By TONIA HILL
Tensions came to a head Tuesday night, as residents in communities surrounding the future Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC) asked Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) to back them in their quest for a community benefits agreement (CBA) for the OPC in Jackson Park.
“I would like to ask if you are planning on talking about the Obama Center,” said Doug Bishop, a Hyde Park resident, to Hairston. “Are you planning to talk about the community benefits agreement? We would very much like to ask you to reconsider your opinions on this subject.”
Hairston said the topic would not be discussed at the meeting and said the CBA was addressed in a previous ward meeting.
“You all came here specifically for a purpose to disrupt this meeting,” Hairston said. “Everybody in here did not come for that they came here for a fifth ward meeting.”
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 Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition is leading the charge for a written agreement with 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.
Bishop a founding member of Indivisible Chicago – South Side was joined by about 20 people, including Alex Goldenberg, executive director of Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), that stood with him as asked Hairston to support a CBA.
STOP is one of many local organizations that make up the coalition.
At the completion of the meeting, Hairston reiterated her position on a CBA.
“It’s more than interrupting the meeting,” Hairston said. “If you want to be taken seriously you provide what it is you’re asking. They like to interrupt, to chant. They’ve done this two months in a row.”
Hairston said she has not yet received anything in writing to specify what the coalition is requesting.
Following the coalition’s meeting last month, postcards and petitions were distributed for residents to sign and mail to their local council members. The postcard includes a short synopsis of what the coalition is requesting.
The group is asking that jobs be set aside for people in the community, affordable housing, and protection for homeowners, support for and help with the creation of black-owned businesses, and help with strengthening neighborhood schools.
Hairston said she has seen the postcard but said that it’s not enough.
“That gives me no detail,” Hairston said. “This [postcard] is general we’re past general. I’m meeting with the [Obama] foundation and every other group in the neighborhood.”
Also noted by Hairston is that some members of the coalition are not of the neighborhood.
“Some of them are from another ward, and the issues are different between the wards,” Hairston said. “What’s happening in the 20th Ward is a different story because I have no control over that somebody else was elected to make those decisions.”
At a public meeting, last month, former President Barack Obama indicated that the Obama Foundation would not sign a CBA.
Members of the coalition felt snubbed by his remarks.
During its Sept. 20 meeting, members of the coalition said they would present their request for an ordinance to the Chicago City Council that would, by law compel the Obama Foundation and related entities to enter into a CBA for the OPC.
The ordinance does have aldermanic support, but it is still unknown who is backing the mandate, which needs the full support of the Chicago City Council members to be enacted as law.
Organizers through a CBA are attempting to get what the Obama Foundation has promised to the community in writing.
The two conflict because the Obama Foundation believes that it can meet the needs of the community without a CBA while organizers think a CBA is necessary and will be an added protection to ensure that the foundation honors its commitment.
For example, the foundation is seeking a diversity consultant for the construction of the OPC. Also, four teams are under consideration for the role of construction manager for the OPC.
The role of the diversity consultant includes formulating, monitoring and enforcing the Construction Manager’s (CM) Diversity and Inclusion Plan that is related to diverse and local contracting, and the hiring of area residents to be apart of the OPC construction workforce.
The diversity consultant along with the construction manager will be responsible for implementing the foundation’s workforce initiatives. The candidates for the construction manager are also tasked with determining how it will recruit employees on the south and west side.
The foundation will also require that no less than 35 percent of the OPC’s subcontracts are awarded to minority and women business enterprises as well as businesses owned by veterans, people with disabilities, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ, said the foundation in a written statement.