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Polar Bear Name Scare

By Matt Wood in Miscellaneous on Oct 9, 2006 11:45AM

chicagoist_200610_polar.jpgHow often do you really notice the names on plaques honoring benefactors of various public and private attractions? Does it really matter to you who helped fund the So-and-So Family Auditorium or the John Q. Richerthanyou Memorial Park? You hardly notice the embossed faces of the two bluebloods beaming down from their perches. But some people think that the Lincoln Park Zoo ought to reconsider the honor given to a man whose name graces their polar bear exhibit.

Stuart Levine is a Highland Park lawyer and businessman who used his power as a member of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board to force hospitals into using contractors who gave him kickbacks. He is also involved in an ongoing investigation that could implicate contributors to Gov. Blagojevich's campaign. Levine donated $1.7 million to the zoo, $1 million of which went toward the polar bear exhibit, duly renamed "The Levine Family Polar Bear Plaza." He will plead guilty later this month to federal corruption charges, but the zoo says they have no intention of giving the polar bear playground a new name.

The zoo's polar bear program seems to have bad luck with its names. Aside from the Levine moniker, one of the bears is named "Lee," after former Illinois House Republican leader Lee Daniels. This summer, a former Daniels chief of staff was sentenced for diverting resources to political campaigns, allegedly on Daniels' authority. Daniels says he knew nothing of the shenanigans. If that's all it takes to clear your name, then Chicagoist suggests that if another bear needs a name, they should call it "Denny."