Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mayor Daley loves the little children - to hide behind

Putting aside, at least for a moment, his race baiting rants of last year, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley on Wednesday assumed the softer persona of everyone's favorite uncle, standing up for the rights of little kids being able to have a museum built for them in Grant Park. "I'm very proud of the children of Chicago—black, white, Hispanic, Asian, physical, mental difficulties, doesn't matter," the Tribune quoted Daley as saying.

It was all very touching, except when you stop to think that, if it were really about the children, would you be disgorging them from buses into the exhaust-filled cavern of the lower Randolph, and injecting them into an underground bunker? That's the grand vision behind the Chicago Childrens Museum's land grab.

The mayor's warm and fuzzy statements dovetail with the efforts of the museum's high-powered lobbyists to "astroturf" their way to victory by manufacturing the appearance of public support even as every poll to date has shown overwhelming public opposition to the museum building in Grant Park.

Daley's fight isn't about children, it's about power. It's about pleasing a well-connected heiress. It's about getting alderman to agree to set the precedent for the evisceration of their own power by destroying the tradition of aldermanic oversight over projects in their wards. It's about the mayor realizing his long held dream of driving the final stake in the heart of the A. Montgomery Ward decree's that have preserved Grant Park for over a century. Above all else, it's about crushing in advance any effective opposition to whatever other pet projects the mayor wants to cram anywhere in the city he might desire, especially in anticipation of the 2016 Olympics.

But, of course, you probably already knew that. The only people who stand to fooled by the mayor's rhetoric are the ones already in his back pocket.


Anonymous said...

Lynn, thanks for calling it like it is!


Unknown said...

I could not disagree more…

I enjoy how you always insert pictures of people in BiCenn park. Most locals know that typically there is NO ONE there at all. Add on the empty tennis courts and deteriorating fieldhouse (not pictured), and you have an underutilized section of Grant Park that represents the poor planning and lack of efficient use.

The fact that the CCM will be underground, adjacent to what most people are attracted to – Millennium Park, and will provide a new landscape overhead; I can not understand your negative stance on this project (unless you are one of the many N.I.M.B.Y.’s that live on Randolph St. (of whom are the majority of the negative responders to the “polls” that are out there)).

The museums “high powered lobbyists” are not high powered, they happen to be part of the community that is attempting to IMPROVE the city. Their track records prove that. Your comments are making this what you want it to appear to be – “about power” “pleasing a well-connected heiress” “getting alderman to agree”.

I am not fooled by the mayor's rhetoric; I stand for the forward progression of a portion of Grant Park that is stuck in the 60’s and home to the homeless. This is going to be an improvement to the park and the city.

Lynn Becker said...

Hill and Knowlton is not "part of the community." It is a global pr powerhouse whose work includes shilling for the tobacco industry and creating a phony grass roots campaign for ComEd's rate increases.

And no, the polls are not just those of neighborhood residents. Polls by the Chicago Sun-Times and WTTW both came out in the range to 70 to 84% opposed.

And please, stop this phony-baloney rhetoric about Daley Bicentennial Plaza being overrun by the homeless. I am over there frequently and what I see is not marauding homeless hordes, but families with their children, not cowering in fear, but enjoying a place of repose away from the bustle of downtown.

"Lack of efficient use" in official parlance is usually an euphemism for a piece of public property someone wants to build on.

It may be a wonderful idea to cut back or even eliminate the under-used tennis courts. (and for the life of me, I still can't figure out why they're so underused), but the answer is more green space, not jagged skylights and a massive private atrium jutting out of the ground.

Millennium Park, to the east, is a wonderful pinball machine of attractions and activity. It doesn't follow that because it is successful, we should make everything else just like it.

What is in short supply in the center city, are places of gentle nature and quiet repose. Those rare remaining patches need to be cherished and improved, not destroyed.

Unknown said...

As I have said in the past... the BiCenn Park that you describe is not the same as the BiCenn Park that I bicycle through every single day. There are in fact few to no people there (besides the random babysitter), homeless cowering in the hidden regions, ugly vents for the underground parking lot, and an unsightly hunk of a concrete fieldhouse flanked by tarp-covered, deteriorating tennis courts.

