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Grand South Side project calls for Obama’s vision and values

Former President Barack Obama pointed out features of his proposed Obama Presidential Center, which is scheduled to be built in nearby Jackson Park. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Like all of Barack Obama’s former neighbors on the South Side, I’m proud of our former president, not just for what he accomplished, but for his and the First Lady’s values. That’s why it’s crucial that construction of the Obama Center and the reconfiguration of Jackson Park, where it will be built, are developed in line with the Obamas’ core values.

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  1. President Obama started political life as a community organizer. He would be appalled by the lack of community engagement in proposals ranging from closing key roads, turning a large part of Jackson Park into a PGA golf course, building private hotels near the land, or moving school facilities. The many different proposed changes affect South Shore, Woodlawn, and Hyde Park. Although major changes to Jackson Park began three years ago, we in the affected communities have not been able to persuade the Chicago Park District, the Mayor’s Office, or the University of Chicago to get significant community input. Even when one of these institutions holds a public meeting, they do not respond to community concerns.Friends of the Parks has been calling for one comprehensive plan for months. Jackson Park Watch has gone repeatedly to Park District Board meetings with the same urgent request. To date no such plan has appeared.
  2. President Obama is a visionary. How do the Park District, the Mayor and the University envision Jackson Park and the South Side? Are they hoping for a Mar-a-Lago golf course with Disney World amusements, or do they want to move forward with Frederick Law Olmsted’s ideas of creating green spaces where families can relax and enjoy a natural environment?
  3. Many of the proposals include closing major transportation routes for commuters from the South Side and from the Indiana and South Suburbs. No one has come up with a plan that shows where the traffic would be routed without causing serious economic harm to commuters or physical damage to the Jackson Park neighborhoods.
  4. Absent a comprehensive plan, how can the city produce a budget for rebuilding Jackson Park? Millennium Park, built without a comprehensive plan, cost $627 million in today’s dollars. Jackson Park is 22 times the size of Millennium Park. Does this mean rebuilding the park, changing traffic, adding a PGA golf course along with many other unknown changes would cost $13.8 billion? Where will the money come from?
  5. We need a plan, a plan drawn up under public scrutiny, open to public feedback and relying on community wishes and needs. We need to know how money is being raised. We need to know what this mammoth series of projects would cost, and whether those of us who have lived on the South Side for forty or more years will be able to afford to live here, or, indeed, want to live here.

Sara N. Paretsky, Hyde Park

Crack down on gun dealer regulations

A substantial number of guns go missing from gun dealers’ inventory each year. In 2014 alone, more than 19,000 guns were reported lost or stolen from licensed gun dealers nationwide.

Across the country, the vast majority of gun dealers operate responsibly, but a small and unscrupulous group of them are disproportionately responsible for gun crimes that victimize 1,300 Americans each and every day. In fact, 90 percent of crime guns in the United States can be traced to only 5 percent of gun dealers – some of the most notorious of which are based in Illinois.

Increased regulation of gun dealers to prevent straw purchases has been associated with an 64 percent decrease in the number of guns from those dealers used in crime.

Research has found that state laws regulating the conduct of gun dealers help reduce illegal gun trafficking. A 2009 study of 54 U.S. cities found that cities in states with strong laws regulating gun dealers experienced lower levels of intrastate gun trafficking.

85 percent of Illinoisans support gun dealer licensing.

Illinois right now is considering legislation that would require that all individuals “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms or ammunition sales to obtain a state gun dealer license. To be licensed, applicants would have to, among other things:

  • Keep their records and inventories open for inspection by law enforcement during all hours of operation.
  • Pass background checks, and make sure all employees pass background checks.
  • Equip their place of business with 24/7 video surveillance systems that would not only discourage theft but also illegal sales and straw purchases.
  • It would be a Class 4 felony for dealers to operate without a license.
  • Any violation of rules could trigger license revocation or suspension, and substantive fines.

David Ulibarri, Norwood Park

Accidental child gun deaths from lack of security

The real issue with accidental child gun deaths should be that this country’s love affair with guns means that at least one child, 12 or younger, dies every week on the average because of an accidental shooting — not terrorism, not home invasion, not gang war — due to an unattended, usually loaded, gun left unsecured. So, along with the other thousands of annual gun deaths we must live with, we will continue to tally the death of a child every week because they killed themselves or another child with someone’s gun. The 300 million guns will never be secure. How many more children must die?

Michael Hart, West Ridge