To the Editor: 

The proposal presented at the last meeting of the Jackson Park Advisory Council, as reported in the Hyde Park Herald, reflects a growing unease of the current leadership of the Council with the composition of its meeting attendees. The Council wishes to double required meetings and introduce new, subjective work requirements for membership. This should make all South Lakefront residents uneasy in that it appears that this change is driven in large part by alarm by the Council board in the face of a rise in meeting attendance.
 
Unfortunately, the problem isn't about managing a new burst of interest in the park; it's the Council's reaction to a failing system of barriers to membership. Becoming a member or even attending JPAC meetings is a byzantine business in the eyes of many. At one recent meeting, a neighbor of mine who is active in our corner of Woodlawn complained that the groups she is affiliated with were not informed of the JPAC election. She was told, in effect, that it was her own fault. 
 
The truth is that, beyond the five-inch-by-five-inch notice that was on a door to the fieldhouse, you have to know to know about meetings and the Council's elections. Only members get communication from the Council. which until recently was also illegally requiring payment on their website in order for people to become members. The pattern is clear: They are doing everything they can to keep some people out and protect their privilege. 
 
It is worth observing that the newer attendees of these meetings reflect both younger and more diverse representation from the communities that abut Jackson Park — something we should all aspire to in our community work here. When any group resists change that promises more diverse voices and leadership, we have a problem.
 
It is no coincidence to me that the first bump in attendance at JPAC meetings followed groundbreaking at the Obama Center; new, shorter hours and the welding of gates onto the entrance and exit to Wooded Isle; and the revelation that the Park District was leasing parkland across the city for a pittance to Amazon. Real park leadership would welcome a heightened concern about our parks in our neighborhoods. People who see themselves as more important than anyone else cling to power in these moments, and we should all worry about the consequences of that.
Gabriel Piemonte

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