Friday, September 21, 2007

Gigi Pritzker crawls into Richard M. Daley's gutter

The Pritzker family has been the bedrock of Chicago philanthropy. To mention just two of their countless contributions, they established the Pritzker Prize, which has become architecture's Nobel, honoring one great artist each year. If if weren't for Cindy Pritzker, Millennium Park would be the amiable mediocrity Mayor Richard M. Daley was willing to settle for. Instead, by recruiting Frank Gehry to design the spectacular Pritzker Pavilion bandshell, Pritzker set the park on the path to becoming a world-class sensation.

The Pritzkers are used to being the good guys. They're also accustomed to getting whatever they want. We are now seeing what happens when they don't. Chicago Children's Museum Board President Gigi Pritzker has signed on to the ugly, race-baiting campaign, engineered by Mayor Daley (is that Frank Kruesi in the shadows?) to demonize opponents of the museum's move to Grant Park. The Sun-Times headline says it all: Board chief: Museum opposition is racial.

"The thing that's sad," she told the Sun-Times, "is the loudest voices - it doesn't mean the whole community - seem to have the component to them." The tears that Pritzker is shedding are, of course, crocodile tears. Race-baiting is what the museum, whose campaign was falling flat when confined to the actual merits of its proposal, now sees as its ticket to victory.

And the Sun-Times is only too happy to help. How ironic that it's the Chicago Tribune, the voice of reaction, that's fighting for Grant Park's survival, while the scrappier Sun-Times, which just recently declared independence from the dark legacy of Conrad Black and a return to its original progressive roots, has not only been completely silent on Mayor Richard M. Daley's gutter-politic rants, but has been channeling the most sensational charges, without question or analysis, straight to its front page as a ploy for goosing flagging circulation. (The Sun-Times' own readers, however, aren't buying it. A poll of over 3,000 of them had 74% taking the opinion that opposition to the museum was not a racial issue.)

[POSTSCRIPT: on Friday, September 21st, the Sun-Times finally came out swinging, first with a strongly reasoned editorial opposing the museum, and contributions from Mark Brown, Neil Steinberg, Delia O'Hara and Mark Konkol that pretty much demolish every vicious charge and and specious claim put forth by the mayor and the museum. More on this later]

On a Thursday appearance on WTTW's Chicago Tonight, host Phil Ponce pressed Gigi Pritzker to substantiate her claims of the museums opponents' racism.

What did she have? The same useful dolt that St. Sabina's Father Matthew Pfleger has been trotting out repeatedly to support his own claims of racism. Oh, and she pointed to the very vocal anger of museum opponents at a September 10th meeting at Daley Bicentennial Fieldhouse.

Remember? That's the one where the museum hijacked a community meeting called by 42nd ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, cutting in line to fill up the auditorium and forcing the invited neighborhood residents into side hallways where they couldn't see or or be seen in the proceedings. And yes, they allowed themselves to get a bit rowdy at first, before quieting down as they strained to hear the speakers, with periodic bursts of spirited, mostly good-natured heckling.

So, stack the hall, throw neighborhood residents out of their own meeting - Pritzker has no problem with that. But when they don't take it laying down, raise your nose high in the air, point your finger, and declaim, "Shame, shame." It's the classic gutter politics maneuver - you get to maul, but your opponents must react as pacifists.

Here's something that is sad, perhaps even tragic: a great Chicago family that has become so obsessed with winning that its willing to trash a deep reservoir of good will, earned over decades, for a specious campaign cynically conceived to inflame racial tensions as a tactic to divert attention from discussion of the real issue: a private institution seeking to replace open, free public space with 100,000 square feet of new construction with an $8.00 admission charge.

Memo to Gigi Pritzker: if you really, as you keep saying, want to refocus the debate over the museum to the real issues and not make it all about race, stop talking nonstop about race.


Meta Brown said...

"The thing that's sad is the loudest voices -- it doesn't mean the whole community -- seem to have that component to them,'' Pritzker said.

When I read those words this morning, I wondered what voices she meant. She’s never heard the voices in a literal sense, since she hasn’t attended any of the many meetings in the neighborhood over the past year and a half, nor is she visiting or phoning us to hear our concerns.

By “loudest voices” she must have meant activists who are visible in the neighborhood. There’s a busy mother of two young boys who has poured heart and soul into the grassroots movement to save the park. But she’s a model of social grace and dignity, so Ms. Pucker couldn’t have been speaking of her. One woman has been walking out into the park at all hours, 6 in the morning, 10 at night, high noon, speaking with neighbors, sharing flyers. But she is pure of heart and ever so polite, so that certainly isn’t who Ms. Pucker meant.

Now, a True American Princess like Gigi Pucker would never, ever fabricate a claim like that for personal motives, right? (Granted, it does sound a little like a gossip column headline - “Who’s the East Randolph Street witch that gave Gigi the cold shoulder at the NEAR meeting?”) So who could she be talking about?

How about the one who writes the blog? The one that is unkindly titled “Save Daley Bicentennial.” Now there’s an vile creature. She has also written the text of many of the flyers that have circulated in the neighborhood, and made hateful claims such as children “need loving parents, good schools and community parks free of excessive private and commercial interests?”

Wow, she’s no lady, that blog lady. She talks to her mother with that mouth? Who would say such things? Oh wait, I would. I’ve been a pretty loud voice in the local effort to oppose the museum’s plan to build in the protected area of Grant Park. I didn’t expect to win over the board of the museum, but I didn’t think I’d see myself so plainly insulted by a billionaire on the cover of the Sun-Times, either.

But maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe Ms. Pucker wasn’t talking about voices in the community at all. Maybe they were just the voices in her head.

Anonymous said...

