At the Obama Foundation’s public meeting at McCormick Place last Thursday to gather feedback on the development and construction for the future Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC); President Obama made a surprise visit by live stream. His appearance was met with applause and many in attendance used their phones to take video of him on video.
But there were sad faces with Obama’s response to a question about his foundation’s reluctance to agreeing to signing a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).
Several South Side groups have joined together to promote The Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition. Their goal is to enter into a CBA with 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 principles outlined by the coalition for its CBA include requirements that jobs to be set-aside for people in the community, that affordable housing and homeowners be protected, that there be support for and assistance with creation of black-owned businesses, and that incoming resources be used to strengthen neighborhood schools. Such agreements have been used in other developments in Chicago.
Obama said since the foundation is a nonprofit they would not sign a CBA. Obama went on to assure the crowd that the foundation would implement standards on hiring, to ensure the community and residents benefit from the process.
In essence Obama’s response to the community was “trust me.”
We chuckled and wondered if, back in his days as a community organizer, Obama would have accepted that answer to community demands.