Saturday, March 14, 2015

Opposition to Lakefront Renovations in Wilmette

Signs like this one can be seen on lawns all around the village of Wilmette, a suburb on the north shore of Chicago.

Recently, while driving down the streets of Wilmette, I have noticed many signs saying "Save Wilmette Lakefront, vote no on April 7th referendum". The April 7th referendum will decide whether the village of Wilmette will be able to carry out a $14.5 million renovation of the "Wilmette Lakefront" (Gilson park and Langdon park). Residents have mixed feelings about this plan.  In my opinion, $14.5 million is a steep price for what could potentially be only a million dollars worth of renovations. I am opposed to this project, but I don't agree with criticism saying that there are political motives behind the promotion of this project.

In an interview with the Chicago tribune, resident Robin Baugher, an opponent to the Lakefront Project, hinted that there was some political strategy involved in the Village Board's support for the project. "I think it's hubris…officials are very keen on putting their stamp on the lakefront and leaving their legacy", Baugher said. 

It's clear that she thinks that officials want "their stamp" on the lakefront. She means that the officials want some sort of accomplishment or legislation achieved during their time in office on the Village Board of Wilmette. She thinks that the board members just want this referendum to be their accomplishment during office. According to Merriam Webster's dictionary, the word "hubris" means "exaggerated pride or self-confidence". Baugher is suggesting that the board members are very prideful and want this project as a personal trophy of sorts.

In our American Studies class, we talked about this sort of political motive. Sometimes politicians will try to pass as many laws as possible in order to have their "stamp" on history, so that when they have left office, they can still look back and say "hey, I accomplished this during my time in office". The legacy achieved by some politicians is reminiscent of a school sports record where after the athlete leaves the school, he will always be remembered because of his record for most points. The upcoming $14.5 million beach renovation project seems like just the kind of project that will boost a resume or create a legacy. 

However, there is no solid evidence, no quotes on record to suggest that the village board wants to start this project solely for the purpose of creating a legacy. Although I think that this project is unnecessary, I think without any solid evidence we cannot conclude that the board's hubris has motivated them to complete this project. That would be too cynical of a viewing. My thought is that this may just be an overpriced and extravagant project that could only occur on the city's north-shore suburbs.

Do you guys think Baugher's insinuation is correct? 

1 comment:

  1. David, Interesting range of topics this term, and some increasing voice among posts (though curiously not really in this post). I like the local angle. Yes, Ms. B. seems to be inferring hubris, but isn't that reasonable? Why else might they pursue an expensive project that you, yourself, admit may only result in a tiny fraction of acutal renovations? By the way, though, is there anything wrong with such a goal? Why shouldn't they pursue such a trophy? Are there opportunity costs -- more pressing needs on which these funds might be spent that will now go ignored?