.  It is probably too hard to learn the native languages . . . 

*** See the article, Southeast Chicago's Best Nest--Just another Maltese Falcon?, in our Articles - Archived 2015 Series, following this section, for another recent Chicago Mayor’s “comprehen$ive vi$ion to inve$t in Chicago’$ Park$ and Open $pace$ . . ."

November 6, 2016

Hi everyone,

Today I was at the Big Marsh to observe Mayor Emanuel’s ribbon cutting event for the opening of the Big Marsh bike park. It was a shocker when the mayor introduced the Ford family foundation rep who announced the proposal to build the Ford Calumet Environmental Center at Big Marsh. Many months ago, Ford called the Southeast Environmental Task Force for a community meeting.  I asked Peggy Salazar, executive director, SETF, when it would happen and she said the Ford rep. never called back. There was a poster display of the new building design for the Center. The previous design for Hegewisch Marsh, by J. Gang Architects, The Bird’s Nest, was thrown out completely.  Hegewisch Marsh is located across from the Ford Assembly Plant at 130th & Torrence Ave..

SRAM spoke and said national championships will be held coming as phases 2 and 3 are completed. There will by a cyclocross race at Big Marsh on Nov. 26.

I heard a lot of people asking for the nature trail, but it wasn’t connected to the bike park. I met local bikers who want to protect the birdlife when they heard the Bald Eagle peninsula is threatened for a bike trail from Doty Ave. I foresee a lot of high-maintenance money problems with the bike park. Too much south end bird habitat was invaded next to the marsh in my opinion. Byron Tsang, CPD, and I talked and we agreed to continue to communicate.

(The CPD said there would be no fishing, canoeing, or kayaking at Big Marsh. Yesterday, I saw a young man with his dog paddling in Big Marsh. He launched from the Stony Island Ave entrance peninsula. There were two anglers fishing off the nature trail on the east side of Big Marsh. Emanuel said there would be fishing at the lake in his speech.)

Carolyn Marsh

The Jobs Mirage -- Is this Con Unique to Chicago?

by Kevin P. Murphy

The Chicago Tribune Digital Edition carried an article today, May 20, 2016, about "Parks group urged to dropmuseum suit" (sic)., reporting about a coalition that was attempting to neutralize the one group that is staunchly defending the right of all Chicagoans to have access to Chicago's common treasure, the lakefront.   The article begins, thus, "Chanting “jobs over land!” and “build the museum,” more than 100 supporters of the Lucas Museum in Chicago held a lunchtime rally Thursday outside the Loop offices of the parks preservation group blocking the project."   The article further states, "Attendees of the street rally held signs touting the number of construction jobs the museum project is projected to create. Other signs targeted the parks group directly: “Friends of the Parking Lot,” “You're no friend to my park,” “Art, not parking lots.” 

It is a scene that some of us recognize all too well for what it is, a well-orchestrated attempt to distract attention from the real issue by calling up images of a sacred cow that no one dare challenge, jobs.  In the late 19th-, and early 20th-Century it was "motherhood, and the flag," perhaps, but, today, it is jobs.  But the grim reality is that the "jobs" flag is always waved cynically in a battle that is all but lost to those particular banner wavers, and it promotes an illusion that implies that the community will benefit in jobs stemming from the new golden project.  Because the community is suffering from unemployment, such a lure has strength to induce otherwise intelligent people to campaign against their own best interests.   

Will there be any jobs?  Of course.  Among others who will benefit, there will be consulting firms, floating like buzzards above the fray, who will consume hundreds of thousands of dollars -- if not millions -- of the resources made available for the project, usually by conducting seemingly endless community meetings and surveys intended to create the perception of community involvement -- and agreement -- with the wishes of those who have funded the surveys, while studiously ignoring the existence of dozens of such surveys that have been made in previous similar campaigns to work the will of earlier con artists who wished to milk the cash cow of urban renewal, or improvement.    Serious, helpful, consultants will be obscured by the dross generated by the parasites.

If the Lucases of such projects do have their way, will they diminish the unemployment burden of the communities conned by their promises?  Not significantly.  One need merely research the history of such seemingly golden projects as "Best Nest," "Lakeside Development," Mariano's at 87th Street and US-41, or the restoration of environmentally rich -- and highly vulnerable -- Hegewisch Marsh, to see how many of the promised job benefits have materialized from projects that have sleight-of-handed tens of millions of dollars off the community table, and continue to do so.  Thus, it flies in the face of too much recent Chicago history to expect that the current mirage will be anything more than a similar illusion.

