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THE YERKES LAMENT

They came from Chicago. They came on Monday night. They did not come riding on white chargers, or even driving inside of them. They came in quietly, those executive officers of the University of Chicago. There were hundreds of citizens gathered at the city hall board of trustees meeting. The Yerkes Observatory is the greatest “anchor” property located around Geneva Lake. In fact, it is the greatest observatory within hundreds, if not thousands of miles. The university tried to sell the place ten years ago, but due to the games it tried to play on the citizens of Williams Bay, the whole deal fell apart. A company called Hummel tucked its tail between its legs and ran all the way to Lake Geneva where it was more successful in bamboozling the citizens of Lake Geneva (to the tune of 3.5 million bucks, and it’s not done with that city yet). The University went into full retreat, pulled the property off the market, and went back to staring into the night skies instead of into board members pocketbooks. And the Yerkes survived.

Now, the University, under brand new management, according to Anthony Pithy, sent forth to do the hard work of convincing the people of Williams Bay to eat poop, flavored to be anything else, talked for fifteen minutes about how this time around the mistakes of the past would not be repeated. But he did drop the deadly phrase three times (as the cock crowed): “we will be changing the ownership of the property.”

They are trying to sell Yerkes again. This time there are going to be about three thousand meetings prior to the October 1st deadline. When Williams Bay, George Williams College and none of the rest of the communities or institutions can pony up tens of millions of dollars, the University of Chicago will, this time, finally, be “forced” to sell the whole thing, lakefront property, and all 77 acres, to private buyers. There will be no stain of avarice, no abandonment issues, no Einsteinian complications to let the quieted and bored to death public fight against the University of Chicago, the untarnished pearl of Illinois education. They will have done the right thing. That the community may be left bereft and damaged on into the ages ahead will be no concern of theirs.

The full 15-minute dissertation by the well-polished executive from the University of Chicago is on the Facebook site of the Geneva Shore Report and shown below. There is nothing in this written story about what happened at the first meeting that does not match up with the threadbare facts the executive presented. That the “change of ownership” has little or nothing to do with donating the building and grounds of the facility to Williams Bay is obvious. The conclusion that the whole facility will be sold off as one is also blatantly obvious. The executive did state that the equipment inside the Yerkes would not be taken or sold off, mostly because the main campus down in Illinois does not have any place to put it. That last part was said to the board of trustees and the hundreds present as a humorous comment, but truth is many times delivered in that way. The public was allowed to comment after the meeting, limited to three minutes for each person so interested. The comments went on and on into the night, almost all of them made about the grief the citizens present were already beginning to feel. As intended. There is a huge issue that sat like the invisible elephant in the proverbial living room during the meeting. The issue of money. The executive was “not prepared” to discuss how much the facility costs to operate, either by the month or year. The Yerkes elephant remains invisible, and in denial, if not completely silent.

Meeting at Williams Bay

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