| 9 | October 27, 1986—face to face again with Jesse Madison
We took cars to the Park District, and met with Madison, Martin, Galland and Meghier, who were waiting for us in their seats of power in the conference room. “I got a couple of designs,” said Bob Meghier. He showed us plans, labeled A and B. A had 5 trees1, B had 72. Both had limited soft-surfacing, directly under the play equipment. We asked if we could caucus privately. The Park District left the room.
We thought Plan B was preferable, but they were very similar. “We shouldn’t take their first offer,” said Nora, shaking her head. “We should ask for more soft-surfacing, more landscaping, and expansion.”
We called the Park District back in and stated our objections. Then Meghier pulled out a Plan C, which had more trees, bushes separating the playlot from the parking lot, more soft-surfacing, and a drinking fountain.3 (We had never even thought about asking for a drinking fountain!) Delia said, “This is better. But that parking lot is hardly used. Why not just tear down the fence and expand the playlot to the alley?”
“You can talk about this design, but there won’t be any expansion,” interjected Madison. “Maybe down the road, 3 to 5 years--come back and talk to me then. But first I have to create an affordable pilot program--then I’ve got 300 playlots to fix. So expansion won’t be on the table this year.”
We caucused again. “I wonder how many other plans they’re holding back,” said Miguel. We decided to abandon the idea of expansion for now, and to accept Plan C. We called the Park District back in.
“All right”, said Madison. “You can have Plan C, but…..I want to present it to your community at another meeting--same location--but this meeting will be organized and run by the Chicago Park District, not LSNA. Since I am delivering the improvements, I should take the credit. I’m going to announce the citywide pilot program. Be assured…I’ll give the community due credit for all that it’s done.”
Delia called for another caucus. The Park District left the room. “I didn’t want to agree to their running the meeting, until we talked,” said Delia.
Manuel said: “There’s always some risk of a double cross, when you don’t control the meeting floor.” Still, nobody envisioned a problem. So we called the Park District back in, agreed to their running the meeting, so long as they agreed to build Plan C during 1987. They agreed. They made us copies of all the plans, and we left with a great feeling of satisfaction.
The Park District called LSNA the next day and asked us to reserve the church for December 4th. In late October, we prepared and distributed a “victory” flyer reporting “progress”, but we did not say we had an agreement with the Park District. 4 “To produce, you have to maintain suspense,” said Manuel. “And you have to produce one more time. We have to show Madison our power in person, once, even though we have this agreement. But this should be the last time you’ll need to produce large numbers like this.”
As December 4th approached, we prepared a new flyer with Jesse Madison’s photo, captioned “I will be there to talk about fixing Playlot 293”. Manuel had us insert: “Now is the time to win!” in the flyer. “You want people to feel your passion,” he said. The flyers were distributed and posted on all the street lights near Playlot 293. You couldn’t walk down the street without seeing Jesse Madison’s face.5