Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced along with Former Mayor Richard Daley and family that a 20-acre portion of Grant Park will be dedicated to the former first lady, Maggie Daley. The downtown world-class park will be transformed for $55 million and will have play space, scheduled to open in 2015. This is a wonderful tribute for the beloved Maggie Daley, but at this time given the safety and educational conditions in Chicago I think she would personally oppose the park idea.
The story in the Chicago Sun Times appeared adjacent to another about Chicago's children, "Six Killed in Three Days." The juxtaposition of the schedule of neighborhood shootings with the Mrs. Daley Park story got my full attention.
Maggie Daley contributed much to the children of Chicago with her program "After School Matters." Indeed, she touched the "soul of our city," uniquely through cultural arts programs after school. She founded an organization to provide children with structured activity, they were learning to express themselves in artistic formats. They were given platforms and a performing stage. Youth talent was being developed and directed. They were creative. They were doing things in "After School Matters" that they could not do in regular school hours, where school matters.
Where does Chicago get $55 million dollars for a park, and we can't hire additional policemen to keep the children safe in their neighborhoods? What would Maggie Daley say? I bet she would say do what is important, make the children safe first. As a teacher strike threatens Chicago for the first time in 25 years, I bet Mrs. Daley would say pay the teachers with the $55 million. The beauty of Mrs. Daley's program was that it went into all of Chicago's neighborhoods and took children off the street. All of Chicago's children were involved in her process.
I attended the annual event of "After School Matters." The children presented Broadway productions, hip hop to jazz dances, music and showcased their artistic gifts. The show was always amazing. I will probably contribute to the Maggie Daley Park. But first things first. The City of Chicago does not need another park. If we can raise $55 million in the public and private sector for a park, why can't we raise money to hire policemen and increase teacher's salary for longer school days?
We need a priority check. Both mayors should understand, Chicago will never be world-class if the gangs keep shooting; Chicago priorities and values should be safety first, education second, parks third.