Reflections on the state of Hyde Park and Kenwood

Brought to you by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website,

This page will contain selected occasional printed opinions or reflections on the state of the neighborhood.


By Tom Mullaney. Letter to Hyde Park Herald, August 27, 2008. Tom Mullaney is a respected long time active Hyde Parker.

Over the past year, I have been reading, with increasing dismay, about the shortcomings -- financial and otherwise -- that have plagued the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, the Co-Op and the Harper Court Arts Council. Without addressing the internal political and personal squabbles that plague every organization, it appears that all three institutions suffered from a lack of truly professional management and strong community involvement.

Strong community involvement traditionally has been a defining characteristic of Hyde Park. In past times, a committee was always ready to be formed to tackle any problem. Now, such committees are fewer, usually don't involve the broader community and thus have little public impact. We are fortunate to have the presence of the University of Chicago as a magnet for young professionals. Yet are the new residents moving here just for the good schools and high real estate values or are they also bringing a social consciousness and a willingness to chip in as well? I wonder.

I have called Hyde Park home for nearly 30 years. I have seen what is possible when real community citizens such as Leon Despres, Winston Kennedy, Hans Morsbach, Fran Billingsley and Mary Lou Womer give countless hours and their talents to turn ideas like the Ray School Parents Association, Hyde Park Kiwanis, 57th Street Books and Children's Book Fair and the 57th Street Art Fair into reality. Where are the same like-minded residents today/

I think we suffer from a sharp drop in volunteerism and, as a result, the best minds and hearts of our community are not engaged in preserving Hyde Park's special character into the 21st century. The many minor crises have snowballed into Herald headlines over the past year and speak about a larger sense of malaise and lack of leadership. When such a vacuum exists, it only allows persons with strictly personal agendas to gain control.

I hope the young and older residents of this community, particularly its activists and seasoned professionals, wil take a more forceful role in keeping Hyde Park a unique place so that the forces of self-interest, bumbling incompetence and even greed do not triumph.