On Wednesday, the City Council approved a revision of the 2015 city ordinance that awarded the Barack Obama Foundation an extraordinary gift of priceless public land in a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed landmark park, Jackson Park. The amended ordinance was needed because the Obama Foundation, not satisfied with the city’s original offer, had set its sights and claims on a different plot of land in Jackson Park and developed – without public knowledge or any public discussion – a plan that would require the closure of portions of Cornell Drive and the Midway Plaisance and a cascade of other road reconfigurations in Jackson Park, all to be funded by Chicago taxpayers.
We suppose that the aldermen voting for this new ordinance accept full responsibility for the cost of the infrastructure changes that will be needed to support the Obama Foundation plan (assuming, that is, that the required federal reviews also sign off on all the particulars). The initial (and no doubt low-balled ) estimate for that road work is $175 million. It remains to be seen if and where those public dollars will be found – whether in the city, the state or the federal coffers – but regardless of the pocket to be picked, Chicago taxpayers will feel the pinch.
We hope the voters will hold their aldermen accountable for this unnecessary tax burden — unnecessary because, as Obama Foundation officials have stated, the Obama Presidential Center could and would be built in Jackson Park without these road changes. We tip our hats to Ald. David Moore, the sole voice for fiscal responsibility amid the council’s monotone chorus.
Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
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