Category: Maywood Re-Imagined

The West Town Dreams of Renaissance Plaza

By Michael Romain

This is the second installment in the newest section of the site, which we’re calling, “Maywood Re-Imagined.” Every week, we’ll take certain parts of Maywood and virtually revitalize them through digital manipulation, so residents can see the town’s infinite possibilities and hopefully start making Maywood their canvas. If you have any ideas, email them, or post them via comment, and we’ll try our best to transform your imaginative words into a neat (albeit a bit crude) visualization.

Here’s a sneak peek of my interview with President/CEO of Operation Uplift, Inc., Mrs. Northica Stone, and the curator of the West Town Historical Museum, Mrs. Jeri Stenson. Mrs. Stone said that she was notified that her organization’s location at the corner of 5th Avenue and St. Charles Road may qualify her for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds that are part of a revitalization project the Village may have in the works.

“Now if the TIF money becomes a reality, we’re going to hopefully be able to recreate on the side of our building some of the things that were here in the early Maywood,” Stone said. She imagines historical facades facing neat landscaping and a road of original cobblestone bricks that dates back to the Village’s vintage past. Patrons would be able to walk this road while reflecting on the town’s structural history, which includes a hospital and a streetcar that used to run all the way up to Madison Street in Chicago. The finished project would be called Renaissance Plaza.

I’ve tried capturing Mrs. Stones vision in a rough digital rendering. This may or may not be along the lines of what’s in her head, but it was worth giving it a shot:

The side of West Town/Operation Uplift as it looks today (before):

Screen shot 2013-06-06 at 8.32.37 PM

Its possible future (after):

Screen shot 2013-06-06 at 9.53.59 PM

 

Michael Rogers’s Field of Dreams

This is a roundabout way of inaugurating our newest section of the site, which we’re calling, “Maywood Re-Imagined.” Every week, we’ll take certain parts of Maywood and virtually revitalize them through digital manipulation, so residents can see the town’s infinite possibilities and hopefully start making Maywood their canvas. If you have any ideas, email them, or post them via comment, and we’ll try our best to transform your imaginative words into a neat (albeit a bit crude) visualization. But before you get to all of that, you’ll have to pass through some other stuff along the way.

By Michael Romain

Saturday, May 18, 2013, Maywood — This past weekend, while walking to cover a prayer vigil, I came upon a man standing on the baseball diamond on 1st and Oak. He was at home plate, alone, taking pictures of the outfield. When I closed in on him, he waved. It was Michael Rogers, whose resignation as interim trustee in April had aroused a lot emotion among residents in Maywood.

My Perspective

I wrote a piece of commentary in the aftermath of Yarbrough’s appointment of Audrey Jaycox to the seat Rogers vacated. In my opinion, the appointment of someone who wasn’t a candidate for trustee in the last election and had lost a race for an entirely separate office seemed like a consolation prize. It only reinforced the perception, which I sense is widely shared among residents here, of a separate political class that hovers above municipal business as if its their own — an entitlement class, if you will.

For Yarbrough to change this popular perception of him and his party (however accurate or inaccurate it may be in actuality), he’d need to do something to drastically undercut this common stereotype. Yes, the appointment of Ms. Jaycox was entirely his to make. Yes, it was legal for him to do so. Yes, it is a political play that anyone in his position would probably have made.

But it was small ball compared to the large ball act of simply appointing the next-highest-vote-getting candidate for trustee in the most recent election. That would have been courageous, atypical and bold. I thought Yarbrough should’ve done this regardless of the perceived motivations of Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO), which had recommended it. I thought such an action (which seemed fair, direct and clear-cut) would have perhaps gone an surprisingly long way toward correcting what I think has been Mayor Yarbrough’s (and Maywood’s) greatest liability — their public perception. And not just in Maywood, but beyond.

I came to this conclusion from the premise that reestablishing this trust in Village government, which citizens here have apparently lost, is more important, in the long run, than economic development. In fact, there can be no economic development if there is no civic development first. You can’t attract much high-quality commerce to a municipal climate that is widely perceived to be corrupt or petty or parochial. That was the basis for my indignation and, I sense, for other people’s as well.

