Ald. Hairston criticizes anti-OPC lawsuit, plaintiffs

By AARON GETTINGER
Staff Writer

Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston has come out swinging against the nonprofit Protect our Parks’ attempt to block construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park. In an interview with the Herald, Hairston answered why she thought the plaintiffs decided to file a lawsuit with one word: “Entitlement.”

“It’s been very interesting that the North Shore wants to weigh in now,” she said. (Speaking to the Herald earlier, Protect our Parks President Herbert Caplan confirmed that none of the plaintiffs were Hyde Park residents.) The Alderman attacked them for being silent during the ongoing OPC planning process, saying, “They have never weighed in on an issue on the South Side and Jackson Park in history.”

Furthermore, Hairston said she suspected that former Alderman Bob Fioretti, whose law partner is Mark Roth, the plaintiffs’ attorney, is behind the lawsuit. “This is a case that [Fioretti] took on,” she said. “I’m sure [the plaintiffs] didn’t come to him.”

The Herald was unable to reach Fioretti for comment, but Mark Roth called the allegation “preposterous and absurd.” He said the plaintiffs had interviewed several law firms about taking the case before hiring Roth Fioretti LLC and that “the law is on our side.”

Despite the lawsuit, Hairston does not think the OPC will be delayed.

“My role is to continue to work with the community and the community organizations and all the different groups to make this the best project ever,” she said.

“The people in the neighborhoods who will be impacted are excited for this, excited about the investment on the South Side,” said Hairston. She noted the Jackson Park Advisory Council’s stewardship, experience working with locals on park-related matters and support for the OPC. A frequent host of Obama Foundation and municipal representatives at her ward meetings, she said ongoing OPC community relations work “has been a very public process.”

a.gettinger@hpherald.com