There’s nothing ‘puzzling’ about lawsuit against Obama Center in Jackson Park

SHARE There’s nothing ‘puzzling’ about lawsuit against Obama Center in Jackson Park

Former President Barack Obama points out features of the proposed Obama Presidential Center, which is scheduled to be built in nearby Jackson Park, during a gathering at the South Shore Cultural Center on May 3, 2017. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Sun-Times’ editorial “Let’s quit beating up on the Obama Center’s locale in Jackson Park” is, to borrow from the editorial itself, puzzling. To say that this lawsuit is “last- minute” and “11th-hour” misses several points simultaneously. First, the issue of confiscating public space — 19.3 acres of Jackson Park — for a private enterprise — the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) — has been a well-reported source of concern since the Obama Foundation announced last year that its facility would not be administered by the National Archives.

Next, this “late-to-the-game” characterization presupposes that the approvals process is in its final stages, when in fact federal-level reviews are in their infancy.

We fully expect the Plan Commission, the City Council, and any other municipal agency with jurisdiction over the OPC to “get on board” (as Mayor Rahm Emanuel told them to do) and rubber-stamp the project, as did multiple municipal agencies (many unanimously) when the Jackson Park land transfer was approved. But, thankfully, the OPC is also subject to federal reviews because Jackson Park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Those reviews include the National Environmental Policy Act, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, and compliance with the Urban Park Recreation Recovery (UPARR) program under the National Park Service — all still ongoing. The Cultural Landscape Foundation is an “official consulting party” in the federal-level process.

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We would also dispute the “distinction without a difference” observation concerning “library” vs. “center.” A presidential library administered by the National Archives is subject to a higher level of public oversight than a private enterprise.

Finally, rather than “beating up on the Obama Center’s locale in Jackson Park,” why don’t we stop beating up on Jackson Park itself? WBEZ recently published a study about the substantial, vacant city-owned land in the area, along with the considerable holdings of the University of Chicago, which successfully bid to host the OPC. Why isn’t that land being used for the OPC?

The confiscation of parkland, especially for a private enterprise such as the Obama Presidential Center, sets a bad precedent for land use and urban planning. It effectively signals that parks are de facto potential building sites rather than shared public assets.

Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, FAAR

President & CEO, The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Middle East conflict made worse by Trump

President Trump is not known for his thoughtful and well-informed foreign policy actions. His rash decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has probably closed off the possibility of negotiating a two-state solution to the endless Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The result has been extreme violence at the Gaza-Israeli border resulting in many Palestinian deaths and injuries. Gaza is an inhumane prison for those living there, with many children suffering along with their parents. Trump’s penchant for governing from the gut and his relish in blowing up long-established norms and erasing President Obama’s accomplishments is both dangerous and petty.Mary F. Warren, WheatonPfleger, Rauner and the death penaltyIn regards to the May 15 article about Father Michael Pfleger’s opinion about Gov. Bruce Rauner and the death penalty for anyone who executes a police officer, did he ever consider this?

He once said, as well as many others always say, that the police are held to a higher standard and should always be treated more harshly for their wrongdoing. So if that’s the case, if anyone executes a police officer, they should, in fact, face the death penalty. Plus, he was way off-base to even bring race into this, and to even mention hate crimes in regards to the death penalty.

So with that being said, Father Pfleger should understand why Gov. Rauner wants the death penalty for anyone who executes a police officer. They protect the citizens in every community and city across Illinois. If Pfleger doesn’t want the death penalty, then the thugs should reconsider not executing our police. If not, then face the consequences.

John Moravecek, Naperville

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