To the Editor:
Like many of us, I am happy that the Obama Presidential Center is coming to Chicago’s south side. We residents should insist on meaningful community input whenever any project promises major changes to our neighborhoods, and we should not allow ourselves to be distracted by unimportant issues. Architectural elements, traffic, and parking are all distractions. The foundation will have well-paid and competent professionals working on all of these; do we really believe they want to crowd-source these decisions? Discussion of these topics makes a show of community input without ceding the community any real decision authority.
A more meaningful process for the collective good of all of the surrounding neighborhoods would focus on:
1. The Community Benefits Agreement. If you don’t know what this means, google “Obama Library CBA” or go straight tohttp://www.obamacba.org. A CBA is an enforceable contract that ensures the surrounding community derives benefit from a project instead of being displaced by it. It is exactly the sort of thing that Barack Obama the community organizer would have fought for. Obama could honor his roots and burnish his legacy by directing the foundation to pursue such an agreement, but if he does not then we can honor his legacy by fighting for one.
2. Comprehensive planning for Jackson Park. The idea that there should be an inclusive planning process for the entire park, instead of a series of piecemeal projects decided on by small groups of rich people making major changes to public spaces, is the sort of issue that the Obama we sent from here to the White House would have fought for. Friends of the Parks (http://fotp.org) has been consistent and articulate on the issue of comprehensive park planning.
[Former] President Obama wants to help prepare the next generation of leaders. What advice would he give a young person organizing for an Obama Presidential Center CBA?