Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day, Lois Wille

Capitolfax has done a great job of covering the fight over building a children's museum in Grant Park, which is becoming this year's Big Box Issue.

The issue has the potential to spill over into Springfield on a number of fronts:

1. The conspiracy theorists are equally divided on whether the Mayor wants to build a casino at Navy Pier or Northerly Island, both of which the museum has said are unsuitable locations. Even though the Chicago Tribune editorial board makes a compelling and visionary argument for the Northerly Island location.

Personally, I don't think the Mayor has made up his mind where he wants a casino to go. I think taking those sites off the list just keeps his options open.

2. IF, and that's a big IF, there is a capital bill, you can bet your sweet bottom that the museum, the city, and the Park District will try to squeeze money for the museum out of it. That will lead to a big behind-the-scenes fight over the capital bill, because opponents of the museum will only need to pull off a relative handful of votes to force the funding out of the bill.

3. The Tribune recently blasted the museum proposal for allowing the children's museum to promise the naming rights for a portion of the park to Allstate Insurance (ALL), naming their facility "The Children's Museum at Allstate Place" in exchange for a $15 million contribution. The only problem? The naming of Grant Park was done by state statute as a condition of conveying the land from the state to the Park District, to honor the former President and Civil War hero. In fact, its known as the Grant Park Boundary Act:

"[the] above described shall be, and are hereafter to be called, designated and known as "Grant Park," and said "Grant Park" is hereby conveyed to the south park commissioners..."

In order to rename a portion of the park...possibly even to keep calling Millennium Park "Millennium Park," the Mayor needs to change the law. But with the Chicago editorial boards staunchly opposed, I don't think Republicans will want to touch this with a ten-foot pole, especially since U.S. Grant was a Republican. Downstaters would take a lot of heat for turning their back on a downstate hero, and I'm not sure where the Black Caucus would weigh in. But given Allstate's troubles with Hurricane Katrina, I'm sure it won't be good.

Which brings me to Lois Wille's Earth Day gift.

Wille used to be a well-respected environmental leader, but her recent support for building the museum in Grant Park, contradicting her famed book "Forever Open, Clear, and Free," has left many wondering if she's sold out the cause.

The museum continues to tout her support, and a "fact sheet" distributed by the museum claims the quotes from her book are out-of-context, and "
she she resents the selective use of quotes from her book to justify opposing the museum’s proposal."

Well, I've read Ms. Wille's book, and if she'd like to select her own quotes from her book that would justify building a museum in Grant Park, I'm happy to post them. I can't find them, but I did find these:

“City leaders made appropriate statements of respect [upon Ward’s death], noting that if it hadn’t been for A. Montgomery Ward, Grant Park would be a long line of buildings.” pg. 81

“The result [of Ward’s fight to block the Field Museum from Grant Park] is one of the finest museum complexes in the world. He was grateful, Stanley Field said years afterward, that Montgomery Ward had fought so hard to block the original site in Grant Park.” pg. 81

“Plans for buildings in parks, wider roads in parks, more concrete in parks – they are as prevalent today as in 1890.” pg. 81

“A lake surrounded by green lawns….crowds of people sitting on the grass [in Grant Park] in the bright sunshine….Is there any other city in the world that has given its citizens, and its visitors, a treat like that for mile after dazzling mile?” pg. 149

“Generations worked for future generations so that their grandchildren’s children could know the freedom that comes from gazing at a green-and-blue, white-capped, restless endless lake.” Pg. 151

“In the last 50 years there have been disastrous developments that severely damaged the park system. Every one of them was the result of government action. It wasn’t big business and cold commerce that robbed the people of their land, but the people’s government, acting in the name of expediency….The tragedy of the lakefront story is that each of these government moves could have been defeated by an alert, organized, tough-minded public….When citizens did organize and protest in strength, they succeeded….They forced the Park District to drop plans for a huge music bowl on the Grant Park lawns….That kind of forceful citizen action will be needed in the coming years to save the lakefront from a number of potentially catastrophic projects.” Pp. 151-2.

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