While the epic Wal-Mart battle is fading into oblivion, the epic Children’s Museum battle is about to get worse. After laying low for several months huddled with PR powerhouse Hill & Knowlton, museum officials are embarking on a new offensive – and that pretty much describes it – in its unpopular effort to move to Grant Park. Like the Wal-Mart fiasco, this fight also turned racial when the mayor (him again) accused foes of not wanting black kids in the neighborhood.
The controversy has already been a public relations disaster for the Children’s Museum, but for some reason it’s officials stubbornly blunder on like, well, children, even though downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly has suggested a couple dozen alternative sites he could get behind.
In the Tribune article, Reilly derided the museum’s new public relations effort as “an attempt to manufacture public support that isn’t there.” Maybe Hill & Knowlton will have better luck than Barack Obama media maven David Axelrod, who was previously running stealth PR operations for the museum, according to the April issue of Business Week Chicago.
The opposition remains galvanized. In an e-mail sent to supporters earlier this month, Reilly wrote: “This project is NOT on the March Plan Commission Agenda but very likely to be heard at the April 17, 2007 meeting. Thousands of community residents, Friends of the Parks, Preservation Chicago, Save Grant Park and Friends of Downtown all continue to reiterate their opposition to violating the special protections that have preserved Grant Park for 172 years.”
Preservation Chicago, in fact, has put Grant Park on its list of the city’s most endangered, um, buildings.
In an e-mail sent out on Tuesday, the organization asked those opposed to the museum move to attend the Plan Commission meeting in green shirts.
It’s an environmental message, to be sure, but it’s also the only color the Children’s Museum – which would be in line for park-related taxpayer subsidies – seems able to understand. Maybe in the confusion, the museum folk will change sides.
Mick Dumke and Ben Joravksy at Clout City have some other ideas about how to fill up Grant Park.