By a margin of four votes, University of Illinois Chicago engineering professor and Promontory Point Conservancy vice president Michael Scott has been elected this year’s Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) president.
In a JPAC runoff election held Wednesday evening, Dec. 21 at the South Shore Cultural Center, Scott was elected 41-37 over former Chicago Housing Authority administrator and Network of Woodlawn executive director Duwain Bailey.
"I am looking forward to working with a wide variety of people,” Scott told the Herald after the election. “There seems to be lots of energy and interest. I think we will be able to build an inclusive advisory council that will draw in a lot of people."
"When I spoke to Michael before the voting began," said Bailey after the election, "we agreed that neither of us wanted to see the gridlock and divisiveness we experienced the last two years continue in 2023. My neighbors and I will continue to be involved so our views are known on all matters concerning Jackson Park."
"What I see in tonight's voting is a partial victory for the collective communities of Woodlawn, South Shore and Hyde Park,” Bailey continued. “In our loss I saw collaboration around my candidacy, and that shows there is opportunity for future collaboration."
The continuing tension of the meetings stemmed in part from what some members claimed was a lack of responsiveness to community input by the JPAC officers. In other cases, members were divided over differing perceived purposes of the council itself — Should JPAC focus predominantly on managing volunteers and supporting Park District initiatives, or should it also council weigh in on broad policy issues, such as new constructions, facing Jackson Park?
Looking ahead, Scott said his first priorities are to spend the early part of the year “working on how the PAC works to become a democratic inclusive organization… Any policy positions that people want to promote will probably have to wait until we've sorted out how we're going to work together, in order to have everybody feel that they are heard and valued and respected."
As she stacked chairs following the meeting, outgoing JPAC president Louise McCurry, who has been a member since 1983 and its president for 12 years, said she hopes that "JPAC will continue to be the force for making Jackson Park a safe place for children and families and a place where you can really come together."
On the board, Scott will join newcomers Russell Pike and Eric Rogers as secretary and treasurer, respectively, and returning vice president Spencer Bibbs. (Bibbs is also a freelance Herald photographer.)