Clout City

Friday, October 28, 2016

A week after its completion, the new leg of the Riverwalk is almost done

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 11:49 AM

The Chicago Riverwalk on a sunny day - STEVEN VANCE
  • Steven Vance
  • The Chicago Riverwalk on a sunny day

Last weekend, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, city officials, and the guy who greased the skids on a $98 million federal construction loan, former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, celebrated the completion of the third and so far final phase of the Chicago Riverwalk.

"We have reclaimed this space to transform the river into Chicago's next great recreational frontier," the mayor said, according to a statement released by his office.

Then construction resumed. Maybe it'll be done next month. In the meantime, however, the Riverwalk is walkable.

I went on Thursday, a cold, gray day with a damp, bone-chilling wind. I didn't have to worry about crowds.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Let’s celebrate the loss of the Lucas Museum

Posted By on 06.28.16 at 01:24 PM

  • Illustration: Paul Higgins

The more I read about the departure of George Lucas's neofuturist storage unit, that unsightly blob of a building meant to house his movie posters and Yoda holograms, the sorrier I felt for the guy. He's 72 and he just wants a museum. "A legacy piece." Billionaires need their trap houses, too. This is America.

But by op-ed and column No. 100—each, by the way, with their own sophomoric Star Wars lead ("What was he trying to build over there, the Death Star?")—the happier I found myself.

First, that people actually preferred a vaguely lunar parking lot to a movie mogul's spaceship should, at the very least, make us all laugh. Rahm Emanuel and George Lucas were beaten by a group that calls itself "Friends of the Parks" fighting to protect a parking lot. This sounds like a real Chicago story, or in Star Wars vernacular, a saga. But it's really a postmodern political power play, a rollicking side-plot in a Pynchon novel come to life.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Mayor Emanuel tries to sink CHA accountability ordinance that would force him to share power

Posted By on 06.13.16 at 04:30 PM

  • Joe Cyganowski/Pioneer Press
  • Chicago’s Lathrop Homes

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his allies on the City Council have effectively quashed a Chicago Housing Authority accountability ordinance meant to preserve the total number of public housing units in the city, grant the council some oversight of the agency, and affect future and ongoing public housing developments, including the redevelopment of the Lathrop Homes.

The "Keeping the Promise" ordinance was originally proposed in September 2014, following revelations that the CHA had stockpiled a surplus of almost $430 million while hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans languished in deteriorating units, homeless shelters, or on the streets. The Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of eight community organizations dedicated to housing advocacy, worked with 19 aldermen to introduce the legislation.

The ordinance would force the CHA to regularly report to the City Council on the state of its surplus funds, and ensure that 97 percent of these funds be dedicated to the Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8. The CHA's reports would also have to include updates on the Plan for Transformation, an initiative to redevelop and rehabilitate the bulk of Chicago's public housing that was supposed to be completed in 2010. If the CHA failed to issue these reports or spend its surplus in the assigned manner, the council would be able to withhold city funds.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

National museum group head slams Friends of the Parks

Posted By on 05.31.16 at 06:01 PM

  • Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

The pressure to keep the force in Chicago is mounting.

Last week it was announced that former secretary of education Arne Duncan has joined the Lucas Museum board of directors. That's not a huge surprise, since Duncan (also a former head of Chicago Public Schools) once headed up the Ariel Education Initiative. The initiative is a project of John W. Roger's Ariel Investments, the firm headed by Lucas's spouse, Mellody Hobson.

But now, Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums (formerly the American Association of Museums), the major national museum trade and advocacy organization, is chastising Chicago and Friends of the Parks for turning down a chance to put the Lucas Museum on the lakefront.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lucas Museum to Chicago: We're looking elsewhere

Posted By on 05.04.16 at 10:06 AM

  • Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Was it something she said?

Tuesday morning, Friends of the Parks issued a statement acknowledging that the group had agreed to a pause in its lawsuit seeking to keep the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from building on a lakefront Park District parking lot. The pause would allow time for the city to pursue an alternative location at the current site of the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place. The statement was ambiguous as to the group's ultimate position on the alternative site.    

