Barack Obama made a habit of stealing private land to create more public parks. Now, in a highly ironic turn of events, public park activists have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago and the Chicago Park District to block construction of the planned Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park on the city’s South Side.
The Obama Presidential Center has been mired in controversy from the start. In March 2015, the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance for Chicago Park District land in Jackson Park to be transferred to the City of Chicago to lease to the Obama Foundation for use as the site of Obama’s official federal presidential library.
However, the Obama Foundation subsequently scrapped the federal presidential library in favor of a sprawling, non-federal presidential center, and moved the boundaries for the center further north and east than originally planned.
Protect Our Parks, Inc., which filed the lawsuit on Monday, cited this “institutional bait and switch” as just one of several reasons they should be granted a court order. As they argue in the lawsuit, public park land is “prohibited by law” from being turned over to a non-governmental private entity for private use. Because the Obama Foundation is a private organization and the land in Jackson Park is no longer being used for Obama’s official federal library, park activists have correctly pointed out that the transfer of land is indeed illegal.
Furthermore, the Obama Foundation will only be charged a “token amount of rent” for use of the land, and the Park District Act “does not authorize the Park District itself to transfer valuable public trust land for virtually no compensatory return.”
A federal lawsuit filed by a Chicago nonprofit accuses Obama center organizers of pulling an “institutional bait and switch” by shifting the center’s purpose away from being a true presidential library https://t.co/VutG54YzOc pic.twitter.com/cjaiIfDFj5
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) May 15, 2018
Park activists are not the only people opposed to the Obama Presidential Center, either. In January, over 100 faculty members at the University of Chicago signed a letter asking the Obama Foundation to build the center elsewhere, deeming the Jackson park location a “traffic jam in the making” that would provide no “development or economic benefits” to the surrounding area.
Indeed, there are others places on the South Side where the center could be built. Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, released a statement saying that, while the group is not involved with the lawsuit against the center, they nevertheless “disagree with the choice to locate it on public parkland rather than vacant land across the street from Washington Park.”
It seems pretty obvious that the Obama Foundation is on the wrong side of this one. Furthermore, not only is the entire situation highly ironic given Obama’s obsession with national parks, but Chicago’s official motto has been since 1830 Urbs in Horto, which means “City in a Garden,” honoring the city’s commitment to parkland.
But Obama has proven time and time again that he cares neither about history or the law as long as he makes himself look good.
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