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Mayor Emanuel: ‘Don’t get me started on what I think of the French’

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Updated: December 21, 2013 6:37AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to be diplomatic Tuesday — even as he condemned France for advising French travelers visiting Chicago to avoid the West Side and steer clear of everything south of 59th Street.

“Don’t get me started on what I think of the French . . . I don’t think that would be good,” the mayor said, doing his best to avoid an international incident.

Choosing his words carefully, Emanuel then tiptoed around the warning to travelers posted on the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and highlighted recently by the Washington Post.

The mayor noted that Chicago tourism has grown by 41 percent — thanks to visitors “from China and all over the world. ” That has moved Chicago up a notch, from 10th to ninth place among major cities. Hotel construction is also off the charts, he said.

“If people didn’t go to the West Side, they wouldn’t see Garfield Park. If people didn’t come to the South Side, they won’t see Pullman Park, which soon [will get] a national [landmark] designation,” Emanuel said.

“One of the things that makes Chicago so strong is our neighborhoods. People who come to Chicago want to see the No. 1 art museum in the world, the Art lnstitute. They want to see all the Tony Award-winning theater companies. But they also want to see the vibrancy of our neighborhoods, whether that’s Garfield Park, which is extraordinary. Whether that’s Pullman Park, which is extraordinary in the history of the United States. Whether it’s the Museum of Science & Industry. Or whether here on 95th [Street at the CTA Red Line Station] in a year from now will be one of the great world artists.”

Emanuel argued that tourists who adhere to the French government advisory and remain cloistered downtown will be “missing out on what makes Chicago so unique, which is our neighborhoods and our communities and the people [who] live in ’em.”


Twitter: @fspielman

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