Here is an only-in-Chicago conspiracy theory that was presented to me yesterday by a resident of the Far North Side. The man lives just down the street from Rosehill Cemetery, and was telling me about the city’s plan to buy 20 acres of land in the northwest corner of the graveyard, and turn it into a park.
“It’s been talked about for years,” my informant said. “The land is mostly marsh, so they can’t bury people there. But things really got rolling on it when Emanuel became mayor.”
According to a Sun-Times story published last September, the city will buy the land for $7.8 million, then sell it for $1 to the park district, which will create a nature preserve with walking trails, a bird sanctuary and a fishing pond.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), whose ward includes Rosehill Cemetery, said the nature preserve has been in the works for nearly a decade — and Emanuel got the ball rolling on the purchase with his first congressional earmark.
Negotiations with a “very difficult owner” slowed the process down, but Emanuel picked up the pace shortly after taking office, the alderman said.
The day of our first meeting, he asked me what ever happened to that project. I told him we were getting very close with negotiations. He had the corporation counsel re-double his efforts, created a drop-dead date of Labor Day, and we made it,” O’Connor said.
“If there’s a park there, the city can put a speed camera at the corner of Peterson and Western,” the North Sider said. “Maybe that’s why Rahm is so eager to get this done.”
Peterson and Western is not on the list of speed-camera-approved corners published this week by The Expired Meter. It is, however, the intersection of the two busiest four-lane arterials on the Far North Side. A lot of people drive there, and they’re people in a hurry to get to Evanston, Lake Shore Drive or the Edens Expressway. In that location, turning a cemetery into a park is a brilliant move. Speeding is not a safety issue now, because everyone in Rosehill is already dead. But soon, the park will be full of children, the mayor’s favorite political shields. A speed camera at Peterson and Western could pay for the land in a very short time.
I have no way of knowing whether this was part of the mayor’s calculation in pushing the park forward. I’m sure his spokesperson would deny. But the fact that a Chicagoan immediately thinks “speed camera” when Emanuel announces a park opening says a lot about his image as the mayor who will do anything for money.
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