The second meeting at noon was the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation.
If the city council hadn’t ceded oversight of the NATO summit to the new Mayor and the private business group running the show I think this is the committee that would have been in charge. But instead of that task, today the Committee had a published agenda with three items. But without explanation two items were not dealt with.
So the only item was the appointment of Benjamin R. Armstrong to serve as Commissioner of the Chicago Park District (CPD) for the remainder of the unexpired term of Robert J. Pickens who resigned. The term will be effective immediately (upon approval of the entire City Council) and expire April 25, 2014.
Most Chicagoans would recall Mr. Armstrong as B.J. Armstrong of the NBA Champion Bulls team. Mr. Armstrong is currently a sports agent.
The toughest questions asked of the appointee was what he would do to get more boys (Query: what about the gurls, aldermen?) involved with basketball.
And one alderman from the south lakefront stated that she was concerned about parity between the north side and the south side parks.
No Alderman asked what qualified Mr. Armstrong to be on the board of a public body that owns more than 8,100 acres of green space, making the CPD the largest municipal park manager in the nation. The Chicago Park District owns and manages 580 parks and is also responsible for 26 indoor pools, 51 outdoor pools, and 26 miles of lakefront including 23 swimming beaches plus one inland beach.
The Committee voted unanimously to approve the appointment.
And the Chair moved to adjourn the meeting.
And then a citizen in the gallery objected. He had submitted a public comment form and wanted to speak.
The citizen, George Blakemore (shown in the photo), attends many public meetings particularly Park Board Meetings and meetings of the Cook County Commissioners. The Chair disregarded him saying,” It’s just an appointment. I am not taking any comments.”
There are lots of reasons why Alderman Burnett’s action is troublesome. I plan to find out if he actually violated parliamentary procedure in omitting the public comment period without a motion and vote. But it certainly shows a lack of respect for open transparent government.
For the record: The CPD also owned an airport, which it could have sold to the City of Chicago for around a billion dollars, which would have allowed the CPD to fix all of the infrastructure issues in the park system. Instead, the appointed park commissioners bobbled their heads when former Mayor Daley destroyed the park systems very valuable aviation asset in the middle of the night.