Monday, September 17, 2007

Daley Plays the Race Card on CCM

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is probably the closest thing this country has to an elected monarch, and he gets testy when the peasants have the temerity to question his judgement.

On Moday, in one of his patented incoherent angry rants he followed the lead of St. Sabina's Father Michael Pfleger in branding opponents of the move of the Chicago Children's Museum to Grant Park as not only child-haters, but racists.

A year ago, the residents of the New East Side were pillars of the community, pioneers in bringing back downtown living. Now that they've stepped out of line and refused to swallow the lies and evasions coming out of his administration, they've become, almost overnight, the scum of the earth: senile oldsters, enemies to progress, serial haters of blacks, Latinos and children.

If the Mayor actually believed this, he'd be a fool. Richard M. Daley is no fool. He rules from atop a machine built from equal parts sweet inducements and gutter politics. Play the sycophant, don't get in the way, and your minor indiscretions will be humored. Show a backbone, however, and you'll be instantly surrounded by hoards of flunkies competing to break it - and you. In the words that David Mamet wrote for Sean Connery's character in The Untouchables, "that's . . . the Chicago way."

When, along with the museum's supporters, he keeps repeating the mantra that "Grant Park belongs to the people of the city of Chicago," what he really means is let's dilute the strength of the large majority of people in the immediate area who passionately oppose the new building by claiming the support of the residents in outlying areas who, not having a strong opinion one way or the other, are unlikely to contradict us.

It follows the pattern of the community meeting last Monday hijacked by museum supporters. The museum's Jim Law responded to the 85% disapproval rate of the museum building by the residents attending the community meetings by sneering that they represented only 6% of the total resident population. Mayor Daley won re-election last February in a landslide that saw only 11% of the city's residents voting for him. Would Law say that Daley's election was invalid, as well?

No one has surveyed the people of Chicago about the best uses for Grant Park, and the Daley administration, of course, is not interested in doing so in any even-handed fashion. When the Mayor says Grant Park belongs to all the people, what he's really saying is that it's his personal possession, to do with what he pleases, and he's getting very annoyed by the people who aren't falling into line.

The battle has turned ugly because the Mayor has seen the possibility of losing. He's like a cornered porcupine, shooting off quills in desperate abandon. It's worked for him up until now, but there's always a first time.


Anonymous said...

Your last few words are a bit too optimistic.

Let's be real - even if Ald. Reilly is against the CCM (I think he makes his decision tomorrow?), does he have the clout in Chicago (as a newcomer, mind you) to stop someone like Daley? Doubtful.

But then again, maybe the Cubs will win the World Series this year.

Anonymous said...

Between CCM and the Latin School debacle, I bet Alderman Reilly would like to ask for a recount.

The mayor may be surprised to discover that not every Alderman will support the Grant Park proposal.....because they want CCM for their neighborhood. Inland Aldermen are constantly complaining about everything going to the lakefront and there already is an active movement in Logan Square to have the CCM build there. (I do think their enthusiasm is greater than their due diligence. It's not likely they really want the traffic that comes with CCM.)

Anonymous said...

For me it is just difficult to understand why the local residents believe that they are victims here... do they really believe that this is an encroachment on their way of life, their neighborhood? The buildings on E. Randolph that have enjoyed over 20 years of independent serenity have slowly grown to be a part of Chicago and not isolated on their own island.

My personal belief, after face to face discussions with my neighbors and the residents of the buildings along or near to E. Randolph, is that the tranquility that the locals have enjoyed for so long is fading away, and might possibly never return. Inevitable as it is, the residents are fighting their mightiest to circumvent having random strangers walking in front of their building or, God forbid, entering their lobby to use the restroom.

Although detailed plans have not been distributed, is has been communicated that the project will be constructed underground and a bulk of the circulation of CCM visitors will be underground as well. The footprint of the CCM will be less, if not similar to the existing Bicentennial Fieldhouse.

My suggestion to the “victims” of the new Grant Park… time to move away and find another quiet retreat, like the suburbs… and allow the many of families that would enjoy the chance to live adjacent to this new and vibrant park. If only most people could afford such an opportunity.