>REACT: Daley plays the race card … and it’s a joker

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In his attempt to bully support for a new Grant Park location for the Children’s Museum, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley deals the race card from the bottom of the deck. He accuses the citizens living in the highrises adjacent to the proposed location of being racists, who do not want “black or brown” kiddies to be drawn to their Loop neighborhood.

How low can the mayor go?

He blatantly calls tens of thousands of his citizens “racists,” when in fact that region of the city is populated by some of the most tolerant individuals in Chicago, including a bunch of “black and brown” parents. I would remind the mayor that this is the 42nd ward, not the old 11th.

The Mayor fails to note that the new Museum site is adjacent to the Chicago Park District field house named after his father. It is a field house, which hosts summer camp and other events for thousands of children – including many of those black and brown youngsters. Far from protesting the interracial kids’ programs and events, the neighbors include their own children among the enrollees.

If Chicago is a racially confrontational city, it is largely due to the historic race baiting tactics of the political machine. Using concocted racism as a straw man, the mayor actually promotes what he feigns to oppose.

This baseless accusation comes from a man whose family has presided over the most racially divided city in America, whose early elections were advanced by engendering racial fears over the possibility of a second black mayor, and who has successfully driven the low economic black and brown people out of the city to be displaced by suburban yuppies.

This shameless effort is designed to divert public attention away from the very legitimate reasons to deny the Children’s Museum the proposed site. It is the long-standing Grant Park covenant of keeping the lakefront as open space for the benefit of all the people, and to resist the eroding imposition of commercial venues.

Ironically, it is the mayor who has sold out to the mostly white upper crust of Chicago society. The overly costly Millennium Park was an elitist concept that gave more than ample opportunity to provide “naming rights” to the hoi polloi. It is a “park” that maintains 24 hour security guards to make sure the common folk do not bicycle, skate, run, walk dogs or trod on the sod – pleasures usually associated with urban parks.

Under the civic delirium of Millennium Park, the mayor provided space for a commercial restaurant — and yet another opportunity for the politically favored. The Harris Theatre was then allowed to intrude into the people’s commons – again for the glory and entertainment of the Windy City elite.

Another issue is traffic and parking. The mayor flips off this legitimate concern over congestion with “this is a city” — what every the hell that means. Development in that section of town is already overtaxing the transportation infrastructure. Perhaps his motive in jamming more people-attractions in that small area is to help the Grant Park garage fulfill its failed mission to finance the park.

The Children’s Museum is a wonderful thing. My family has enjoyed it over many years. There are innumerable sites where it can serve the public. How about on the south edge of Grant Park, for example? Or, to the west of the McCormack complex? Or hey! How about on underused Northerly Island (see Meigs Field).

The new 42nd ward alderman, Brendan Reilly, opposes the site, and as tradition would have it, professional courtesy should prevail in the City Council. However, it appears that the mayor is willing to throw out that tradition along with the long-standing covenants and traditions protecting the lakefront. Reilly may get his toes stomped on by the compliant City Council, but in the long run, he will have been the voice in the wilderness.

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