Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Park 550 Elections Canceled Due to Improper Notice

Due to improper notice by the Park 550 Advisory Council, there were no elections held last night as planned. According to Chicago Park District guidelines, announcement of PAC elections are to be posted 14 days prior to the election in "its respective park." Ironically, the Park 550 Advisory Council Web site has a link to the CPD Web site that includes the above requirement.

The sample bylaws provided by the CPD, Section 3, has this to say regarding elections: "Written notice of all elections shall be posted in the [name of facility] Park Field house. If there is no field house at the respective park, notice shall be posted at the nearest park and/or community facility 14-days prior to the election." In Section 4 of the sample bylaws it says "All meetings of the PAC shall be open to the public and proper notice must be posted at the park field house at least 14 days prior to the meeting date." Section 2 which speaks to the term of office says this: "Officers are limited to [a] one year term of office."

The South Loop field house at 1801 S. Indiana Ave.
If the elections were held on January 25, 2011 as planned, all council positions (president, vice president, treasurer) would have been up. An entirely new council could have been elected last night. According to PAC president, Jeffrey Ayersman, the CPD's recommended or suggested bylaws can be amended. It is not clear whether or not the current PAC is operating under any bylaws. Ayersman expressed concern about the "continuity of the council" and the impact a complete turnover might have on the "momentum" of the PAC and its goals. Ayersman is working to "amend" the bylaws to prevent a complete turnover.

The information that the CPD provides PACs includes information on its policy. Under section A. "Memberships and Meetings," it states "Once the initial officers have been elected the PAC is free to amend its bylaws to address its purposes, goals and membership needs." The current PAC was elected over a year ago (October 22, of 2009 to be exact, which begs the question why the elections were scheduled for January?). Why schedule an election without having bylaws in place and the election process clearly defined? Despite their stated "momentum" and "progress," governance should have been a priority from the outset. Bylaws should have been adopted early on to make sure they demonstrated transparency (a key to building trust with the community).

The information posted on the Park 550 Web site included no information on what positions were up for election. The Web site also said (as of today, it still says) "A more detailed agenda will be provided after the holidays." As far as anyone can tell, an agenda wasn't made public until the day of the meeting, even though the elections were only canceled on Friday January 21, 2011. There was no mass e-mail, there was no notice posted to the Park 550 Web site, nothing posted at the field house itself to make the community aware of this. As noted already, the Web site still reads "Park 550 Advisory Council Open Meeting and Elections Tuesday January 25th, 2011, 6:30pm - at the facility location, 1801 S. Indiana Ave." To anyone visiting the Web site, it would appear that the elections took place.

As of this writing, January 26, 2011, the election announcement is still posted.
The PAC have yet to complete a 501c3 application as stated last night. In spite of the expense, shouldn't the council make sure that the fund raising they do can be deemed tax exempt?  Is this why no further fund raising has been done?  The board can pat themselves on the back for "progress" but one fundraiser in over 12 months of existence could be improved upon. Community members are asking if they can organize to raise funds for the childrens's area of the park. It is sad that an effort by parents was delayed for another six weeks to further stall progress. Let's hope that the parents get their say in the future of the park by running for an advisory council position.

The South Loop community appreciates the volunteers who help make our quality of life better. However, when recommended processes and procedures are not followed, it should give us pause.Why was an election scheduled without bylaws in place? When will we be informed of the new bylaws' adoption and the impact they will have on the PAC elections? These are questions the community needs answers to so we can be informed and make good decisions when electing members to the council.

The PAC council election has been rescheduled for March 1, 2011. For more information, please contact the Park 550 Web site and/or contact the advisory council directly. If you have trouble contacting the Advisory Council, please let me know.

Update: The Park 550 Advisory Council updated their Web site to include the rescheduled election date today, Thursday January 27, 2011. This is almost a week after acknowledging the election was canceled Friday January 21, two business days before the scheduled election was to take place on January 25, 2011. There is no new information at the Web site, no information on why the date was rescheduled. Additionally, there are no specifics on the number of council positions up for election or about the process.


  1. Thanks for asking the right questions. We weren't able to be at the meeting but are grateful for those who keep us informed. Keep up the great work.

  2. Why would anyone expect anything else from the likes of PDNA hacks Jeff Ayersman and Tina Feldstein. They haven't held an "open" election for their organization since they started it in 2007. Like the PDNA Jeff and Tina think they are entitiled to the officers postions at the Park550 Advisory council for life. Wake up south loop.

  3. According to the PDNA Facebook page, they were established in 2006, so Ayersman and Feldstein have been its principal offices for five years straight.

  4. This fighting between GSLA and PDNA is really tiresome. You don't think that there have been longstanding Board members on the GSLA? Is continued service in an unpaid position within a community organization now somehow a bad thing?