I started out a supporter for CCM at DaleyBi. The Mayor and Gigi have caused me to change my mind. I’ve been to almost all of the meetings and not once heard anything remotely bigoted.

We should all note that the real community activists from the black and Hispanic communities aren’t complaining. They know their constituents don’t go to museums.

I’m one of the volunteers you see sitting at the front door of The Art Institute. I see everyone who comes in. Exclude the people required to be there for a class assignment and the number of blacks is about 1 or 2 percent of the attendees. Most of those are tourists. For over twenty years when I’ve traveled around the US I’ve made a note of attendee make-up in museums and similar educational events (like a tall ships exhibit). The number of non-white attendees always is miniscule.

(This is not a matter of money; most blacks are middle class. Going to museums is simply not part of their life. AIC and other institutions try to fix this problem through their school programs to introduce art and museums to school kids but being comfortable in a museum is not something that flows from child to parent.)

Anonymous said...

Ms. Pritzker should immediately accept that she and her board have made a colossal mistake and begin formulating a plan B.
I think the Nature Museum is a very nice place for children, but they too made a bad decision about their location. They should not have built in a neighborhood that was already a proverbial zoo, across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo.
Someone like Ms. Pritzker should have the dignity and grace to say, 'we are changing gears. We do not want to build in Grant Park given this response.'
Why not explore sites between the Field and Museum of Science and Industry within a half mile of the lakefront?

Anonymous said...

What should have been the Sun-Times' headline:

"Gigi Puckers up Daley"

sorry...couldn't resist. It's a slow Friday.

Yellow Dog Democrat said...

Great post, Lynn. Here's my take.

Many (Better) Children's Museums, Only One Grant Park:

"The Chicago Children's Museum's 31st place ranking puts it two spots below Waco, Texas and just above Little Rock, Arkansas."

Go read the whole thing at Illinoize.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please you do what ever it takes. I just can't wait for the bulldozers to move in like they did at Migs field. Life is so boring I think some people have just lost there sense of adventure. Everyone who is complaing about this just sounds like the cranky old man who won't give you your ball back.

Anonymous said...

Yes, NEAR is the Mr. Feeny of Grant Park.

Anonymous said...

Gigi and Da Mare owe the New Eastside residents an apology.

I for one, am so incensed at being called a racist, that my children and I will never step foot in Gigi's museum again.

Come on, Gigi - you want to tear down over 100 trees to dump kids in an underground bunker?


Anonymous said...

Oh, and she pointed to the very vocal anger of museum opponents at a September 10th meeting at Daley Bicentennial Fieldhouse.

Just a note

She states that the September 10th meeting at Daley Bicentennial Plaza was very angry with racial undertones at what her many of her supporters and staff witnessed and heard made them quite traumatized. And it was the loudest voices at the meeting that caused this.

Well if you take a look at the clip that goes with this you will notice that the first person you see with a notepad in one hand and fist raised with the other looking angry is a CCM Supporter/Staff. She did not look traumatized to me. Granted it was just a clip but no one looked apprehensive. You see both sides smiling and chanting their ‘Yes” or “No”, I guess Gigi did not look at the clip first.

Anonymous said...

Have we lost the battle to keep the racist CCM out of the park? Yes, it is CCM that is racist. Let's get some demographics on their board, their upper management.

I have been part of the outside groups that have helped the CCM to produce culturally representative programming referred to in one of the posts to their defense. Without the help of outsiders, they can't do it; they don't have a diverse-enough staff or leadership.

The museum can be entertaining enough for young children, but that's no reason that it has to be in Grant Park, which sponsors the healthiest of the lost art of play for ALL children, not just those whose parents have disposible income to pay $30 plus for the family to go INDOORS.

Perhaps if CCM had a more diverse board and leadership, they would have better guidance than to fight to take over a City treasure. Take the museum to a diverse neighborhood in need of development! They're usually to afraid to go to "those neighborhoods." The blog host argument with photo documentation that Millenium Park attractions are a true offering for diversity are right on. The CCM has nothing to compare, with an $8 entrance fee and a $20 parking tab. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

The overt and covert racist drivel coming from the residents of East Randolph is rather foul-smelling. Add to this the covert "...True (sounds like Jew) American Princess" from meta brown, so let's add anti-semitism to the mix.

As for anonymous, you can lick my kumquats. If you want to understand why "...minorities don't go to museums..." just read the Joyce Foundation study of two years ago. It's a systemic problem, not a simplistic one. It is based on 50 years of experiences that have made minorities feel quite unwelcome at AIC, the Field, Shedd, Adler and the MCA, among others. Do your homeowrk!

Go, Gigi, go! Make that godforsaken stretch of land useful to someone other than trollers for cheap sex and high-risers who don't pick up their dog crap.

Anonymous said...

James J. Balling
Ms. Pritzker, you are an attractive and intelligent woman, but you seem to be missing whats right under your nose, the childrens musuem has already a great following and start at navy pier, so why not expand on that, the trade show floor would a fine place to continue the chidrens musuem expansion, the construction would not bother anything, and I am sure it would be easy to convert this space, than build new, navy pier is already a destination to all who visit with children and chicagoians who have children, as far as the trade shows are concerned there are enough venues avaliable throughout the city for them with McCormick Place and as you know the hotels. Also I would like to mention the parcel of land that is now known as Dusable park,it has not been developed as promised and with the monies involved you could make it a part of the childrens musuem, and find another parcel of land easier to get to for the black community. Imagine a small water taxi taking families from that parcel of land to a dock at navy pier on the way explaining the wild life in the area and the like, then debarking and going into the musuem. it seems to me you already have your target market at the pier why have them leave and go to another location, I have been to the pier many many times and seems to me all races are accounted for, so if you are serious about doing the best thing for the city, and people of all races take a look and do a case study of this plan....