The "places of gentle nature and quiet repose" you crave are non existent when homeless people interrupt you to ask for something, relieving themselves, or are seen taking drugs. And your comment suggests that you are a local resident that does not want to see your convenient park across the street altered (better known as a N.I.M.B.Y.).

This is the "city's front lawn" and should be used as such: for the community, suburbanites and tourists to enjoy and experience. The inclusion of families and children to Grant Park via Millennium Park has rejuvenated the city south of the river, I believe that the addition of the CCM will enhance and continue that progression and will tie it together with another popular attraction – Navy Pier (and soon the Spire).

I invite you to envision what that future holds, rather than a selfish view to keep your “peaceful park” for you to read a book once in a blue moon.

Lynn Becker said...

So, let me understand this - wherever there's a homeless problem, the answer is not better policing, but building a museum?

And, just so know, I live in Marina City, not across street from Daley Bi.

And I love the city's bait and switch where the local residents who used to be called hero's for being the pioneers whose moving into those early buildings began the back to the city movement, in no small measure by the promise of living next to a quiet neighborhood park, are now transformed into evil NIMBY's standing in the way of progress, i.e., the clout brigade looking to cash in on Millennnium Park's success.

Anonymous said...

First, I apologize for claiming that you live across the street. The experience I have had with my neighbors has been unpleasant to say the least and including you into this group was not fair. And by the way, I obviously enjoy this debate…

Second, those "pioneers who moved into those early buildings" have been reaping the benefits from their property values... enough to purchase a nice place in the suburbs... or a winter home in Florida (from which they will soon return to continue their fight).

Third, The homeless problem in this area has been around long before the CCM debate began. I applaud the energy that the local residents have organized to fight this CCM battle… it is unfortunate though that they do not use the same energy to fight a much more important problem – helping the homeless that live underneath them.

Your "clout brigade" is looking to CONTINUE on Millennium Park's success, not profit (as the term goes – “Not-For-Profit”) and to further enhance Chicago’s park for everyone - for which it was initially preserved.

Anonymous said...

Grant Park has become stuffed with ugly buildings already - its not open anymore - the new art institute building is boring at best, the band shell is kitch - why dont they make a simple prarie out of it - an open space to be enjoyed. Theres almost nowhere left in the park to enjoy the wide open vista of the complete skyline in its entirety.

And what the hell is a childrens museum anyways? Sounds like a loser proposition small cities propose to get tourists off the interstate - have we become that?

Anonymous said...

Michael, thanks for the input.

The only grasp for 'power' I see here his Mr. Becker's misguided attempt at populist appeal. He is particularly revealing when he tries to criticize the proposed CCM based upon the architectural design: underground bunker? or 'massive' skylit courtyard?; exhaust laden underground bus drop-off? or traffic clogging, children endangering future upper Randolph? (hey Lynn, I agree, let's move the bus drop-off to relatively empty upper Randolph); jagged skylights? or highly-praised (by Becker) architectural design by award-winning (Spertus) architects Krueck and Sexton.

Clearly, his assessment of the proposed museum is chock full of contradictions….and, Michael, you are correct – the only serious objection to the proposal has come from the NIMBY’s along upper Randolph based upon fears that their park will be overrun by too many outsiders (who Mr. Becker believes the rest of the city owes Grant Park to – a notion that is absolutely absurd); and by the media (including Becker) who have a bone to pick with Daley and hope to increase their blog/newspaper circulation in the process. These types, of course, are basing their objections upon ‘forever free and clear’, although none of them seemed too concerned when that principle was broken many dozens of times in the past. Has all of the construction in the park followed the letter of the law? Probably not. Would most agree that the construction that has occurred has in balance been a net positive to the city? Yes.

Lynn Becker said...

opponents to the Children's Museum land grab:

Friends of the Parks
Friends of Downtown
Preservation Chicago
Chicago Tribune editorial board
Chicago Sun-Times editorial board
Crain's Chicago Business
Pulitzer Price winning architecture critic Blair Kamin
WTTW viewers poll
Chicago Sun-Times Reader's poll

exactly where has there been a broad expression of support for the museum that didn't come from the Mayor, the Museum, or their lobbyists?

