Open Letter

Editor’s Note: This statement was presented to Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners, during its meeting on April 11, by Margaret Schmid, co-president of Jackson Park Watch.

Good day, President Ruiz, commissioners, and CEO Kelly.

At today’s meeting the updated South Lakefront Framework Plan will be presented to you. As we understand the situation, you will be asked to accept the revised Framework Plan rather than to approve it, on the grounds that the Framework Plan does not require the expenditures of Park District funds at this time.

This fact underscores the reality that, while promoters of major changes in Jackson Park may well seize on your action as proof that their projects will move ahead and as a boost to fund-raising efforts, the South Lakefront Framework Plan update, like all Chicago park framework plans, serves as a potential guideline for future projects should funding become available rather than as a guarantee that any particular project will become a reality.

What differentiates this Framework Plan from others, however, is the inclusion in the plan of three major proposals that predated the start of the planning process, that were treated as separate and untouchable at the public meetings on this plan, and that have not themselves yet received permits, approvals, or, to the best of what is now publicly known, funding sufficient to let them move ahead. We refer, of course, to the Obama Presidential Center, the road closures and realignments that the Obama Foundation requests, and the golf course merger/expansion project just recently highlighted in the press.

This Framework Plan was launched belatedly and rushed to completion. Without criticizing the Park District staff who worked long and hard to manage the multiple public meetings that did occur, we have frequently heard complaints that the meetings were stage managed and that open question- and-answer sessions with the main presenters were never allowed. Sadly, as a result, real questions about the major projects being promoted for Jackson Park were never raised, and real answers were never forthcoming.

– Margaret Schmid, co-president of Jackson Park Watch