A few things worth discussing
Politics, the Y block and puppies
Last week’s forums for aldermanic candidates sponsored by Inner City Older Neighborhoods were equally bemusing, informative and maddening. Ward 1 Ald. Chuck “MIA” Redpath was the only incumbent who didn’t show up. He may not have needed to, given that he got 75 percent of the vote in 2015 against Rev. T. Ray McJunkins, who’s running again. Then there’s Ward 4 Ald. John “Jordan Rules” Fulgenzi, who did appear, but 24 hours later than scheduled – it was a two-night affair, with candidates for five positions appearing on one night and candidates for the other five appearing on the second night. Redpath says he didn’t show because he was at the GOP’s Lincoln Day dinner. Fulgenzi, also, was at the same shindig, listening to keynoter Oliver North, head of the National Rifle Association and architect of the Iran-Contra affair. Questions at the ICON affair mostly were softballs, with a ban on criticizing anyone, which gave politicos a chance to float ideas without being attacked, and there’s merit to that. Some ideas were better than others. Streets embedded with solar panels might be swell, but they’re hard to imagine in a town that still uses coin-operated parking meters. The future of Capital Township proved the usual taffy pull, with some saying the city should step in, others saying let the county do it, still others saying leave it alone and Ward 3 Ald. Doris “Realpolitik” Turner, who is running unopposed, giving the best answer: It’s all politics. If you plan on voting and if you care about your neighborhood, it was a shindig worth watching – some newcomers sounded pretty good, but judge for yourself. If you missed it, go to ICON’s website at www.springfieldicon.org and catch the rerun.
WHY THE Y BLOCK? What to do with the downtown tract once home to the now-demolished YWCA is again front-and-center as state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is pushing for $50 million in state money to build some sort of Southern Illinois University campus – exactly what it might be hasn’t been nailed down, but there’s talk of a law school (good) and a public policy center (which seems redundant, seeing as we already have one at Second and Capitol). A law school is better than no school, but why not put one in an existing building instead of spoiling perfectly nice greenery on which students might play Frisbee? It’s not like we don’t have plenty of vacant space from which to choose. The armory on Monroe Street needs some love, as does the Bressmer building on Adams Street. The selfish part of me says educate budding lawyers in shuttered Benedictine University down the street from my house. To put a campus on the Y block seems a peculiar sort of inner-city sprawl in a city that needs businesses and bodies in empty buildings, not more buildings. Save the Y block for a developer who’ll put up private money to build something that will generate tax revenue, and if that takes forever, we can wait. In the meantime, plant better grass, and let’s toss Frisbees.
SPEAKING OF EMPTY BUILDINGS Don’t expect another retail behemoth at White Oaks Mall now that Simon Property Group, the mall’s owner, has acquired 125,000 square feet of space vacated by Bergner’s in the course of bankruptcy. White Oaks made the cut five years ago when Simon shed what it considered its least-promising malls, and the acquisition last week of the Bergner’s property suggests the company remains bullish on Springfield. The company has been replacing retail space with apartments, condos and hotels in Florida, Georgia, Washington and other states, but Simon isn’t saying whether it might follow suit in Springfield. CEO David Simon last fall told investors he also likes small retail stores. “Our industry got just too carried away with having all these big department-store boxes,” Simon said during the October conference call to discuss earnings.
Contact Bruce Rushton at email@example.com.