Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode 113. Talking about equity, democracy and public spaces. Juanita Irizarry and Alderman Daniel La Spata.


There has been a lot of talk lately about whether the Chicago River Walk should be named after outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The talk is out there because it seems the Mayor, who will be former Mayor after noon on Monday, has dropped the idea of him getting River Walk naming rights.

I don’t think we should name civic places after people who are still alive.

Being dead is just my first criteria.

There is also the fact that Mayor Rahm has done nothing to deserve naming rights on any public space or building.

Rahm’s rule has been the antithesis of the idea of public.

He has been Mayor Privatizer.

It was fitting that on the last days of Mayor Rahm Hitting Left would have as our guests Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, and newly elected 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata.

Regarding public spaces, La Spata posed a good question:  He pointed out that if a family wants a picnic or if a group wants to organize a ball game in a public park, they know where to go to get a permit.

But what if the park is owned and operated by Sterling Bay?

A small point that illustrates a larger dilemma.

Juanita and the FOTP were the Davids that beat the Goliaths, George Lucas and Rahm Emanuel, in keeping Lucas’ personal museum off our Lakefront.

Sent Lucas packing back to Hollywood.

Juanita shared with us her first meeting with the Lori Lightfoot. It was back when Rahm was still running and nobody was giving Lori Lightfoot much of a chance.

She introduced herself to Lightfoot at a house meeting.

The most the next mayor knew about Friends of the Park was its role in preserving the City’s Lakefront.

But Lightfoot surprised Irizarry by expressing her concerns about how to protect equity and expand park access to Chicago’s underserved Black and Brown communities off the Lake, not realizing that those concerns were always central to the Friends of the Parks mission.

At that moment Irizarry saw Lightfoot as an ally, not an adversary, in pursuing their mission.

By the way, I have been pushing for Irizarry to be the next head of the Park District.

Irizarry winces whenever I suggest it and thinks she can be of better service pushing and poking from the outside with an ally on the inside.

But I still don’t know about that.

You can find the podcast here.




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