Anonymous said...

So is that why they built the serpantine bridge over Columbus? To connect to a new museum? I guess they did have this planned out all along. Daley should concider putting this destination spot somewhere else because Chicago is really full of holes. Why should we put everything in one place? My visitor friends from out of town never leave the downtown area, its a shame thats all people think Chicago is. And if this really is for "the Children", why dont we use the money to instead fund after school sports and recreation or arts programs? Or is this a way for socialites to get their name on a board somewhere?

Anonymous said...

the polls, of course, were unsientific, and therefore meaningless

Unknown said...

Friends of the Parks – TOTALLY BIASED



Chicago Tribune editorial board - NO BEARING ON THIS TOPIC

Chicago Sun-Times editorial board -NO BEARING ON THIS TOPIC

Crain's Chicago Business - NO BEARING ON THIS TOPIC

Pulitzer Price winning architecture critic Blair Kamin - YEAH RIGHT, SPARE ME HIS CREDENTIALS!

WTTW viewers poll - VIEWERS POLL? NO.

Chicago Sun-Times Reader's poll - READERS POLL? NO AGAIN!

see: opponents to the Eiffer Tower circa 1889.

Lynn Becker said...

I don't know how to break this to you, but the Children's Museum is no Eiffel Tower.

Unknown said...

The CCM solution is a huge improvement to the "bunker" fieldhouse and the existing park. It will also solve the eventual deterioration problem that is currently destroying the parking garage... which will require a major overhaul eventually...

Information that yourself and the "press" do not communicate.

Anonymous said...

Michael and Jack,

Great work fellas, you are right on the money in delivering your arguments.

You're right, who cares that the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business and WTTW have all come out against this plan?

Obviously the noble, generous and forward-thinking visionaries at the Chicago Children's Museum could not have cared less about the editorial opinions of the Chicago news media!

I mean, if the opinion editorial pages and the local public affairs television programs mattered one lick, the Museum would have been sure to enlist the very best public relations consultants, spin-masters and bloggers money could buy!

Instead, they chose to hire a little known, international public relations giant named Hill and Knowlton - you know, the guys who brought us the Tobacco Institute (who told us smoking is healthy) and performed spin duties for the government of Uganda (erecting the smoke-screen that hid countless human rights atrocities and mass genocide).

Nor would the Museum have chosen to hire David Axelrod (the man who, thankfully, elects Mayor Daley every 4 years) to craft their brilliant strategy for this visionary campaign on behalf of the city's children.

Honestly guys, you're both absolutely right - who really gives a darn about public opinion or those silly editorial pages? I mean, if the Chicago news media can't be counted upon to cater to high-priced, clout-heavy public relations firms - what on earth are they really worth?

Nice work today, fellas - truly a fine job. Let's go ahead and call it a day...feel free to punch the time clock and head home.

...don't forget, as employees, you are invited to the Annual Hill & Knowlton Tiki Torch Party at GiGi Pritzker's Lincoln Park mansion. We only request that you drive your bulldozers to the party.

The Management
Hill & Knowlton

Anonymous said...

"What is in short supply in the center city, are places of gentle nature and quiet repose."

Iowa is not that far,...neither is the rest of the lakefront park system. This is supposed to be a metropolitan city, not suburban arcadia

Lynn Becker said...

Don't you just love the arrogance of the big development crowd?

Have you and your family lived in your neighborhood for the better part of century, kept up your property, paid your taxes, joined the community groups? Well, the big money boys have figured out how to rack up big profits from your neighborhood's charm by transforming it into a succession of wall-to-wall three and a half story, built to the lot line behemoths. Don't like? Cash out and move to the suburbs! We'recalling the shots here now.

You want parkland in the center city? Move to Iowa! We're in charge now, and we're gonna make the parks as much like as the stuff that's not a park as we can get away with.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Becker....ohhh...

how you reveal yourself:

Grant Park apparently belongs not to the citizens of Chicago, but a few long-term residents of an outer-drive high-rise....Becker calls it a 'neighborhood' park...

the editorial boards that apparently you suddenly are so enamored of, why did they object?...not due to the reasons you are spouting now

there have been NO polls guaging the feelings of the larger city...unscientific, online polls, Becker, do not count....

why do you consistently refuse to discuss the real issue, the actual physical design and the impact on the park?

