Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ben Weese's gracious goodbye to Landmarks Commission

In his Cityscapes blog today, Blair Kamin publishes, in full, architect Ben Weese's gracious farewell letter to Mayor Emanuel on the occasion of his being dumped by the Mayor from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, to which he has given distinguished service for decades.  Buried within the letter is the way Emanuel chose to let Weese know he was out.
When I arrived at last Thursday’s meeting I was informed that this was my last meeting as a commissioner.
Classy, no? 

Blair has already written on how Emanuel's appointments, with the exception of landscape architect  extraordinaire Ernest Wong, has purged the commission of all architects and architectural historians, in favor of a roster of connected people in unrelated fields that appears to be a direct violation of the Landmark ordinance's guidelines for appointees' qualifications.

As I've written before, the Landmarks Commissions, under the heavy thumb of whatever's the current incarnation of the the Department of Development, has been pretty much like all other city commissions, a rubber stamp.  The only time the Commission exercised any independence, in the case of the Farwell Building, the Landmarks chairman - former Daley chief of staff, and the Museum of Science Industry's million dollar man David Mosena - simply called another meeting to reverse the vote and give the developer what they wanted - destruction of the building.

The one function in which they really sweat is Permit Review, where the commissioners on that subcommittee sit through endless presentations of proposed changes to landmarked buildings.  Ben Weese ran that subcommittee; now it will hold its sessions without any input from an architect, because Emanuel's left none on the commission.

Landmarks preservation in Chicago doesn't really need a commission. It needs a commissioner.  Not  someone who shows up once a month to chair meetings and traffic cop matters to their pre-ordained conclusions, but someone who will both manage the departments incredibly dedicated and talented staff, and be a highly visible, highly vocal advocate for the department's mission.

In the meantime, the body of appointees comprising the Commission on Chicago Landmarks remains pretty much a scam.

Read the full text of Ben Weese's letter in Blair's blog, here.


Anonymous said...

Mayor Rahm is doing the same thing in the nature-and-wildlife area too. Chicago will be paved over by the time his term is up. There appears to be no way to stop him; he listens to know one as far as can be discerned.

Anonymous said...

Rahm is terrible so far, poor decisions like this will set chicago back years.

Anonymous said...

Daley understood the importance of our rich architectural history in this matter. Will Rahm continue the beautification efforts Daley pursued?

Anonymous said...

cronyism in effect. sad.