Cassandra Francis explains her departure from Friends of the Parks | Bleader

Cassandra Francis explains her departure from Friends of the Parks

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Cassandra Francis is going far, far away.
  • Friends of the Parks
  • Cassandra Francis is going far, far away.

Friends of the Parks president Cassandra Francis inspired some creative speculation last week, when she abruptly left her job.

Francis, who'd been there only a year, was in the midst of two high-profile battles on behalf of FOTP—attempts to keep both the Lucas Museum and the Obama presidential library off Chicago parkland.

Before that, she'd headed up Mayor Richard M. Daley's stillborn plan to build an Olympic village on the Michael Reese hospital site after spending more than a decade in the real estate executive ranks at U.S. Equities Development, among other jobs.

At FOTP, she was suddenly on the opposite side of the power structure she'd previously been part of—taking on the mayor, the president, the billionaire filmmaker, and all those among the public who'd be happy to see the Star Wars museum on what's currently a parking lot, and the Obama library on a portion of historic Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Washington Park.

So the speculation swirled.

Did the heat get too intense for her? Or for the FOTP board?

Did they force her out?

Or did she, as one report suggested, bail because she couldn't get along with that board?

(Never mind that, under her leadership, FOTP had just won a preliminary but important court victory.)

All Francis originally said about her departure was that it was a good time to be "moving on."

Which sounded about as convincing as "pursuing other opportunities." She might have said that too.

So maybe her exit was engineered in City Hall? Or even the White House?

Didn't it look like something her foes had ordered up?

Especially over the next few days, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel got a piece of legislation whisked through the state legislature that, once his buddy in the governor's seat signs it, will make it legal for the city to do just about anything with Chicago Park District land. According to FOTP, House Bill 373 "basically authorizes the City to run a mall up and down the Lake so long as they call it a museum."

But Wednesday, the Washington Post Style blog reported a much more mundane reason for Francis's exit. She's joining her husband, Northwestern University law professor Clinton Francis, whose appointment as founding dean of a new NU-mentored law school in Qatar was announced in February. According to the Post, she said she'd "put off leaving as long as she could."

Following her husband?

That's one of the reasons the corporate old boys used to give for not putting women in executive positions. It was right up there with pregnancy.

Which I suppose could be why it didn't immediately spring from her lips.

Even though we're all more enlightened now.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Parks board chair Lauren Moltz says that Francis's resignation was definitely not requested by the board, and that the group's strategy and positions remain unchanged. FOTP wrote Governor Bruce Rauner this week, requesting a meeting and asking him to veto HB 373.

And if he doesn't? According to that letter to Rauner, FOTP has concluded that "the proposed legislation does not change the law regarding the issue." They'll see the city in court.

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