Did Obama do a “Con Shell Game” to get His Library in Chicago?
A lawsuit filed by Protect Our Parks alleges that the City of Chicago used a con shell game to get approval for the Obama Presidential ‘Library’ that isn’t a library at all. They are seeking to stop the Presidential Center from being built inside Chicago’s historic Jackson Park.
Current Chicago law prevents the Chicago Park District from transferring park property to a private entity for its own use, according to the lawsuit.
“Defendants have chosen to deal with it in a classic Chicago political way, known as a short con shell game, a corrupt scheme to deceive and seemingly legitimize an illegal land grab, one that will endure for centuries to come, regardless of future changing public park needs and increasingly consequential environmental conditions.” Lawsuit
The Chicago plan commission is set to meet on Thursday over the zoning permits and applications filed by the Obama Foundation. The Chicago Sun Times reported that the lawsuit alleges:
- An “institutional bait and switch.” The original purpose of the transfer of public park land to the Foundation – a private non-government entity – was to house an official federal Obama Federal Library. However, that purpose no longer exists. Obama decided his center will not include his official presidential library. The federal National Records and Archives Administration will run it from someplace else.
- Transfer of park land to a non-governmental private entity violates the park district code.
- The park district and the city will receive only token rent for the land and the Park District Act law “does not authorize the Park District itself to transfer valuable public trust land for virtually no compensatory return.”
- Public park land is “prohibited by law” from being turned over to a non-governmental private entity for private use.
The “library” will not house any of Obama’s papers from his presidency. It’s more of a recreational center – with a kitchen and other recreational venues.
The main issue is that there is vacant land across the street from the proposed site of the “library.” The Friends of the Parks issued a statement that said they welcomed the library to the South side, but were concerned about Chicago Parks being considered for real estate development, when there is open space across the street.
As it has moved forward, the Obama Presidential Center has encountered opposition from neighborhood, activist groups and others, according to reports.
In January more than 100 professors from the University of Chicago released a letter questioning the project’s touted economic benefits to South Side residents.
A month later, a report in the Chicago Tribune estimated that the cost to taxpayers to widen streets and construct underpasses around the center would be $175 million.
The Defendants in the lawsuit say that the center is a “once in a lifetime” way of bringing in more jobs to the city.