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Park District CEO Michael Kelly’s contract was approved for the best of reasons

Michael P. Kelly (left), seen in 2015 with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has headed Chicago's parks since 2011. | Sun-Times files

To frame the employment contract extended by the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners to General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly as a “golden parachute” is a gross distortion that demands a response.

Last fall, the board offered Kelly a three-year contract. The board approved the contract not in secret, but during its regularly scheduled December meeting, which routinely is covered by the press and broadcast via cable television.

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Contrary to what was reported, Kelly’s contract was offered to provide continuity and stability to the park district on a number of important endeavors, including the resolution of the district’s pension reform, the move of the district’s headquarters to the Brighton Park neighborhood, and more than $200 million in capital projects now underway or slated for construction in the next year.

A public servant for 25 years, Kelly has served as general superintendent of the district since 2011 and takes the responsibility of his position very seriously. He recognizes the vital role parks play in Chicago’s communities.

Superintendent Kelly has unquestionably demonstrated his ability to lead the district with its annual budget of more than $460 million. He has a thoughtful, tangible approach to programming and has leveraged more than $1.5 billion in capital investments in parks throughout every Chicago community. And he has done so with no assurances or guarantees, though it is customary for park agency executives across Illinois to operate with employment contracts.

Under his leadership, the Chicago Park District continues to be a model for park and recreation agencies worldwide. In addition to earning the distinguished Gold Medal of Excellence in 2014, the district earned its first accreditation from the state’s leading park agencies and recently earned successive reaccreditation.

Earlier this month, the National Recreation and Parks Association, the country’s largest and most influential park organization, with more than 65,000 members, announced Kelly as chair-elect of its board of directors in 2020.

As a board, we stand by our support of Superintendent Kelly’s work and his commitment to the Chicago Park District, and more importantly, his service to the families that depend on our parks on a daily basis.

Avis LaVelle

President

Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners

We can check Michael Cohen’s facts

Much is being made by Michael Cohen’s lack of credibility, and rightly so. However, they are incorrect that his testimony should be completely disqualified. No prosecutor blindly takes the testimony of a questionable witness. It is the testimony that can be corroborated that is useful to them.

What Cohen, who was President Donald Trump’s personal attorney for 12 years, says on its own is not reliable. It’s what Cohen says that can be corroborated that is reliable.

The public, and especially the subjects and targets of investigations, along with their attorneys, would do well to remember that.

Jim Tomczyk, Forest Glen