Jackson Park Watch Update – January 2, 2017


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In this Update:

  • Park District officials admit no Board vote on Sky Landing sculpture, assert none needed
  • Golf course plan revealed as private deal with, once again, no Board vote
  • “No fishing in lagoons” said to be only temporary; now sign needs revision

Sky Landing FOIA leads to surprising assertions

JPW’s latest FOIA asking about the approval process for the Sky Landing sculpture on Wooded Island yielded a Construction and Donation Agreement seemingly signed after the sculpture was installed. (Those wishing a copy of the Construction and Donation Agreement can e-mail jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will send you a copy. It will be posted on the JPW website in the near future.)

When JPW’s Brenda Nelms raised questions about the apparent date discrepancy and other issues at the Dec. 14 CPD Board meeting (see 12-14-16-b-nelms-statement-to-park-district-board), she was interrupted by Park District CEO Michael Kelly and Board President Jesse Ruiz, who called upon the Park District’s general counsel Tim King, who was seated in the audience.  In response to the question from Ruiz as to whether there was anything the Board should have reviewed and voted on, King responded first that the installation was not something that CPD’s Park Enhancements Committee needed to review as it was part of the Mayor’s initiative for public art, an assertion counter to the history of the project as we know it. He further asserted that because no Park District money was involved, there was no need for the Park District board to vote on it either.  On the face of it, this seems to indicate that if someone has both an idea for a sculpture and the money to cover the costs and if Mike Kelly (or perhaps Mayor Emanuel) likes the idea, it’s a done deal.

King’s statements raise interesting issues: Are there no criteria? Is there no official vetting process for permanent art installations beyond Mike Kelly? What about a religious theme? Overtly sexual themes? Or, say, a gilded statute of a current political leader? Clearly, this is something we will pursue further.

PGA golf course process questioned

The announcement by Mayor Emanuel and Park District CEO Kelly of a $30 million plan to “upgrade” the existing and much loved Jackson Park golf course to PGA standards – again without community input or Park District Board approval – immediately raised the familiar questions of transparency and community engagement among others. (see our December 17 Jackson Park Watch Update.)

As it happens, not long after that announcement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel released 2,700 pages of official communications from his personal e-mail account in response to a lawsuit by the Better Government Association. Reviewing them, Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet found e-mail traffic between the Mayor and Mike Kelly, among others, discussing the golf course plan as far back as August. ( http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/sweet-rahm-emails-reveal-secret-golf-course-planning/) Jackson Park Watch was credited as a source in Sweet’s article and was also included in coverage of questions about the golf course proposal in a report on NBC 5 Chicago News. (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/emanuel-emails-chicago-south-side-golf-course-408341915.html)

Much scrutiny of the proposed golf course deal as well as more review of what else might be in the Mayor’s e-mail stash are sure to follow. Stay tuned!

That new “no fishing” rule

JPW has been questioning some of the restrictions posted on Wooded Island after it was reopened to the public, in particular the rule “no fishing in the lagoons,” which is both new and seen by many as banning a long-standing local use and group of users. We have now been told by Park District official Julia Bachrach that this is not intended as a new rule and that in any event it is only temporary. We have argued that it would be in the interests of everyone concerned – including the Park District – to amend the signs to make that clear. To date the Park District has not responded, but we will continue to push for a clarification.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
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