By TONIA HILL
Local groups met on Tuesday, April 18, at Hyde Park High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., to discuss the future Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC).
The presentation style town hall provided residents with information detailing the value in entering into a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the developers of the OPC, the Obama Foundation, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and the University of Chicago, who proposed the center’s location on the South Side.
The meeting was held in conjunction with Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), the Bronzeville Regional Collective (BRC), and the University of Chicago student-led Prayer and Action Collective (PAC).
The organizations joined forces last year and created the Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition.
A CBA is a contract signed by community groups and a real estate developer that requires the developer to provide specific amenities and/or improvement to the local community or neighborhood.
Linda Haywood has lived in Woodlawn for 17 years and previously experienced homelessness. She spoke of her concerns about being displaced from her home as a result of the OPC.
Haywood said she appreciates the work of Obama and the upcoming presidential center, but said she can’t be removed from her home.
“I refuse to be moved,” Haywood said.
Clare Cardy is a member of STOP and a resident leader at Parkshore East Elderly Housing, 6250 S. Woodlawn Ave., she stated that people should not be priced out from their homes.
“We don’t want that to happen to people. We don’t want people to be taxed out of their homes because their rents are [rising] so high that they cant’ afford it anymore [and] section eight disappears in this area. This is why we have to fight,” Cardy said.
Allegra Cira Fischer, staff attorney for the Law Project of Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights law, said a CBA could protect residents from displacement and exploitation.
“It’s a legally enforceable contract it’s not a memorandum of understanding…a community benefits agreement is a private contract that would give the community the opportunity to enforce the contract to hold those entities accountable for their promises the community.”
Fischer also pointed to other cities and their success in obtaining a CBA. The Oakland Raiders, a professional football team, was recently granted the right by National Football League (NFL) owners to relocate its franchise from California to Las Vegas.
Nevada Democratic State Sens. Aaron Ford and Kelvin Atkinson are proposing a forthcoming CBA to negotiate with stadium developers. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill into law last year that required the developers and operating companies to craft a CBA to ensure that residents would have access to jobs that become available as the project takes shape.
Naomi Davis, of the Bronzeville Regional Committee, discussed the principles outlined by the coalition for its CBA that would require jobs to be set-aside for people in the community, protect affordable housing and homeowners, support and create black-owned businesses, and strengthen neighborhood schools.
Davis believes that the OPC would be the catalyst for the change needed in the community.
“That 21-acres [set aside for the OPC] will occupy the space right now that is occupied by a gym, track, football, soccer, basketball, and baseball,” Davis said to residents at the meeting. “One of the things that was promised was 21-acres replacement parkland. Have you heard one word about that?”
Davis said it is up to residents to hold the Obama Foundation, the City of Chicago, and the University of Chicago accountable to meeting their needs.
“The shining light of the Obama Presidential Center [is that it] can be a catalyst for the kind of change that we need to see in our classrooms,” Davis said. “Billions of dollars will be spent on transportation and infrastructure over the next decade here on the south side. We want to see and we want to make sure that there is something in it for us.”
Rashida Tlaib, of the Sugar Law Center for Social & Economic Justice, based in Detroit, Mich., said CBAs are a way to combat poverty and create sustainability in communities.
“I can tell you that this thing [OPC] can transform the community and the neighborhoods to a point where you all are going to see things over 30-40 years,” Tlaib said.
She urged residents to look for sustainable things like vocational training for young people or small business investment opportunities.
Jeanette Taylor, of KOCO, asked residents to reach out to city council members Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) to sign on in support the CBA.
“We cannot sit by and allow the people who’ve we elected not to do anything,” Taylor said.
Groundbreaking for the OPC, which will house a library holding the Presidential archives, a museum focusing on the Obama Presidency and space for programs and initiatives that advance the foundation’s public mission is slated to begin as early as 2018 and will open to the public in 2021.