    You obviously have an axe to grind against PDNA and their prominent Board members. From my perspective I am very grateful for their service. They started the organization from scratch and spend countless volunteer hours organizing and bringing events into our community. That they continue to do so while taking flack from bloggers is a further credit to them.

  5. I have been to meetings and events with both organizations (the PDNA and the GSLA) and from my own personal experience, I have found the GSLA to be the more open, honest and transparent organization.

    I was not aware of any feud between the two groups and have heard from people that the GSLA is more than willing to work with the PDNA to continue to improve the south loop community.

    As for "continued service in an unpaid postion" is concerned, both Jeff and Tina should be aware of the perception in the community that the board positons of the PDNA are really not open for transparent elections.

    The PDNA appears to be their own privately run they do some good? Sure. Are there conflicts-of-interest happening between the PDNA and the Park550 Advisory bet.

    Just one example that was brought to light in the past two months is the fact that Tina Feldstein is the private owner of the Park550 Advisory Council's website. So, what happens to all the names entered into that website? Are they shared with the PDNA? What happens if Tina is no longer with the Park550 Advisory Council? Do you think she will assign the ownership of the website over to anyone else (besides Jeff Ayersman)?

    Let's see how the election with Park550 goes in March and let's see if these conflicts-of-interest are addressed.

    Thanks Stephen for keeping tabs of this important community issue.

  6. I second that.......Steve, you are doing a wonderful job at keeping everyone informed and trying to keep people above board.

    We appreciate people (Tina, Jeff, etc.)giving up their time to volunteer but in doing so, you must be open, upfront and willing to share all information. Additionally, it is important to allow others to run for the various position if they are interested and willing. Attempting to Change by-laws/rules at the last hour is not a good thing

    Bottom line, we all care and love the community. So, lets work together.

  7. To the anonymous poster alleging a feud between the PDNA and the GSLA, let’s set the record straight. This blogger, who is identified by name for all to see, has volunteered for both organizations. I know many good people from both the GSLA and the PDNA. Please tell me who at the GSLA has remained the president and treasurer for five straight years?

    Now, why won’t the anonymous poster address the facts? Tina Feldstein and Jeff Ayersman ran for the Park 550 Council touting their experience with setting up the PDNA. In fifteen months, they have not established a 50lc3 account, they have not established clear bylaws, nor have they been open with sharing information with the public on the workings of the council. I requested minutes from the elections held in October 2009. They were not readily available; the secretary didn’t have them. Why not? Isn’t 15 months enough time for “pros” like Mr. Ayersman and Ms. Feldstein to make sure that minutes from over a year ago are available? According to the Chicago Park District guidelines, minutes should be available at the field house location.

    If you go to the Park 550 Web site, the council asks for donations. People making donations through the council should expect their contributions to be tax-free. Currently they are not, yet there is no notice informing individuals of this fact. Additionally, why after 15 months, are checks to be sent to Ms. Feldstein at her home instead of the established field house address?

    Again, Mr. Ayersman and Ms. Feldstein ran for office based on their experience. They have chosen to ignore Chicago Park District guidelines. They came before the community and announced that they want to change the bylaws (again, if they haven’t established bylaws in 15 month’s time, why?) so that certain positions won’t be up for election. Since most of us are probably members of condo and town home associations, what would you do if your board tried to change the rules…on election day!

    This isn’t an issue between the GSLA and the PDNA. This is an issue of people not following the rules and thinking they don’t apply to them. Answer the questions I’ve addressed in the blog post and here, if you can…and have the courage to sign your name.

  8. Don't hold your breath waiting for a response from the PDNA. They have spent years crafting their image as community advocates and avoiding honest and transparent dialogue about their actual intentions and obvious conflcits of interest.

  9. Where is the Adlerman on this issue? This is a great place to show some leadership. How about a community meeting to get to the bottom of this with the Alderman and the Chicago Park District?

  10. The Alderman and all the candidates running for Alderman were asked to respond. We'll see if any of them are willing to comment.

  11. Hi everyone. I don't live in the South Loop but I so enjoy spending time in this vibrant and booming community. I've kept up with the cool happenings of the community through this blog which is well-written and quite informative, thank you Stephen.

    I've looked on the Park 550 Advisory Council Website and noticed it says it's a non-profit. What is their not-profit status exactly? Is it a 501 (c)((3)) as recognized by the IRS code governing non-profits? This should be posted on the website, typically in a tab labeled "About Us" or "Who Are We".

    Unfortunately I have more questions: Are they incorporated through the Secretary of State? Any Articles of Incorporation? Are there any financial or year-end statements or annual audit by an independent auditor or accounting firm? And, lastly what about the governing board, who is ultimately responsible for the workings of this organization?

