The [Friday] Papers
Wow. The outpouring of opposition to the Chicago Children's Museum's proposed move to Grant Park has been astounding. I'd like to think the hullabaloo is backlash to a mayor whose racial comments finally went too far. On the other hand, Richard M. Daley pulled the same stunt when it came to the Big Box ordinance and there wasn't a peep.
What explains it?
My guess is the deep love and sense of ownership Chicagoans feel for Grant Park. Which is great - though I wish Chicagoans would feel as deeply about police torture and an administration built on corruption and fraud.
Maybe the answer to that, though, is that Chicagoans get something they want out of protecting Grant Park: a free and open park forever on the most valuable land in the city. And Chicagoans at least perceive they get something they want from a dirty City Hall: A city that works.
Of course, I don't believe that. A clean clout-free City Hall would have stopped this Children's Museum nonsense long ago; a new location would already have been found and we'd be on our way. And the mayor might even be forced to address the criminally deteriorated CTA among other pressing issues instead of finding a diversion.
But perhaps there is some sort of insight into the public's mind to be found here.
"Is Daley jamming the TV stations?!" a faithful Beachwood reader said in a voice mail message left for me.
We live under the kind of rule where that sort of joke is possible.
Pritzker Pucker, meanwhile, did her cause no favors, stating:
* That she finds it "disturbing" that the dialogue is about race. Ponce unfortunately let that one go, failing to ask, "So was the mayor wrong? Has he gotten this debate off track?"
* That the opposition is about race. Asked for hard evidence, she unconvincingly cited a meeting with racial undertones and notes received by Father Michael Pfleger. (What does he have to do with this anyway?)
* That "we heard differently, we saw differently" than downtown alderman Ald. Brendan Reilly, who attended nine community meetings and has reported no such undertones.
* That "a lot of kids who come to our museum don't even know there's a lake." You mean the kids who come from Iowa? Because even poor Chicago kids know there's a lake.
* That the demographics of the kids who attend the museum are "pretty diverse." That was as specific as she could get. (A Sun-Times editorial today says the typical visitor to the museum is white, six years old, and accompanied by a parent.)
* That "we have raised money for this location." Aha!
* That clout has nothing to do with it. "The reality is, the mayor listens to a lot of people." All evidence to the contrary - especially this week.
* That this won't set a precedent because "I don't think we'll have a plethora of institutions trying to get into the park." A plethora of institutions have tried to get into the park for 171 years. That's why we have a lakefront ordinance that had to be reaffirmed so many times by the courts.
* That she is trying to "give a gift to the city" and that the museum is "a hidden gem." The Children's Museum, however, is hardly beloved because it is so mediocre.
Just to be clear, Monroe and Columbus was the previous location in Grant Park the museum was chased out of. So Bicentennial Plaza isn't even their - or the mayor's - first choice.
CLARIFICATION SATURDAY 7:30 A.M.: A reader writes: This is incorrect. Daley Bi was number one. Monroe/Columbus became number two after the first go round when Natarus was in office.
RESPONSE: This may very well be true; what I wrote was a clumsy way of trying to distinguish between the Monroe/Columbus and Bicentennial Plaza sites so readers wouldn't be confused by the excerpt. I wasn't aware of a previous attempt to locate in Bi Plaza.
NEW COMMENT 1:49 P.M. (from a Beachwood reader with reason to remain anonymous): That may be true. But Daley doesn't see it that way - and the aldermen don't see it that way. Now that the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs has been decimated, the mayor lacks the big stick to keep wayward aldermen in line. IGA's powers were huge . . . more than just the patronage office. If you're an alderman they could slow-up projects in your ward; if you have a beef with a city official as alderman, they could back the official over you and kill your project, or embarrass you come re-election time. Without that tool anymore, Daley's got a breakaway alderman on the north end of downtown and the south end of downtown with Bob Fioretti. He also has the makings of an opposition bloc (ironically, he fed this bloc with his stance on the Children's Museum) and fears that if aldermen see blood in the water, his sway is endangered.
Whether all of this will turn to anything resembling open government does remain to be seen and I have my doubts. But I do know the folks are running scared because they've never been in this position before.
P.S.: Another sign that the mayor's stance was a failed, desperate bid: You've heard nothing from the black community, or its leaders backing the mayor in his stance. Where are the demonstrations, etc. . . . even from Father Mike . . . in support of this. Where are the other ministers that Daley has held in his pocket, to quote Virgil Sollozzo, "like so many dimes"? Silent . . .
X Marks the Spot
"My best advice for the alderman is to post a night watchman at the proposed site in Grant Park and report to him any movement of any construction backhoes into the area carving X's in the flower beds," Lindquist writes to the Sun-Times today (last letter).
Grant Park Follies
"Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Advisory Council, jokes that his usual response to citizens concerned about new construction in the park is this: 'Well, they're actually out there building it right now, but thanks for the public input."
Becker also notes that the Children's Museum is "but the latest in a long procession of hustles seeking to circumvent" the forever open, clear and free mandate. Calling Gigi Pritzker!
* "Grant Park's sadly divided state was addressed by the 2002 Grant Park Framework plan, which advocated narrowing or even closing roadways like Columbus Drive," notes Harvard professor Brent Ryan, who says the roadways encourage the fancies of developers.
* "Moms vs. Mayor," in which the Sun-Times's Mark Konkol checks out the neighborhood.
* NEW 12:37 P.M.: Cate Plys appears tonight on Outside the Loop radio at 6 p.m.
* NEW 1:37 P.M.: Boy, the Children's Museum is taking a big hit. I wonder if Gigi Pritzker will have to resign.
"According to Parents Magazine, which ranks children's museums throughout the country, the Chicago Children's Museum ranks 31st in the country, behind not only museums in Boston and New York, but also behind children's museums in Rockford, Bourbonnais and Decatur, Illinois," Yellow Dog Democrat writes at Illinoize.
"The Chicago Children's Museum's 31st place ranking puts it two spots below Waco, Texas and just above Little Rock, Arkansas."
Yellow Dog also lists is favorite, most ironic exhibits (the indoor BIG Backyard and Treehouse Trails) and notes that birthday parties there cost $350 to $500. Nice.
At this rate, the Children's Museum might want to just pack up and set sail from Navy Pier for a new location in another state. Maybe Michigan has some parkland available.
* Readers respond to Cate Plys's Open Letter to the Children's Museum. We'll continue to post replies as they come in.
* Want to comment on something in the Beachwood? Please do!
Just remember that we ask you to provide a real full name - unless you can give us a good reason why that would be a bad idea, i.e., you are in the mayor's inner circle and you want to tell us the real story without losing your job.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Children welcome.
Posted on September 21, 2007
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