However, comments by Friends of the Parks executive director Juanita Irizarry to reporters who called her to follow up on that announcement went further.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lois Weisberg: Rest in peace doesn't cut it

Posted By on 01.14.16 at 03:50 PM

Lois Weisberg - CITY OF CHICAGO
  • City of Chicago
  • Lois Weisberg

Word came today that Lois Weisberg, the former linchpin of nearly everything that's cultural about Chicago, died last night in Florida, where she'd been living the last few years. She was 90.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Arc Gallery's 'I Can't Breathe' tackles police violence with art

Posted By on 12.04.15 at 12:30 PM

Tavarus Blackmonster's The Rabbit Told the Cookie - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • Tavarus Blackmonster's The Rabbit Told the Cookie

Last August when Arc Gallery put out a call for submissions for an exhibition to be titled "I Can't Breathe," the idea was to "begin a conversation" about "the shocking violence by police against unarmed citizens" that had been revealed in "video after video" over the previous year.

When the show opened this week, the city was already deep into that conversation.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Judge delays Lucas Museum decision until February

Posted By on 11.10.15 at 04:30 PM

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
  • Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Get out the calendar for next year: the next decision in the Friends of Parks court battle to keep the Lucas Museum off Chicago's lakefront parkland won't come until February.  

At a status hearing Tuesday, federal judge John Darrah gave the parks group until December 3 to respond to a motion by the city to dismiss their lawsuit. The city will then have two weeks to reply, and the judge will issue an opinion on February 4.

In the meantime, there is to be no construction.  

Friends of the Parks charges that the city and the Chicago Park District are violating the rules for land held in public trust. The City Council recently approved the museum's lease of 17 acres between McCormick Place and Soldier Field for 97 years, for $10, with two renewal options.

In a statement released by Friends of the Parks after the hearing, executive director Juanita Irizarry equated that lease with a sale: "We think that the sale of the property to George Lucas' foundation—a lease that could run for 297 years—is a boon not to the public, but to Mr. Lucas himself."

The city had no comment.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Tax on tickets to Lyric Opera and the CSO? Not for now.

Posted By on 10.30.15 at 01:45 PM

click image The Chicago City Council's Progressive Caucus wants to apply the amusement tax to Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. - (FLICKR/DAMIAN ENTWISTLE)
  • (Flickr/Damian Entwistle)
  • The Chicago City Council's Progressive Caucus wants to apply the amusement tax to Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Chicago’s laws can be confusing, even to the folks who make them. And in a city scraping for pennies to stay afloat, a pair of grand palaces of culture can attract attention. Like glittering Fabergé eggs, just sitting there looking rich.

So it was that in the run-up to the City Council’s budget vote this week, the Progressive Caucus came up with a list of revenue-generating amendments including one intended to add a 9 percent tax to the cost of tickets for two of the city’s major cultural engines—Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

It would be so easy. All the council would have to do is delete a paragraph of the Municipal Code.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Cassandra Francis explains her departure from Friends of the Parks

Posted By on 05.01.15 at 08:31 AM

Cassandra Francis is going far, far away.
  • Friends of the Parks
  • Cassandra Francis is going far, far away.

Friends of the Parks president Cassandra Francis inspired some creative speculation last week, when she abruptly left her job.

Francis, who'd been there only a year, was in the midst of two high-profile battles on behalf of FOTP—attempts to keep both the Lucas Museum and the Obama presidential library off Chicago parkland.

Before that, she'd headed up Mayor Richard M. Daley's stillborn plan to build an Olympic village on the Michael Reese hospital site after spending more than a decade in the real estate executive ranks at U.S. Equities Development, among other jobs.

At FOTP, she was suddenly on the opposite side of the power structure she'd previously been part of—taking on the mayor, the president, the billionaire filmmaker, and all those among the public who'd be happy to see the Star Wars museum on what's currently a parking lot, and the Obama library on a portion of historic Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Washington Park.

So the speculation swirled.

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Agenda Teaser

Lyric Opera's Carmen Civic Opera House
February 11
Performing Arts
The Book of Joseph Chicago Shakespeare Theater
February 02

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