Purchases: Of Urban Pride and Prejudice

Years ago, when I was thinking about moving to Chicago and buying an apartment, I gave careful consideration with my now-wife about where we wanted to settle and raise a family. As we both came from procurement and supply chain backgrounds, we had total cost and utility in mind from the start. Being able to walk to school, take the bus around, and expose our kids to diversity all factored into our decision to move to Lakeview, which is nestled in between Wrigleyville (home to the most disappointing baseball team), Lincoln Park, and the city’s lakefront.

Looking back on the move nearly 15 years ago, I have few regrets. On the diversity front, we struck out. That is, unless you define diversity as being on only a single side of an issue. I doubt, for example, that anyone in our apartment building besides us knows much about what Adam Smith wrote on the topic of basic economic theory before it was actually a subject to be studied. But I’d rather live among open-minded idiots than closed-minded bigots any day.

And at least the chance exists that they might one day open up an economics book and realize that by supporting things like a minimum wage hike, they’re actually reducing local economic growth and full employment rather than helping the situation. It’s a bit like giving the homeless people who congregate outside our local Walgreens – and do a mean business in selling feel-good indulgences – a buck rather than truly contributing in a constructive way to ending homelessness in the first place, but I’ll leave it at that.

The purpose of my essay today is not to lambast the general economic illiteracy of my neighbors or berate them for handing over a buck to someone who makes more taking out a tin cup than they could in an actual job. Rather, I take up the virtual pen to lament the decline of one of the best characteristics of the neighborhood I call home – a celebration of true diversity and a respect for one’s neighbors regardless of their own proclivities.

My wife and I purchased the apartment we did in large part because we appreciated the celebration of diversity in Lakeview – at least superficial diversity. The fact the gay and lesbian population could largely live in harmony with young and old traditional families greatly appealed to us. And the respect everyone afforded each other seemed like a wonderful way to live. This, of course, is aside from the fact that concentrated gay populations tend to judge housing prices correctly in a wisdom of the crowd type of way – i.e., where they live is often a smart real estate market to buy into.

For many years, the Gay Pride Parade in the heat of the summer marked the culmination of this openness. People of various backgrounds and orientations could be seen cheering on the parade as it worked its way down the local street. Everyone was respectful (granted, there are some outfits – or lack thereof in certain spots – that I’d rather my children not see). But the respect extended to being respectful of the neighborhood, including cleaning up one’s beer cans and vodka bottles after the party.

In recent years, however, the Pride parade has marked an opportunity for every manner of troublemaker to trash Lakeview, leaving garbage and pavement pizza for all to see and be nauseated by for days after the event. If it were any other population that left this mess or conducted themselves the way they do, the city would be up in arms. But in this case, everyone has largely kept quiet over the truly wretched behavior that shows no respect for one of the first urban neighborhoods that welcomed openness in the first place.

Alas, if there is any silver lining in showing respect for diversity in Lakeview and on the lakefront, it came a few days later, during the Fourth of July weekend. Going for a morning run up and down the trails, I saw numerous Hispanic families setting up camp in the giant public park to celebrate this nation’s founding with all day barbeques. It was impossible to run off the trail itself and not trip over a grill! Alcohol was clearly flowing, even in the morning. But everyone was respectful. It almost made me tear up that the fastest growing segment of the population in the States takes the celebration of the Fourth so seriously. I truly loved every minute of it.

The next day, the lakefront was clean. People took their garbage home. Of course I can’t say the same for my own streets after the Pride Parade this year – some of which remained strewn with the remains of garbage and vomit for days until the city got around to cleaning it up. At least the pride of a rising diverse demographic is making up for the selfish prejudice of a group that now cares more about partying for themselves than living in urban harmony.

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Voices (2)

  1. Pierre Mitchell:

    We must however always be wary of rotely ascribing bad behaviors to any demographic, but rather, try to determine whether the behavior is due to the actor, the setting, or certain attributes of the demographic that may in fact be relevant. Then we can try to find a tolerable solution. Like problems in business, such a social or individual problem is highly multi-variate.
    So, is the beggar innately bad due to being homeless, addicted, etc. or is the beggar a rational economic actor choosing $20/hour begging over $7.25? Similarly, are Hispanics innately neat and respectful in public gatherings (ask the US soccer team when they play in Mexico City!)? Are gay people innately a group that is entitled and disrespectful? Or is the event history/expectations and the alcohol itself the problem?

    First, you obviously have to focus on the behavior and have extrinsic rewards/penalties that are meaningful. In begging example, a reasonable minimum wage indexed to inflation is the ‘reward’ (or basic right depending on your view) and day in jail for pandering as punishment. For the parade, give fair warning and don’t renew the event license if the warning is ignored.
    How about a procurement example?..
    Is a maverick spender bad? see http://spendmatters.com/2013/05/29/maverick-spending-is-your-friend-dont-chase-it-ride-it/
    Another example: Let’s say your find your Ariba sales rep to be extremely arrogant, but you like the solution. Is it the rep or is it the company culture? If the latter, then you can drop them, but if the former, punish the behavior and talk to VP-Sales and/or get a new rep. Same goes with any supplier. It’s easy to project bad behavior onto a company or a demographic without understanding what’s driving it. I think a key skill in procurement and in life is to really listen to what’s being said, to understand root causes, and be able to self-reflect on your own biases in order to plot a course of action.

    This is my biggest beef with people who are overly political and intellectually lazy when they don’t argue the merits of an issue, but rather try to link the argument, or worse, the arguer, to a demographic or political party. At that point, the two way flow of information is gone. Your issue has been tainted and now associate everything that is wrong in the world. Good luck winning the argument. I won’t even touch when the issue gets associated with religion and your favorite prophet.

    But, this is a blog post for another day!

  2. Eric Blair:


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