Lynn Becker said...

like the "scientific" poll phone the Museum commissioned? Even with all its skewed question designed to drum up support (I know, I was called), they apparently still couldn't get the results they wanted as they've never released the poll results.

The Trib poll is running 74% against, with nearly 3,000 respondents. If the numbers had gone the other direction, I'm betting you'd find it more than scientific enough.

The fact that the reasons against building the park are myriad doesn't make them contradictory. Neighborhood residents do have some valid concerns. Museum supporters aren't the only ones with the right to act out of self-interest. Neighborhood opposition does not invalidate the larger concerns expressed by a broad coalition of writers and organizations, nor does those broader concerns invalidate or contradict those of neighborhood residents.

As I've said before, the quality of the design is irrelevant. It doesn't belong in the park.

Do you get the feeling, Michael and Jack, that we're the only three people in this thread? Maybe it would be better for everyone if we just met outside some bar and tried to beat the crap out of each other.

Anonymous said...

hey Becker....why don't you print the Tribune graphic depicting the museum and tell us in detail why the Krueck and Sexton design would not be a significant improvement over the exiting Daley Bi?

Anonymous said...

Most of the arguements I'm seeing for the Museum center on the concept that the current park area needs help. Maybe true. But the answer from proponents is that the only solution is to build the museum. How about fixing the problems that exist to make the space better, not add a new museum?

The other arguement from proponents is that nearby residents are just a special interest group looking out for only their best interest. But isn't that exactly what the museum proponents are too? They want THEIR museum in the PUBLIC'S park.

Anonymous said...

Everyone here makes a valid point... but of course, we have absolutely no control over this

My prediction:
1. the CCM will be built
2. the local residents will be pissed
3. everyone else will be pleasantly surprised.

Anonymous said...

one more to prediction to mention if my former predections are incorrect...

the world might end...

Anonymous said...

The reason the fieldhouse is so run down is Daley has planned for a long time to "donate" this land to the Pritzkers and their pet institution. He probably figured the neighborhood would roll over at the chance for a new one.

What he didn't plan for is people who feel passionately about and are willing to fight to preserve this last little bit of green space in our quickly growing city.

R2J said...

Fantastic debate. For the record, I'm part of 'big development' - working for a downtown developer. I have also worked on the design of the Harris Theater. I also enjoy sitting in the vast expanse of the Petrillo Band shell field on a summer day.

Having thrown my cards on the table, I will say that Bicentennial Park is the most under-utilized space in the city. Like Lynn has stated here - can't understand why the tennis courts aren't used more.

But just because the space is under-utilized doesn't mean that it should disappear. It is an opportunity for improvement. The consideration must be what form. What is the master plan for the Petrillo band shell area - currently an asphalt crossed piece of over-mowed grass. What is the top of the CCM going to consist of? The tennis courts/skating rink can be relocated on top. After all, sitting on top of the Harris Theater is the new Pavillion.

There is massive space for compromise here because both parties have valid points and both needs can be met. An underground 'bunker' of a museum leaves an open top field - free for continued parkland. (Let's face it - have you ever looked for the windows at the Museum of Science and Industry?) As far as drop off area and traffic flow - this is of major concern. A Lower Randolph drop off keeps Upper Randolph more quaint and quiet.

A master connection plan is needed between Navy Pier and Millennium Park and the Museum Campus that does NOT involve the lakefront path. Congestion from joggers and bikers already creates danger - adding more tourists in the summer will result in a spectacular increase in accidents and problems.

The preservationists are very right - once the space is taken, it's not coming back. So if it's taken, the intent must be preserved. Free open land for park use - this can be accomplished above the museum.

