Protests in favor of the endangered Lucas Museum and against the Friends of the Parks organization seem to be increasing in number and size. The first protest on May 4 may or may not have even happened, for all the media attention it got. But the one this past Friday was well attended by local radio, television, online, and print media.
In the video above shot by Rebel Force Radio, you can see the protest on the 19th outside the State Street offices of FotP, organized by the Coalition 2 Build the Lucas Museum. The coalition is made up of 50 community, religious, and commercial groups who want the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to be built because of the impact it will have on Chicago in terms of jobs, its economy, and neighborhood revitalization.
It wants Friends of the Parks to stop blocking the construction of the museum on Chicago’s lakefront, something the 41-year-old organization has vowed to continue.
The coalition may need more than just loud voices and marching hardhats to get anywhere. Friends of the Parks is a very well-funded organization. In 2013, the most recent year records are available, it raised almost $725,000 through contributions, grants, and $2,750 of your tax dollars. In 2010, it raised $1,186,538. You don’t get people to write the kind of checks that make that possible unless you know what you’re doing.
It turns out that San Francisco has a well-funded advocacy group, too. One that is immensely better funded than Friends of the Parks. It’s called The San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation, and goes by the coder-riffic abbreviation sf.citi();.
Sf.citi(); is actively trying to woo Mr. Lucas back to his home market. It placed a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle advocating that he build his museum on Treasure Island. Treasure Island is somewhat similar to Chicago’s Northerly Island in that it’s a man-made piece of land off the coast of the city.
The ad is reproduced below in its entirety (click to embiggen). It’s signed by business leaders from companies like Facebook, Eventbrite, Salesforce, Pinterest, Skype, Mesosphere, AT&T, Github, eBay, ACT, Yahoo!, The Gap, and even the local symphony, opera and film societies.
It’s also signed by a congressman, a U.S. Senator, and four former mayors. Why are Chicago’s elected representatives past and present mute on this issue one way or the other? A city with just one quarter Chicago’s population is mounting an aggressive campaign with a high-profile names at the helm. Who’s flying the flag for Chicago? Mayor Emanuel and Father Pfleger.
It also contains a not-so-subtle dig at Chicago. Specifically, the line “We appreciate the importance of what this extraordinary collection and vital public programs would offer to our future generations.” Translation: “We’re not a bunch of corncobs who think this is a Star Wars museum.”
Mr. Lucas only ended up considering Chicago for his museum because he couldn’t work out a deal in San Francisco to put his museum in that city’s famed Presidio park. But according to local talk radio, there is strong support for the Treasure Island location, which is about to see massive redevelopment anyway, and is considered a much better and simpler option than replacing Chicago’s Lakeshore Center at McCormick Place.