But if concern for community jobs were really what was driving the most recent coalition of yay-sayers, why did they not, instead, support FOTP's suggestion that the Lucas museum be put into the community, where the jobs would have meaning, without endangering the lakefront's future?   Just across the tracks there is potentially fabulous -- and accessible -- space.   But, it isn't really about providing jobs for the existing community, is it?

Hang tough, Friends of the Parks, and do pay attention to the guy behind that green curtain!





Kevin P. Murphy

As fire has been essential to moving human progress from primitive gathering and hunting to today's incredible dominance of the planet so, too, has smoke accompanied that primal tool.  In addition to its often pleasant fragrance, smoke has been incorporated into humanity's life processes. Thus, smoke has been employed to enhance -- and preserve -- food, in the process generically referred to as "smoking" (different in meaning from the term applied to the human direct intake of nicotine byproducts.)  

Smoke has been-- and may still be -- used as a communicating device, as in "smoke signals."

And, finally, smoke may be employed with other human inventions -- like polished reflecting surfaces -- primarily in sales and politics, as in, "the use of smoke and mirrors." 

Over decades, residents of Chicago's Southeast side have become expert on the concept of "the use of smoke and mirrors," as a seemingly endless flow of carpet-bagging entities has used the magic of "smoke and mirrors" to float one after another miracle project that promises to support and enhance the community's determination to survive and become significantly productive, again, as it had been for the first century and a half of its existence.

So, in 2004, the community rose to the hopeful task of getting itself ready for an environmentally challenging and promising future, with the first major mirage being a fantasy called "Best Nest," a project that, if nothing else, provided a 6 million dollar "pea" for the City of Chicago Shell Game Operators to dazzle the world at large with  but, especially, the long-suffering survivors of Southeast Chicago.  

A dozen years later, a Best Nest descendant may, in fact, have come to fruition -- but not in Southeast Chicago.  Instead, its genes may be sensed in a work in progress in Glencoe, Illinois, and a completed project in Kalamazoo, Michigan, each demonstrating that the core ideas were sound and do-able, but not in Chicago's Southeast Side, promises notwithstanding.  Adding insult to major injury, the smoke and mirror artists have also kidnapped the 6 million dollars -- for a dozen years, and counting!  And the smoke has not yet cleared that area, because those same illusionists are now attempting to perfect the art of "bait and switch," as they attempt to delude us further with the notion that a shed/latrine in a swamp is really renowned architect, Jeanne Gang's, "Best Nest," and the job has been completed, and will we all please shut up about it.  And the game continues.  Yet, Southeast Chicago defies them by surviving -- and striving to improve itself.

Recently, in a meeting with city officials, we learned that "Lakeside Development," once pompously bally-hooed as "A Global Initiative for Innovative Living in Chicago," has also evaporated like mist ahead of a strong breeze off the lake.  How much that fantasy may or may not have cost the taxpayers of Southeast Chicago we may never know. The cost may have been great, it may have been minuscule -- but we will probably never know.  Not knowing is not a good thing for taxpayers/voters.  It breeds uneasiness,  Uneasiness breeds distrust, which fans the flames of hostility.  Hostility benefits no honest souls.

But wait -- there's more.  If you drive down the new U.S-41 extension* through the late, great, Lakeside Development project, you will notice a large greenish sign on the corner of 87th and the new U.S.-41.  Located on the Northeast Corner of that intersection, that sign proudly proclaims: "COMING SOON!  --  MARIANO'S -- shop well. eat well. live well."

Thanks to a 5 million dollar incentive,** that failed attack against the food desert that has developed over decades in a section of Southeast Chicago known proudly to its surviving residents as "The Bush," was to have "Come Soon" in May of 2015 ( ).  We have recently learned that Mariano's is not coming. (And what about that 5 million dollars?  Can you smell the smoke?  And, please, do not look directly at the mirrors.)  

So, who really benefits from the magic shows that keep falling onto Southeast Chicago, certainly not the community residents and businesses? 

 *  " . . .a new stretch of road that city officials say will revitalize this south side neighborhood and create thousands of new jobs." WGN News: POSTED 9:40 PM, OCTOBER 27, 2013, BY NATALIE COSTA AND ANDREA DARLAS

** "The new Mariano's will be built in part with some of the $5 million in state bond proceeds committed by Gov. Pat Quinn to help the grocery chain construct five stores. Four of those Mariano's stores will be located in Chicago food desert neighborhoods. The fifth Mariano's suburban site has not yet been decided." - excerpted from "New Mariano's Store Coming To Former South Chicago U.S. Steel Site," in Progress Illinois (, Wednesday July 9th, 2014, 4:15pm.



The following link is related to our last 2015 article, "I've Got a Bad Feeling About this":

© Kevin Murphy 2016