Category Archives: grant park

>REACT: Children’s museum or mausoleum?

>Even after 9/11, I have not been one to cower in fear. On the other hand, it is prudent to take whatever precautions seem reasonable.

I was reminded of this when officials of the Chicago Children’s Museum announced a new location for the facility. They would move it from Navy Pier to the north edge of Grant Park, near the Harris Theatre and Millennium Park.

Given the congestion in that area, and the Chicago tradition not to clutter the park (as Daniel Burnham advised), my initial reaction was negative. Seems to me that there are a lot better locations for this very excellent museum.

These concerns pale when you consider that the new site is just a bomb’s throw away form the Aon Building – an edifice that law enforcement officials often designate Chicago’s second mostly like terrorist target. The first is the Sears Tower, of course.

Gads! Had those good folks at the Museum even given this a thought? I think not, or the proposed location would have been eliminated at the onset. Fortunately, it is not to late.

I know. I know. The likelihood of a devastating attack on the Aon Building maybe be rather low. Maybe. Not sure how to even calculate that. But, it doesn’t matter. In a worse case scenario, Aon is close enough to come down on the Museum like a sledgehammer. Mayor Daley, himself, believes that section of the city has potential as a terrorist target. He said so when he demolished Meigs Field. Look at how the Aon Building has been fortified and security pumped up dramatically since 9/11. The Aon folks obviously recognize the danger. Since there is no compelling reason to put the Children’s Museum at what could be Chicago’s ground zero, why take any risk at all. Like I said, there are plenty of even better places to put it.

You may recall in my blog item of September 21, 2007, I proposed that the Museum be put on the south end of Grant Park, where there are no serious terrorist targets. But hey, that’s only my opinion. I am sure the Mayor and the people at the Museum can come up with any number of better, and safer, locations than in the shadow of that Aon Building.

Least you think I am making too much of the terrorist thing, let me tell you. My family was living in the Loop on 9/11. I still vividly recall the high anxiety (you might even say terror) my wife and I felt as we raced to retrieve our son from his school near the Sears Tower – even as we listened to news accounts (inaccurate, thank God) of a possible hijacked jet liner flying towards Chicago’s tallest building. It is not the kind of experience one forgets, and I see no reason to put other parents needlessly in that situation – ever.

I hope the good people in charge of relocating the Museum will not be so ego committed to their plan so as to put the children in harm’s way. Chicago’s children need a first-class museum, not a childen’s mausoleum.

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>REACT: Better place for Chicago Children’s Museum

>Mayor Daley and Gigi Pritzker have done a great disservice to Chicago by falsely accusing opponents to their proposed Grant Park site for the Chicago Children’s Museum of being motivated by racism. Using concocted racism as a straw man, they have promoted what they feign to oppose. The location they have selected is simply a bad idea. It places the kids in the most congested location in Chicago, and is a significant intrusion into the limited open space at the north end of Grant Park. The Daley-Pritzker site already serves the children (of all ethnicities) through the Richard J. Daley park house. The wrongness of the site and the accusations are evident in the overwhelming indignant public response.

Now having cursed the darkness, let us light a candle. I have an idea.

Why not put the Museum in the area around Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road? This would bring it closer to the “museum campus,” and to an area targeted for substantial development in the coming years. It already has a significant residential community (and more to come), and has excellent transportation routes – surface, el and train. This would bring the venue closer to three significant minority populations, Black Hispanic and Asian – and take it out of the center of the Loop congestion.

In this south-end location, the Museum also would function like a second park house, serving the children of the south and southwest sides, just as the Daley facility serves the north side. Even the modest use of Grant Park land would be less intrusive. That corner of Grant Park is currently under utilized.

How about two campuses? Actually, the Navy Pier location is a good one. The south Loop site can be a second location. After all, we are a very big city, with lots of kids — and Gigi’s family has a lot of money.

One of the mayor’s strengths is to fix problems, not create them. It is very possible that the Daley-Pritzker combo can force their will on the City Council. However, they cannot win the approval or respect of the good citizens of Chicago, who know a bad idea when they see one. On the other hand, the mayor can teach the children of Chciago a great lesson – that public opinion does matter. So far, the mayor has only tripped. Let’s hope he does not totally fall down on this one.

>REACT: Gigi Pritzker follows Daley into the racism muck

>Well, first it was Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley calling his constituents racists for not supporting the move of the Chicago Children’s Museum to one of the most congested parts of the city, and violate the open space covenant of Grant Park.

Now wading in the same muck is billionairess Jean “Gigi” Pritzker, president of the Museum. According to news reports, she is heartsick over the alleged intolerance of the common people of Chicago. Well, in the case of this particular neighborhood, the more affluent common people – but still below Pritzker’s Lincoln Park crowd.

The reason Gigi and the Hizzoner have chosen racism as their excuse for the public ourcry is very simple. To consider the more valid reasons would suggest that their noblise oblige scheme is nothing more than a very bad idea. – and you know, the rich and powerful just do not get bad ideas. Just ask them.

In raising the race issue, the Daley-Pritzker team have provided a rallying point for racists and pandered to the paranoia to those who see racism in every event. They have made this a racial issue by nothing less than irresponsible rhetoric.

You know, Daley is a pretty savvy mayor in many ways. Gigi Pritzker is quite a nice lady, I have been told. The Chicago Children’s Museum is a great institution. So, how is it that these good elements can produce such a bad outcome.

>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.