Attendees take their seats before the annual JPAC meeting inside the solarium at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr. on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

Citing a year of increasingly contentious meetings and polarization in the organization, almost all members of the Jackson Park Advisory Council’s (JPAC) board did not run for reelection to another term. 

The news that the organization’s president since 2010, Louise McCurry, along with its secretary and treasurer would not seek another term came at JPAC’s annual officer election meeting on Tuesday evening, Nov. 22. 

By the end of a rigidly procedural meeting in which officials repeatedly stressed civility and Roberts Rules of Order, two new officers and an incumbent were elected to lead JPAC for the next year: newcomers Russell Pike and Eric Rogers as secretary and treasurer, respectively, and returning vice president Spencer Bibbs. (Bibbs is also a freelance Herald photographer.)

The presidential race, which ended in a tie between candidates Michael Scott and Duwain Bailey, will require a special election in December. 

In addition to coordinating park events, JPAC board members set the terms for what the organization is responsible for. In the past, members have disagreed on whether the council should function primarily to support the Park District, focused on recruiting volunteer stewards and helping with other initiatives, or should also weigh in on policy issues, like the construction of the Obama Center. 

After a year of tense debate, the election came highly anticipated and well-attended, with a surprise in store. 

More than 150 attendees had gathered in the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Dr. Filing into the meeting hall, attendees were asked to sign in, provided ballots if they qualified and were able to take informational packets on council codes of conduct, violations and disciplinary action.

After the meeting was called to order, Chicago Park District’s community relations officer, Maria Stone, quickly cemented the tone for the evening in her opening remarks, imploring attendees to “have a very civil, cordial meeting.”  

Then, in an unexpected turn of events, parliamentarian Rev. Susan Johnson disclosed that most of the board would not run for reelection, citing a year of “open hostility” towards officers. 

“I am sad to say that there is wide agreement that the last year of our JPAC meetings have often lacked basic civility,” said Johnson. She went on to allege that board members faced frequent instances of insult and harassment, so much so that “it has become dangerous for the current volunteer officers.” 

“We have served during an intense yearlong effort to shift the purpose of the Jackson Park Advisory away from the ministry of volunteer efforts to monitor, sustain, improve and protect the park… into a ‘court of public opinion’ to confront the park district over planning that is legally adjudicated elsewhere.” 

Mary Anton, chair of JPAC’s membership committee, commented after the election that this is the first time that the entire board has not run for reelection in the six years she’s served on the council. 

Nominations for all four positions were then taken on the floor, as opposed to the typical nomination period taking place during prior meetings. Seven people either self-nominated or were nominated by someone else, and were given two minutes to speak.

During these speeches, nominees across positions primarily talked up their resumes and history in the neighborhood; some urged the need for clearer communication and mediation within JPAC going forward. Members then cast ballots.

Less than half of the meeting's 150 attendees were eligible to vote. Per JPAC bylaws, to be eligible to vote attendees must have attended at least two council meetings in the last year. Several residents expressed that this eligibility requirement was made more difficult due to the cancellation of JPAC’s previous monthly two meetings. (Both the November and October meeting were canceled due to the ongoing construction in Jackson Park for the Obama Presidential Center, according to JPAC emails.) 

JPAC’s last meeting was held in September, and was disbanded early by the Park District after council leadership and residents sparred over the group’s purposes and the use of parliamentary procedure in the meetings.

Even though most of the JPAC board made the decision to step back from elected office, Bibbs opted to run again and was reelected uncontested (with 55 votes). 

All the other races had two candidates running. Pike was elected to the role of secretary over Jessica Musselwhite (32-30) and Rogers was elected to the role of treasurer over Donald McGruder (35-29). 

Presidential candidates Michael Scott, a member of the Promontory Point Conservancy, and Duwain Bailey, executive director of the development group Network of Woodlawn, were tied at 32 votes each. To determine a winner, a special election will be held in December, though a date has yet to be set. 

Scott is the conservancy’s vice president, a professor of engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has served as a local school council member. Citing his lengthy involvement in the Hyde Park community, Scott concluded his candidate statement by saying  “I think I can do a good job developing a facilitative JPAC.” 

Bailey has worked as a public administrator for the State of Illinois, City of Chicago and Chicago Housing Authority, and currently serves as executive director for the Network of Woodlawn, the development group overseeing the Apostolic Church of God’s expansion in Woodlawn. Bailey talked of the importance of city parks, recounting the wisdom of Jackson Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted.  

“Over the past year, we have not had any (unity) in our communities...Please vote for me and I’ll work with you to make a difference in this community,” Bailey said.

Marc C. Monaghan contributed.

staff writer

Zoe Pharo is a graduate of Carleton College. She was recently an editorial intern for In These Times, and has also written for Little Village and Chapel Hill Magazine. 

(3) comments


Can some honest person who just followed Jack Park events these last two years please translate what happened and who the new JPAC officers will be?

Have the Obama Foundation taken over JPAC and will now dictate everything connected with Jackson Park and the South Shore Country Club?

Some of us suggested a compromise on the god awful proposed, complete clear cutting of mature trees in JP and the building of a 23 story high rise, personality cult temple. ,: Obama personality cult temple: Chicago would simply rename (Andrew) Jackson Park "Obama Park" with the provision that they must honer the Daniel Burnham plan to keep our Lakefront Park free and open to the public forever and maintain Jackson Park/Obama park as envisioned by giants like Frederick Olmsted and the planners and park architects of London's Hyde Park.

But the powers that be in Chicago, national politics and the media did not allow this to happen or any serious discussion of this subject.

That's "The Chicago Way".


I hope this is the opposite - that the Obama Foundation has now been kicked out of JPAC.

This meeting was NOT announced to all registered voting members of JPAC, and was held during a holiday week to minimize attendance. This was a last secret gasp of the OPC supporters to dominate JPAC. Apparently it did not work.

You can bet that a lot of us will be at the December meeting, to make sure that we elect a JPAC president opposed to OPC and the expanded golf course. And more important than anything, that we back up the 80% vote against cutting down any more trees for OPC, roads, or golf course expansion. Instead, we will push for remediation of damage already done, even if costly to the Obama Foundation and the City of Chicago. We want to halt OPC construction, road construction, golf course expansion, theft of the east end of Midway Plaisance Park, keep Cornell Drive open, and take measures to heal Jackson Park.

And we will vigorously question candidates for alderman and mayor to demand what they'll do to achieve these goals to save Jackson and South Shore Parks, in compliance with the 80% vote to stop cutting down mature, oxygen-producing trees.

Ross Petersen

I don't think this advisory council ever acknowledged that Advocacy for the Park was an equal obligation. They stood by and let our Park get developed, and they didn't say a word. JPAC was founded by community residents who figuratively chained themselves to these trees. They let us down.

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