...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon

“Her Opinion of And Thats My Opinion

Lindsay Thomas is a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern U.  Last week she and I sat down over coffee for a 1½ hour interview.  I am sharing the resulting article because it is fun to blow one’s own horn, especially when someone else provides the instrument.  I enjoyed her description of me!

 

 

Sandy

By Lindsay Thomas

 

Self-proclaimed “Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon” Sandy Goldman writes online about everything from his travels in Peru to the alderman’s relationship with real estate developers.  Don’t tell Sandy Goldman that he writes a blog.  “I prefer to call them essays. Bloggers write everyday and they solicit responses,” the 74-year-old Rogers Park resident said over coffee. “And, I’m not looking for debate.”

 

After living in this politically animated community for almost half of a century, Sandy has seen his share of debates – 229 community meetings, to be exact, said Carol, his wife of 51 years.   But now the couple no longer attends the meetings as diligently as they once did.  “We still like to go to the meetings if it’s about something relevant to us,” Carol said. “Or, if we think it’s going to be about something weird.”

 

Sandy used to be a regular, outspoken presence, who sometimes shouted at meetings about everything from zoning, protecting the lakefront or developing run-down Rogers Park streets. , Now the grandfather of four says whatever he wants on his own Web site called “And that’s my opinion.”

 

He also calls himself the Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon. Sandy has joined the growing number of far North Side residents who, discontented with Rogers Park development, politics within the community or just the alderman himself, have turned to publishing their thoughts on Web sites or blogs.

 

Few, however, can say they knew what Rogers Park was like in the late 1950s.  “The apartments were beautiful, large, expensive – we couldn’t afford them,” said Sandy. “East and west Rogers Park looked like Wilmette with stately mansions.”  He remembers places like Mort Gibian Bootery, Tuckers Store for Men and the Pan Dee Snack Shop, as if they are still just around the corner.

 

Sandy grew up in Lakeview, when the area was lined with brownstones and Rogers Park was a place to go for its sights and sounds on Friday evenings.

 

He and Carol moved into Rogers Park following an 18-month stint in Germany while Sandy was in the Army. They lived in apartments before buying a house in 1970 on Touhey and Ashland. For the next three decades, they watched their community change drastically.  The stately mansions were converted into nursing homes, politicians brought in more subsidized housing and “north of Howard became the kind of dumping ground that it still is today,” he said.

 

He has a laundry list of potential reasons why Rogers Park has continued to decline from its status as a once-vibrant community: bad landlords, social service agencies, drug dealers, badly maintained buildings, crime, unkempt alleys and streets. The list, to be sure, could go on, he said.  “I don’t mind living in an ethnically diverse community, but I have qualms about the economic status of the area,” Sandy said. “We need more middle-income families. It’s a snobby approach, but it’s a salvation.”

 

Carol began working on housing issues for the Rogers Park Community Council and, because of her, Sandy became involved in the community.    “All of a sudden, it was gangbusters and off we went,” he said. He held a number of volunteer positions at the RPCC, including vice president and president.

 

“I remember when the former Mayor Daley was going to sell off some beachfront land from Devon to Howard in Rogers Park,” Sandy’s best friend Jim Brockhagen said. “We all sent him one pound bags of sand – 100,000 pounds of sand in total – and he finally decided not to sell it. Sandy was one of the organizers for that.”  

 

But what he is most known for, at least among longtime Rogers Parkers, is the carnivals.  Three times a year, in the ’70s and early ’80s, Sandy would organize carnivals to raise money for the council. What began as a 5-day event along the lakefront, became a 10-day “come out of your cave activity” complete with rides, games and more than 350 volunteers.   “He was usually the chairman, and we were the gofers,” laughed Bill Bennett, a friend to Sandy for about 30 years. “It was a great community then. It was a fellowship and you knew your neighbors.” Bennett lived in Rogers Park for 30 years but moved to Park Ridge in 1993.

 

Sandy remained active in the RPCC until 1997, when he wrote a column for the newsletter in which he criticized Ald. Joe Moore (47th). According to Sandy, he upset several members of the council and was given the choice of resigning from the board or his wife resigning from her salaried position, due to an obscure rule that bars relatives from holding office.  Thus, he left and began his venture into Web publishing. Carol serves as his editor and webmaster. And Sandy continues to keep a critical eye on Moore.  “I don’t dislike Joe, but I dislike his politics,” Sandy said.

 

He publishes whenever he feels like it and not always on local topics. A recent column detailed his thoughts on American Olympic gold medalists who don’t know the words to the national anthem, why Moore is “cozy with developers” and his affection for Craig Gernhardt who writes the “Broken Heart of Rogers Park” blog.   “Sandy will ask me, ‘did you get my latest column?’” said Joe Hollenkamp, a longtime friend and Rogers Park resident. “Sandy, I’ll say, I read it, but I don’t know that I got it.

 

 “He’s not as curmudgeonly as you’d like to believe…He waxes nostalgic quite a bit, and he has more panache than those other [bloggers],” Hollenkamp said.  His panache apparently has not gone unnoticed. Moore has been known to respond to Sandy’s columns every now and then in what Carol calls a “ping pong game.”  “I get constant feedback,” Sandy said. He has a readership of about 1,200 people, according to Carol, who has been typing up his thoughts and correcting his spelling since they were undergraduates at Lake Forest College on Chicago’s North Shore. The two rarely agree on anything politically.

 

“But Carol always says, ‘Sandy, you have to answer all the time,’ he smiled. “So I do.”

 

 

...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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