Think Tank Express: Lucas with the lid off: Lakefront plan derails

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Special interest group hijacks and derails plan – a situation we’re all too familiar with in the media business

The Lakefront project Star Wars creator George Lucas wanted to build has been zapped by something more sinister than Darth Vader: An organization who claims they serve the “public interest”.

On Tuesday, Lucas was dealt a blow to build his new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on the Lakefront after Friends Of The Parks, an organization dedicated to protecting land on Chicago’s lakefront, said they would oppose any kind of attempt to build Lucas’ museum on it – even if it’s the land now occupied by McCormick Place East, which opened in 1971 after the original burned down four years prior. The original plan to build the museum South of Soldier Field – in a parking lot – was sacked by Parks and upheld in a recent federal lawsuit.

The Lucas museum – which would contain art, drawings, memorabilia, and other artifacts, would have provided millions of dollars of revenue for the City, over 1,000 new jobs, and restore much-needed prestige for Chicago. The museum had the support of Chicago community leaders, including the Rev. Michael Pflager and Rev. Jesse Jackson. But with Parks’ strong opposition, Lucas now may move the project to another city.

Chicago native Mellody Hobson, who is married to Lucas and is chairman of Ariel Investments, blasted the Parks stance, stating “Friends of the Parks has proven itself to be no friend of Chicago” according to the Chicago Tribune. “As an African-American who has spent my entire life in this city I love, it saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer.”

Reaction to the news on social media was mostly negative, with most blaming Friends Of The Parks.

For TV fans, the meddling from these type of organizations are all too familiar. Doesn’t this remind you of the antics of the Parents Television Council? This group came to prominence after the “wardrobe malfunction” at halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII. , leading the FCC to increase the fine for indecent content ten-fold. Last year, the commission fined CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Va. $325,000 for a news report about a porn star wanting to join a volunteer fire department in a nearby suburb. The station accidentally aired a video clip of a website showing someone “doing the stroke”. The PTC completely missed the point of the story, in the name of “protecting children”. How many children do you know even watch local news? Local stations would now be afraid to touch a story of a similar nature, fueling the spectre of censorship.

The PTC has also sparred with “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter, Seth MacFarlane, and other figures in front of and behind the camera in the name of saying the airwaves “belong to the public” – exactly the same kind of rhetoric Friends Of The Parks is using.

So what really belongs to the public? The Lakefront? The airwaves? Both of these organizations act like they own them, under the guise of “public interest”.

As for Frauds Of The Parks, they get what they wanted: instead of a museum that would generate jobs for young people and give Chicago serious arts cred, the luscious “parkland” they claim to be protecting can continue to be an empty parcel of land where kids can hang out and smoke weed all day. I guess that was the intent of the lawsuit, right?

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