Blame it on the Friends of the Park

E NOTES Kai EL'Zabar Executive Editor
Kai EL’Zabar
Executive Editor

After two years ( since 2014) of going back and forth with Chicago’s  Friends of the Park, the  “Star Wars” creator George Lucas walked away from the deal on  Friday.  Lucas announced that  he is abandoning plans to build the project in Chicago.
This comes  on the tail of much debate and controversy. Lucas,  wanted to build a museum that would house and showcase his art collection along the city’s lakefront. So with great disappointment Chicagoans are left with another major loss that could have made Chicago a destination city.  According to a statement Lucas,  will shift his focus to  build the museum in California.
It’s noteworthy to note that it’s interesting that the Friends of the Park had the audacity to issue the following statement after derailing the Lucas Museum project that would have been a major source of revenue for the city helping to rebuild the city that once boasted itself as “the city that works.”
Friends of the Parks’ Lucas Museum Departure Statement
Chicago, Illinois (June 24, 2016) – “It is unfortunate that the Lucas Museum has made the decision to leave Chicago rather than locate the museum on one of the several alternative sites that are not on Chicago’s lakefront. That would have been the true win-win,” said Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry and Board Chair Lauren Moltz.


What the Friends of the Park/FOP don’t say is that they courted the Lucas Museum project to pay them  by adding to the group’s revenue-related neighborhood parks fund.   In short the FOP wanted to add a new tax on museum visitors as ransom for their support which according to Jesse Ruiz president of  the Chicago Park District board of commissioners,   ” . . . is completely at odds with your stated goals,” Ruiz wrote, late Sunday, calling the parks group’s list of negotiating points regarding the Lucas Museum “nothing short of extortion.”
Ruiz declined to comment further on Monday, but  Mayor Emanuel,  said FOP should, “stop negotiating among themselves on the board and realize George Lucas is negotiating with other cities on the West Coast. . . And time is running out and they’re going to cost the city a tremendous, generous gift that enhances the cultural and educational and economic enrichment.”
The Mayor got it right.
Emanuel added that the Friends’ museum revenues proposal would be “an additional burden” and stressed that the Lucas Museum is not asking for public money.
Well they didn’t hear because they didn’t care.
In the letter, Ruiz stated that the Friends’ list “might be the final nail in the coffin.” Ruiz was right.

The arrogance of the Friends of the Park members who are very comfortable in their North side residences exhibited little concern if any real concern about the impact that having Lucas Museum built south of the loop would have had on  the lives of people who would benefit from employment opportunities.
Marion Brown of Bronzeville, said, “It is just the breath of fresh air we needed. With Dunbar reinstating the construction trades a project like the Lucas Museum for them to look forward to was exciting, that and the  Obama Library. Both would stabilize the South side between 22nd street to Hyde park. Shame on the Friends of the Park. Who are they anyway, and what have they done for Black and Brown people lately?
The Lakeside Center proposal went nowhere amid the state budget stalemate. Mayor Emanuel’s plan came with a $1.17 billion price tag, extending five taxes beyond their expiration dates. To fund it, the Exposition Authority, known as McPier, would issue bonds. A $743 million contribution from Lucas would pay debt on the borrowing for the first 16 years of the 40-year loan.
In its deal  memo, Friends of the Parks also sought a legally enforceable agreement to protect the lakefront from development for the next 100 years, improvements to DuSable Park in Streeterville, changes to the museum ground lease, converting the South Lot to green space and agreement that a significant number of jobs at the museum go to low-income and minority residents.
However those concerns were already addressed by the Park District and within the details of the Lucas proposal and now that the deal is off the table the FOP dare write a media announcement.
Quite frankly the people don’t care what excuse they gave. They need to learn the Art of the deal. You have to give a little to get a little. They wanted everything and were willing to give nothing and so Chicago is left with nothing, thanks to the Friends of the Park.


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