The bully pulpit | Bleader

Friday, December 21, 2007

The bully pulpit

Posted By on 12.21.07 at 04:19 PM

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He didn't call them racists this time.

But this week Mayor Daley chastised Gold Coast opponents of a helipad Children's Memorial Hospital wants to build as part of a new facility on Chicago Avenue east of Michigan. Some area residents have raised concerns about the safety of helicopters taking off and landing from the area, which is packed with residential and commercial high-rises. The mayor, though, insinuated that their questions were petty next to the possibility that kids could be saved, according to the Sun-Times. "So, once in a while, we have a helicopter landing. Why? To save your child -- not your child, in a sense. But your child really. Another child coming from another city [who] does not have a Children's Memorial Hospital. ... We will look back in 20 years what we did with this new and wonderful hospital."

The area's alderman, Brendan Reilly, says he's tried to serve as a moderator between the hospital and the residents. Last week Reilly signed off on the helipad plan on the condition that transportation and safety specialists for the hospital and a residents' group sit down and talk. The construction schedule for the new facility won't need to be changed regardless of how the helipad issue is resolved, he says. 

Reilly's had an intense first six months leading the 42nd Ward. This summer, over the objections of some powerful real estate and business interests, he effectively killed the plan of one of the ward's key institutions, Northwestern University, to sell its historic Lake Shore Athletic Club building to a developer that wanted to tear it down and build condos. Earlier this month Northwestern announced it would sell the property to another developer that will turn it into upscale residences for seniors. 

And earlier this fall he sided with nearby residents and announced his opposition to the plan of the Chicago Children's Museum to move from Navy Pier to Grant Park. The museum, he said, would create traffic problems and use up park space that's supposed to be forever "free and clear" of development. In response a worked up Mayor Daley ripped into Reilly and other opponents, suggesting they were really concerned that minority kids would be visiting their neighborhood: "You mean you don't want children from the city in Grant Park? Why? Are they black? Are they white? Are they Hispanic? Are they poor?"

If the museum scrap is any indication, Reilly shouldn't expect the mayor's help in smoothing out differences over the helipad.

Museum officials continue to lobby other aldermen to support their plan, Reilly said in an interview, while he's made it clear he'd like to sit down with Daley and come up with alternatives. "We've heard nothing from the mayor yet," Reilly said. "We've reached out to his office on three separate occasions, and we still haven't had any response." 

Jacqueline Heard, the mayor's press secretary, shrugged off Reilly's comment. "I'm unaware of that," she said. "I can't respond to something I haven't heard about."

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