However, I personally took no issue with Michael Rogers’s decision to resign and any article on this site relevant to the matter, especially any article of reportage, will reflect this reality. The reader can verify this claim by going here. I do admit, though, that I may not have been clear enough with the reader that Rogers’s resignation should be considered separately from Jaycox’s appointment. After all, if Yarbrough had appointed Marcius Scaggs, the next-highest-vote-receiving candidate for trustee, Rogers’s resignation would have been a moot point.

Moreover, to complicate the issue, if Rogers had, instead, resigned during Mayor Perkins’s tenure and Mayor Perkins appointed someone who either did not run as trustee or wasn’t the next-highest-vote getter in that particular race (i.e., if she’d done exactly what Mayor Yarbrough did), Rogers’s resignation would’ve been a non-factor. Was Rogers scapegoated a bit? Perhaps.

Now, is it possible that Rogers was complicit in the whole power play all along? Absolutely. Do we know this for certain? No. Were he complicit, would his complicity have been very major? I don’t believe so. (I’m imagining myself in his dilemma and what I’d do if I had to choose between being a little complicit in a move that might inflame public opinion and being loyal to my political allies). However, what we do know for certain is that Rogers is now a sitting trustee with the power to affect the way Maywoodians live our lives. And until he does something egregious enough to lose it entirely, he needs to have our trust.

Trust requires that people’s words and intentions be taken at a fair amount of face value. That’s the only way real things get done between parties with diverse (and oftentimes diverging) interests. That is what underlies commerce. In fact, the grand intellectual father of capitalism, Adam Smith, had a name for it. He called this, ‘fellow-feeling.’ We, his estranged getting-and-spending grandchildren, call it sympathy.

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An Aside

Rogers said that he likes to get outside and take mental notes of ideas that he has for bring economic development to the Village. At the moment, where most drivers-by see a baseball diamond of wildly high grass, weeds and dandelions, Rogers was seeing corporate billboards running along outfield walls. The advertising could be added revenue for the Village. Whether the idea is feasible or not, I don’t know. It is, however, undeniably imaginative. This act of creativity, of standing along in a baseball field, conjuring solutions in silence, piqued my interest far more than the controversy. And with it, Michael Rogers earned my respect.

Michael Rogers’s Perspective

But there was still a Gordian knot of tension that need untying. And so, I invited Rogers to offer a fuller explanation of his decision to resign and where he thought I was wrong in my analysis.

He stated that his priority when he was appointed by Yarbrough to fill the seat vacated by former trustee Flowers was to help the Board with the budget. This needed to be taken care of by May 1st. The Board was able to finish the budget about a week before the deadline. “I would’ve had to resign at some point anyway, whether it would’ve been then or the day after my swearing-in,” he said.

“Perspective is worth a hundred IQ points…

He indicated that his decision to resign about a month before the next mayor would be sworn-in was largely due to him wanting a period of rest before beginning what promises to be an eventful first term as an elected trustee. He said that he consulted with Mayor Yarbrough on the appointment and suggested the Mayor consider three qualities in his potential appointees: a) cultural diversity, b) experience and c) an understanding of economic development. “Perspective is worth a hundred IQ points,” he said.

Rogers believes that I was severely discounting Ms. Jaycox’s experience and her abilities to bring opportunities to the Village. He said that the Mayor appointed the best person to serve the remainder of the term. He also said that he thought I had underestimated the advantages of having political leaders who are connected to other political leaders in statewide and national positions of power and influence.

And perhaps I am, although I think I’ve established that this is rather irrelevant to my overriding point (see my perspective, above). I will say, though, that I may have underplayed how Ms. Jaycox’s representation in organizations such as the National League of Cities do, indeed, translate into concrete advances that people in Maywood can feel. I invite Ms. Jaycox to talk about this anytime.

Anyhow, Rogers noted that once he aired his concerns about the nature of his successor to Mayor Yarbrough, he resigned. Fair enough. It’s an explanation I take at face value.

Better Problems

Now back to Mr. Rogers’s field of dreams. This is a very, very rough rendering of what I imagine Mr. Rogers’s imaginings for the field on 1st and Oak to be:

Mr. Rogers's Field of DreamsMy rough, amateurish rendering may or may not be true to the vision that Mr. Rogers, a professional architect, had in his head while standing alone at home base. The idea itself may or may not be feasible. To focus on this kind of development may or may not be misdirected. Those are all honest debates to have. What’s certain is that the Village would benefit if citizens and elected officials alike were in conflict about these kinds of issues, instead of the ones that claim our attentions now. They’re much more constructive. VFP.