The City of Chicago has engaged in “a short con shell game” to
help Barack Obama build a 12-story museum and library dedicated
to his presidency on public parkland, a new lawsuit alleges.
Protect Our Parks filed the lawsuit Monday seeking to block
construction of the Obama Presidential Center in historic
Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side, where a young Obama cut
his political teeth.
Established law precludes the Chicago Park District from
transferring public parkland in Jackson Park to a private non-
governmental entity for its own use, the lawsuit claims.
"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,” according to the lawsuit.
The Chicago Sun-Times also quotes the lawsuit as saying that it
is seeking a court order barring construction because it views
the land transfer as an “institutional bait and switch.”
According to the lawsuit, the original purpose of transferring
the land was to house an official Obama Federal Library.
However, that is no longer the case. Obama decided the center
will not include his presidential papers.
The named plaintiffs are three park advocates who are being
represented by a law firm with ties to a rival of Chicago Mayor
Rahm Emanuel, according to the paper.
The paper reports that the suit comes with the project slated to
go before the Chicago Plan Commission on Thursday for approvals
necessary ahead of construction.
In reaction to the lawsuit, an Emanuel spokesman told the paper
that the Obama Presidential Center is a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to create jobs and honor the legacy of Chicago's
“While some choose to stand in the way of progress for the South
Side we are focused on making progress in every community in
Chicago,” the spokesman, Grant Klinsman, said.
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.