So, Chicago University is fighting with Columbia University (and the less-likely contender, Hawaii) for the honor of housing the Obama Presidential Library someday.
Chicago, though it seems a natural home for Obama’s legacy palace, had fallen behind Columbia in the running because the University of Chicago had offered as part of its package…land it didn’t own. One might think the abandonment of recognized standards or property ownership in the service of bestowing upon the collective a monument to Obama’s greatness might be a feature, not a bug, for the Barack Obama Foundation. But not so. The nonprofit putting together Obama’s library was more keen on Columbia’s guaranteed offer of 17 acres it actually owns.
The land dispute that nearly scuttled the University of Chicago’s proposal arose because the university didn’t actually own all of the land it offered up, prompting significant concerns from the foundation. Some of it was park land, and some residents who opposed losing public green space have threatened a lawsuit.The dispute simmered for weeks until Emanuel brokered a proposal under which the Chicago Park District would transfer control of several potential sites to the city, which could then offer them to the foundation.
Enter Rahm Emanuel, former Obama chief of staff and now Mayor of Chicago, to pull this move. Emanuel basically just forced the city’s parks department, which owned the land University of Chicago was offering, to give up the public land to the University. One might think the execution of a shady South Side real estate deal with unsavory characters might be a feature, not a bug, for The Barack Obama Foundation. And, one would be right. Things are rolling along again for the tribute center to be in the president’s former South Side neighborhood:
The move was touted as a show of strength, buoyed by support from the vast majority of the city council. And last week, following heated and lengthy public hearings, the Chicago Park District unanimously approved that transfer, which will happen only if the University of Chicago is chosen.
The Obama Foundation said that move “improves Chicago’s bids.” And while the city council still needs to approve that decision next month, it’s expected to pass easily.
Some are raising objections to the amount of green space the city is losing in this endeavor. They also object to the way they say the public wavering of the Barack Obama Foundation in its choice of venues has created something of a manufactured crisis, forcing the parks officials to pass something under duress when more time could have been afforded.
Hyde Park resident Robin Kaufman urged the board to delay the vote at least until the spring when people can see how the park is really used. She said she believed the board was being bullied into making a quick decision.
“You have been misled just as people on the South Side have been misled,” Kaufman said during the hearing. “This is an artificial emergency the city and university have created.”
Now, you tell me. Does that sound like something the Barack Obama Foundation would do?
Other residents have raised objections to the University of Chicago and the city spending so much time, money and focus on a potential presidential library instead of reopening a much-needed trauma center at the University’s medical center:
Advocates and doctors have urged the University of Chicago Medical Center for years to fill the void in the area’s “trauma center desert” by re-opening its Level 1 trauma center for adults, which shuttered in 1988. Not one of Cook County’s nine Level 1 adult trauma centers is located on Chicago’s South Side, meaning some residents face ambulance rides of 10 miles or more before they arrive at a hospital that can treat them.
A 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health linked Chicagoans’ distance from trauma centers to higher mortality rates, and in Chicago, a disproportionate number of shootings happen on the city’s South and West sides.
The green-space citizens will lose. The trauma-center advocates and everyone injured seriously on the South Side will lose. There are more important issues at stake here, like stealing property from public coffers on the orders of a strong-arming mayor who used to work for the president whose library foundation is ostentatiously waffling about its decision to come to Chicago so as to extract as much as it can from the citizens of his former city in service to his legacy.
If their goal was to accurately reflect the legacy of this president, they’ve already done it beautifully.
Chicago, you toddlin’ town.
BREAKING: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into April runoff election after failing to win majority.
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 25, 2015