I received an e-mail tonight from a friend who, looking back at the massive self-inflicted train wreck that the whole Lexington Club issue has become, asked a very simple question: in the midst of all the acrimony, where are the thanks for the people who fought for you and stood by you? Properly chastised, I would like to take this opportunity to offer up thank-yous and attaboys, as they are well-deserved and overdue at this point.
I would like to offer up sincere appreciation, first and foremost, to the Aldermen who took us seriously and took the time to actually listen to us. They gave our opinions and our voices value. Not just lip-service, but actual, honest, dignified value. This is exactly what one expects of an elected representative. Aldermen Stellato, Rogina, Turner, Krieger, and Lewis are all to be commended for listening to us and treating our concerns as their own.
While I did not have the opportunity to establish personal relationships with everyone on the Council during the course of the Lexington Club issue, I did have the good fortune to establish relationships with three of those five Aldermen across the past two years. In my experience, Ald. Turner (my Alderman at the time) was exceptionally responsive in that he was typically one of the few on the Council who would take the time to respond to my e-mail communications with the entire Council. In his responses, he would always acknowledge the communication that I had sent him. Not only was it clear that he had read what I had sent, but he typically took it a step further and actually asked questions in response.
Ald. Rogina (my other Alderman at the time) maintained an extensive e-mail communication with me throughout this whole issue, and even took additional time for face-to-face meetings. It was clear that he was trying his level best to fully understand all the issues surrounding this project and, in good scholarly debate fashion, was unafraid to play Devil's advocate in our discussions. As a part-time academic who is married to a Ph.D/full-time academic, I respect that, even if it did make for some frustrating time spent over cups of coffee with him.
Last, Ald. Lewis (who is not my Alderman, and does not even represent anybody in the area that will be directly impacted by this development) also took the time to maintain an e-mail correspondence with me. Going one step further, she also took the highly unusual (but very welcome) step of stopping by my home one day to discuss the issue in person. She is to be additionally commended for being the only person on the entire Council who had the good sense to hold up a copy of the 2007 Comprehensive Plan Amendment (which is the guidance document, prepared by the City, that established the vision for what we, as a community, wanted to happen on that site when it was developed) and ask the developer 'we want development on this property to look like this. Why don't your designs look anything like these pictures?'
Yes, the community is deeply divided right now, feeling hurt, feeling abused, and feeling like our government has little interest in being bothered to represent our interests. That much is very real, and it is going to take an awful lot of time and effort by whoever wins the Mayoral election in April to change the culture at the Municipal Building and to work to undo the damage from the self-inflicted disaster that felled us all on Monday night. Despite those painful truths (which will not be soon, if ever, forgotten), it is worth taking a minute to recognize the efforts of our elected representatives who stood firm with us in our hour of need. Thank you again to Aldermen Stellato, Turner, Rogina, Krieger, and Lewis; you give us hope that we can re-group and rise above this train wreck that we have all been forced to endure.