Obama Library CBA request not introduced at city council meeting

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

During its meeting on Sept. 20, members of the Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement Coalition said that they would present their request for an ordinance to the Chicago City Council that would, by ordinance compel the Obama Foundation and related entities to enter into a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Hyde Park. While the request was not introduced at the Oct. 11 city council meeting, the group has aligned itself with two unions and is still seeking a written agreement.

At a press conference Wednesday the coalition announced that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Health Care Illinois have signed on to join the Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition in their campaign for a CBA for the Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC).

The CTU and SEIU are two of the latest organizations that have joined the coalition.

“We aren’t going to allow ourselves to be duped,” said Jawanza Malone, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO).”If we don’t take the bull by the horns and seize this opportunity… put it in writing and negotiate with the community, we’re going to continue to see what we’ve been getting.”

A CBA is a contract signed by community groups and a real estate developer that requires the developer to provide specific amenities and development to the local community or neighborhood.

The ordinance is the latest push by the coalition after former President Barack Obama indicated that the Obama Foundation would not sign a CBA.

The coalition is calling for jobs to be set-aside for people in the community, protection for affordable housing and homeowners, support for and help with the creation of black-owned businesses, and help with strengthening neighborhood schools.

The CTU is backing the CBA because it is calling for investment in neighborhood schools, not closure.

“He [Mayor Rahm Emanuel] has failed to leverage development for the people who live in south and west side neighborhoods,” said Michael Brunson, recording secretary at CTU. “He has instead used development to displace black people in this city. He’s robbed schools to develop so-called blighted areas. He has failed to stabilize and fund our public schools.”

The SEIU wants to ensure that the OPC and surrounding development create living wage jobs and that measures are put in place that will prevent displacement of the primarily African American low-income and working families that live in the area surrounding the OPC, said the SEIU in a written release.

“Thousands of our members live in Woodlawn, Jackson Park, South Shore,” said Greg Kelly, president of SEIU Health Care Illinois. “They get up and go to work every day to improve the lives of their families that is why a community benefits agreement that involves all stakeholders is not only sensible but necessary.”

The CBA would also ensure that there is accountability from 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.

“We have two big players who entered the stage and so what we’re going to do is strategize and look at our next steps to determine what our legislative options are,” Malone said. “Things haven’t changed you will see an ordinance, you haven’t seen it today, but you will see it.”

The Obama Foundation plans to present its plans to the Planning Commission in the coming weeks. Malone said they are moving quickly to get things in order.

“We want to make sure that we have all our ducks in a row,” Malone said they are ready and poised and believe in their vision for a CBA.

The Obama Library CBA Coalition is led by the Bronzeville Regional Collective (BRC), (KOCO), Prayer and Action Collective (PAC), Southside Together Organizing Power (STOP).

City council members with wards in the area near the OPC include Alds. Pat Dowell (3rd), Sophia King (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th), Greg Mitchell (7th) and Willie Cochran (20th). The coalition declined to comment on, which council member was expected to introduce the request at today’s meeting.

Groundbreaking for the OPC is set to begin late next summer, and it is expected to open to the public in 2021.

To see a full list of organizations that support the coalition visit obamacba.org.

t.hill@hpherald.com