The Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) run-off election for the group’s president will take place Wednesday evening, Dec. 21 at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr. The only agenda item on the meeting is the presidential election, which will begin at 7:00 p.m.
The run-off comes just under a month after JPAC’s annual officer election meeting on Nov. 22, where ballots were cast for the roles of president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
At that meeting, two new officers and an incumbent were elected to lead the board 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 ended in a tie between Duwain Bailey, executive director of the nonprofit group Network of Woodlawn, and Michael Scott, a professor of engineering and member of the Promontory Point Conservancy.
In addition to learning the ropes of the organization, this almost entirely new board of JPAC officers will have to contend with uniting a membership that has become increasingly divided over issues of community input and the group’s mission. Additionally, officers would serve during a year of several new and ongoing constructions in and around the park: the ongoing build of the Obama Presidential Center, local road revamping and the proposed Jackson Park and South Shore golf course rehabilitation project.
Only City of Chicago residents who have attended at least two JPAC meetings in the prior 12 months will be eligible for nomination and eligible to vote, however. Beyond Chicago residency, there are no geographical barriers to membership or voting eligibility.
The Herald spoke with both candidates about their leadership experience, visions for the park and its council.
Beginning his career in 1980, Bailey has worked as a public administrator for the State of Illinois, City of Chicago and Chicago Housing Authority. As chief of operations at the Chicago Housing Authority, Bailey was responsible for implementing policies and regulations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on the city’s public housing and managing admissions; he later worked with the group as an executive advisor, with a focus on reducing crime in communities with subsidized housing. In 2013, Bailey became a district manager with Primerica Financial Services, a financial services company geared towards middle-income families.
He also currently serves as executive director for the Network of Woodlawn, a nonprofit focused on community engagement around economic development, education and safety in the neighborhood. One of the network’s biggest projects is the multi-million dollar Woodlawn Central development on 63rd Street, a new “mixed-use urban district” being developed by — and if built, will surround — the Apostolic Church of God.
“In my career, I've been responsible for managing buildings and property, and I think that's the mindset I bring,” said Bailey. “But I’m fast becoming a tree hugger.”
If elected, Bailey said one of his first priorities would be making JPAC’s monthly meetings more efficient and congenial, suggesting that committees around relevant issues be formed to meet separately and report back to the board.
He also suggested a collective priority for JPAC be urging the Chicago Park District to pass a capital improvement plan for needed repairs. Among suggested repairs is the reopening of the Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge, repaving of sidewalks and fixing drainage issues in the area.
“I'm not coming in to try to be the sole voice of the Park Advisory Council, but to try to bring a diverse group of people and communities together around what I believe everybody in the room cares about,” said Bailey. “I hope that that would be a motivating factor for people who live in Woodlawn and South Shore to be more actively engaged in Jackson Park.”
Since 2000, Scott has worked as an associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Illinois Chicago, with research interests in computable models for engineering design. He also serves as the Promontory Point Conservancy’s vice president, a nonprofit group advocating for the repair and restoration of the park’s limestone revetment. Scott was also a member of the early-2000s campaign — called Save the Point — opposing the City’s proposed replacement of the park’s limestone with concrete, which was occurring along the rest of Chicago’s shoreline.
Scott has also served as a parent and community representative for several years on Ray Elementary School and Murray Language Academy’s Local School Councils (LSC), respectively. At Ray School, he chaired the LSC during the council’s principal selection process, noting the group’s success in “bringing together a lot of different voices” with a committee of 20 parents and teachers.
“I would like JPAC as well as Jackson Park to be a space where everyone can feel welcome, heard, and valued,” he said. “Parks are public spaces and I believe it is any PAC's mission to ensure public access to the public spaces it serves.”
If elected, Scott said one of his first priorities would be re-establishing this kind of space for membership. To do this, he suggested devoting meetings to discussions and workshops exploring how membership would like JPAC to operate, with the goal of developing “a shared understanding of the mission of the PAC.”
Another chief policy position is that JAPC recommit to its stated mission of park monitoring, representing the community, advising the Chicago Park District and holding it accountable for stewardship and historical preservation.
“The Park Advisory Council should be a place where projects that impact the park are discussed, and that this discussion should be open and democratic,” he added, citing landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision for public parks. “As president I would see it as my role to seek consensus where possible, and to allow people to express their views.”