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Rahm: Public Supports Him In Fight With Parks Group Over Lucas Museum

By Ted Cox | May 5, 2016 3:35pm
"I will make sure Chicago is on the winning side, not the losing side" on the Lucas Museum, says Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

SOUTH LOOP — Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted Thursday that public support is on his side on the proposed Lucas Museum and that Friends of the Parks is increasingly isolated and even divided in its opposition.

"Look, I know where the public is," Emanuel said in a news conference outside Louie Fieldhouse, 1700 S. Wentworth Ave.

Emanuel cited support for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from museums, hotels, organized labor, business interests and religious and community leaders on the South and West sides. Friends of the Parks, the longtime watchdog group that has fought the Lucas museum being built on the lakefront, is losing its backers and was even divided itself, he said.

"There was a real 180 turn," Emanuel said of Friends of the Parks' actions just this week, when it suspended its suit against placement of the museum on a Soldier Field parking lot Tuesday morning, then came out against any placement of the museum on the lakefront in the afternoon. Those actions prompted a blistering response from Mellody Hobson, wife of "Star Wars" movie mogul George Lucas, the guiding force behind the museum.

"We thought we were on a good course," Emanuel said.

Referring to the proposed site near Soldier Field, Emanuel said "this is a parking lot that is part of the Museum Campus." Using it for a museum would "create thousands of jobs and enrich — educationally and financially and culturally — the City of Chicago," Emanuel said.

He opposed efforts "to lure that museum away from Chicago to Los Angeles or San Francisco," adding, "That would be a loss."

Calling the museum "a great investment," Emanuel then turned the conflict into a battle for civic pride, saying, "I will make sure Chicago is on the winning side, not the losing side."

Emanuel called it "unfortunate that a parking lot would remain a parking lot."

Friends of the Parks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Public opinion varied in the wake of Tuesday's turbulence, and protesters demonstrated outside the headquarters of Friends of the Parks on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, the Emanuel administration executed a legal maneuver in an attempt to quash the suit against the Lucas Museum by taking it to a higher federal court.

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