In the meantime - consider this - what is Navy Pier without the CCM? I believe this leaves the Pier as the city's biggest tourist trap - a collection of schlocky shops designed to force parents into buying garbage for their children. (Whether the phallic looking Spire has 'arisen' from the ground or not)

Lynn Becker said...

thank you, rjj, for finally bringing a new perspective beyond what has become the usual gang of three (myself, michael and jack), of which I'm sure all readers are tiring.

in terms of compromise, this is one point where we diverge, as I can't conceive of any scenario for building the museum in the park that won't be toxic to its present and future.

beyond that, you reminded me of the lack of any really concept of planning in this debate - it all begins and ends with building the museum and getting Bob O'Neill his fieldhouse, but the need for planning is far broader.

I wrote at the time of Millennium Park's opening that one thing that was really needed, which you touch upon, is a real promenade on the other side of the Gehry BP Bridge. Buckingham Fountain to the south provides a strong reference point, and there needs to be an attractive connecting walkway that takes visitors there, linking the two parts of the park together.

When Gehry was here, he talked about another missing link - a bridge connection from Daley Bi to the lakefront. He even offered to design it, but no one has taken him up on it so far.

I hadn't really thought, either of the impact of a CCM move on Navy Pier. CCM's architects actually did a very fine job of adapting Navy Pier's headhouse to CCM's use, making an attractive space with lots of natural light. They even found a good way to use the tall towers. If CCM moved to Grant Park, where would you be able to launch the airplanes you make into flight like you can from high in one of those towers today?

Lynn Becker said...

"Resistance is futile" I'm sure that's an argument A. Montgomery Ward heard often, as well. It's standard tactic with which the powerful seek to crush opposition, and its usually only resorted to in situations where the opposition is proving so strong as to threaten to be anything but futile.

Eric Frost said...

>> like the "scientific" poll phone the Museum commissioned? Even with all its skewed question designed to drum up support (I know, I was called), they apparently still couldn't get the results they wanted as they've never released the poll results. <<

I was called too though I'm sure they didn't tally my viewpoint, they only kept asking me if they could record my support, I finally hung up on them in frustration.

I have wondered why we never heard the results of the phone poll.. surely they could have spun it one way or another?

Or maybe they were trying to gauge how much they would have to spend on "astro-turfing" and manufacturing apparent support.

CCM Discussion on

Anonymous said...

So Jack, anyone against the museum is biased? The Chiclren's museum operation is for sucks, and is nothing more than a junior Dave & Busters.

Anonymous said...

One of the world’s five largest public relations firms, Hill & Knowlton was founded in 1927 by former journalist John W. Hill. During the Depression, Hill became partners with a banking client, Donald Knowlton. The two then began a partnership, but in 1934 Hill moved the headquarters to New York to serve as counsel to the American Iron and Steel Institute while Knowlton stayed in Cleveland, Ohio under the name Hill & Knowlton of Cleveland. As of August 2006, H&K has 71 offices in 40 countries, including 19 in the United States. Currently employing 1100 people, the firm provides both public relation and lobbying services to local, multinational and global clients, including the Enron Corporation and the International Olympic Committee. The firm was obtained by the WPP Group, one of the worlds leading communications service groups, which owns four of the largest PR firms, including Hill & Knowlton.

Lynn, you're RIGHT about this one...and I was wrong. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I have read the majority of the comments about the BiCenn Park and have heard the Mayor's proposal as well and it seems as though no one thinks this park gets proper use. Have you seen the park lately. I have lived and worked in the immediate area for eight years now. My children attend the park afterschool and summer camp programs in the building you call a bunker. I take yoga and step aerobics classes 3-4 times a week there. I jog around this park in the coolness of the summer evenings. My co-workers play ping pong an a daily basis year round in the building. People take there lunches there on a daily basis or just sit and relax. Children play on the play grounds. And despite what was itiially said people do play tennis when it is warm enough to do so. And in the winter I take my children ice skating there.

I believe the real reason for this push is the city does not make enough money off of the activities in the portion of the park. Because the park district is only allowed to charge minimal fees for use of their facilities, and money is the name of the game, our park has to become pay to play.

Eric Frost said...

One of the Plan Commissioners yesterday said he works at AON and looks down to Daley Bi regularly.. he said he saw two people there yesterday as if that somehow is rationale for bringing in a private corporation to make it a better attraction. Because it was chilly yesterday.
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