    As an aside, if this organization is not recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)((3)) tax-exempt organization your donations are NOT tax-deductible.

    For the record it is ill-advised and illegal on so many levels to call yourself a non-profit or tax-exempt organization without going through the proper channnels like the IRS & state government agencies. This should have been done either before the organization officially begins or shortly thereafter. Yes it's long process but if it wants credibility and transparency the organization will do what's necessary to clear up their status.

    As a non-profit professional I would never align myself with such an organization either as a volunteer, employee, or member. It's looks shady & dishonest and I wouldn't want my professional reputation ruined by such an association. It's deeply disturbing that this group is so secretive about it's operations.

  12. wow, i can not believe the mischaracterization of the meeting

    what meeting was the blog poster at, because the content, information, discussion, and attitude was nothing like what is being represented

    i was at the meeting and the information, updates, program, and kids summer camp discussion was great news. the new public art proposal for womens park was icing. there was also some update on the 16th^wabash dog park name proposal from a women from the aldermans office who chose the name.

    the only negative of the meeting was someone behind me in the back seemed like he had a personal issue with the meeting hosts, was rude, and condesending

    after the meeting one of the park district employees, forgot her title, profusely aplogized to me, telling me she dropped the ball wrt
    posting the hard copy locally

    thanks to the hard work and dedication of those guys and gals.

  13. The Park District is not responsible for the PAC's posting of the sign, for one. If it was the CPD's fault, why wasn't this disclosed? The CPD representative sat right next to me; why didn't she take responsibility? One only needs to read the guidelines provided by the CPD to know it's the PAC's responsibility to post meeting/election notices.

    Additionally, the PAC in 15 months has not established bylaws, as recommended by the CPD.

    The PAC president wants to change the bylaws to allow officers to serve more than one year, contrary to the suggested guidelines provided by the CPD to the PAC over a year ago. If he wanted to serve longer than a one year term, or wanted terms staggered, he and the council could have established this from the outset. Literally on election day, the PAC president announced he wanted to change the bylaws.

    Please address why the PAC didn't follow basic governance as suggested by the CPD? Why is it okay to ignore basic principles of governance, please?

  14. those things are not my area of expertise, nor do i or you know

    but from an outsiders view, and please do not take this the wrong way, you need to take a step back from the keyboard

    your writings here really do mischarcterize
    the meeting message and displays what is an obvious a personal grudge that frankly is quite embarrassing to witness

    my girls and family have been using the facility, the CPD programsm and the extra programs proposed by the AC and we love it

  15. Dear South Loop Mom,

    You can read the rules and guidelines set up by the Chicago Park district. You don't need to be an expert; the rules are clear.

    The question is why hasn't the PAC followed them? These are questions you should be concerned about.If the rules don't matter to you okay. But there is nothing wrong with asking questions and expecting answers from people who are accountable to the community.

    The elections weren't held because the PAC didn't post a proper notice, as spelled out in the CPD guidelines. All officers were up for election on Tuesday. Because of this error on the PAC's part they now want a do-over; they want to rewrite the bylaws so they don't get voted out of office on March 1. Changing the rules on election day doesn't bother you?

    You can read the rules for yourself. Everyone should read them. Here's the link.

    P.S. The only person in front of me was someone on the PAC. Why would anyone from the CPD apologize to you if you weren't on the committee? And why didn't they apologize to the community at large if they were responsible for the gaff?

  16. and you know what went on behind the scenes exactly because of why?

    and she told me because i asked the question nicely - are you now going to intimidate me and other south loop moms liers?

  17. To the southloopmom, I don't think this is an issue about the "park district" facility per se. This is an issue about the Park550 Advisory Council. The park facility seems quite nice and I am glad that you and other neighbors are enjoying it...that was a good outcome.

    The challenge that some of us in the neighborhood have with the Park550 Advisory Council and the Park District that seems to be currently enabling them is the fact that they are not "playing by the rules".

    Is your personal information safe and confidential once you enter it into the Park550 Advisory Council's website? Did you know that the website is "owned" by a private person (Tina Feldstein) and not by the Park District? What happens to all of the data (names, addresses, phone numbers)? Who monitors and controls it?
    What if Tina is voted off the board, will she assign ownership of the site to the council?

    I know that these are questions that on the surface seem trivial, but they are not. They strike at the heart of the challenge for some residents and that is that the leadership of the Park550 Advisory Council, which is the same leadership of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance have serious ethical issues.

    This is why these questions need to be addressed and why people in the community need to be concerned about this election and the changing of the by-laws. We need honest, transparent and ethical leadership with the Park550 Advisory Council.


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