A second public hearing on a University of Chicago plan to use public park land for the site of the Obama Presidential Library is set for noon Wednesday the day after hundreds of people packed a raucous hearing on the issue at a South Side auditorium.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at noon at the Washington Park Field House, 5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr.
Before the first meeting Tuesday night even started at Hyde Park Academy High School, charter buses deposited attendees while TV cameras zoomed on a group of activists protesting the university’s decision not to open a level-one hospital trauma center.
Mayoral candidates — including Ald. Bob Fioretti, businessman Willie Wilson and County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — mingled with the crowd. Absent was Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is working to allow the university to build in the park.
Once everything was underway, Park District Vice President Avis LaVelle repeatedly had to appeal for calm. The first portion of the meeting was stacked mostly with people in favor of the proposal.
“It’s time to say ‘yes’ to the plan to build the Obama library . . . on the South Side,” the Rev. Leon Finney Jr. shouted with oratorical flourish that brought thunderous applause. “It’s time to vote ‘Yes’ to those who will spend money in our neighborhoods and provide new business opportunities for our black women and our black men.”
Later, others cautioned that the choice between using parkland or risk having no library at all, was a suggestion put forth to push through the university’s plan.
“Let’s not accept the argument that the Obama Presidential Library has to be in a park on the South Side or we lose it,” said Lauren Moltz, who is chair of the board for Friends of the Park. The parks “are neither the City of Chicago’s, the Chicago Park District, or the University of Chicago’s to carve up.”
Follow along for live updates from Art Golab and others covering the event: