Thursday, June 26, 2014

Forever Open, Clear And Free Of Lucas

The most die-hard "Star Wars" fans are celebrating, maybe, if they even really care that George Lucas has deigned to honor Chicago with his museum. His props, his special effects collection, and yes, even his trove of Norman Rockwell art will be housed in Chicago.

By the way, George, did you notice the Art Institute just to the north of where your museum is to go? Loaded with great works of art. Did you never think to maybe donate your stuff to them? You could have had the George Lucas wing if you were not so insistent on having your name plastered on a building.The Museum of Science and Industry would be a good fit for the film-oriented items. The museum that's already there, in place, built for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Of course there are plenty of other sites available as well, but those are in the less desirable neighborhoods where poor people live and, well, they're not our kind, are they.
Field, Shedd, Adler and soon, Lucas

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, fought hard to get that museum built in his city. How else can he stand for re-election if he doesn't have some great public construction work ongoing, with all the jobs that are traded for votes and contracts that come with campaign funds?

Mr. Lucas wants his grand tribute to himself put in the midst of Chicago's historic museum campus, where the Field Museum meets the Adler Planetarium and the fishies swim in the Shedd Aquarium. Land being scarce in the region, it has been decided that a large parking lot used by Bears fans at Soldier Field can go. Let those suburbanites go elsewhere to tailgate. George Lucas wants his personal monument put there.

If you are hoping for a construction job at the George Lucas Museum of Stuff Left Over After The Garage Sale, don't hurry to the site any time soon.

The Friends of the Parks are getting ready to file a lawsuit that would block construction based on a law that was enacted after McCormick Place was constructed on the east side of Lake Shore Drive, a strip of land that has been kept as open parkland ever since Daniel Burnham made no small plans.

Ordinary Chicagoans know a power play when they see one, and this is another example of the rich and powerful doing what they like where they like, leaving the taxpayers to cover the cost. There is no popular demand for a museum of Star Wars memorabilia. George Lucas is not a famous Chicagoan who made good, but an out-of-towner looking to brag of his achievements like Donald Trump with his in-your-face buidling sign.

To put the self-tribute in the middle of a beloved museum campus, and to take away the already limited parking at Soldier Field, does not sit well with the general public.

To construct a building on parkland east of the drive has rankled many, and the battle lines are already being drawn up. According to the city, the Lucas museum will be built with private funds but then it will be handed over to the Chicago Park District so technically it's a public building and the law only bans private construction so the museum is good to go.

Mr. Lucas' representatives may not know that he will not get to own his museum, but that is another matter to be worked out as the lawsuits get filed and the public gets riled up. The public that knows how these things work in the city that works, where politicians proclaim the glories of a pet project and the next thing you know the parking meter rates are skyrocketing and the 911 surcharge on every phone has more than doubled and the water bill has climbed so high you don't know how you'll pay it.

Who cares that much about Star Wars to go to a museum? And when people don't go, and the admission fees don't cover operating expenses? Chicagoans are familiar with the routine. They don't much want to add another financial burden to a city that is already broke and running further into the red.

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