Judge keeps schedule in OPC lawsuit, chides parties for ‘fast and loose’ actions

By AARON GETTINGER
Staff Writer

Federal District Court Judge Robert Blakey kept the schedule in Protect Our Parks v. Chicago Park District: the next court date, Oct. 24, after the introduction of the ordinance establishing the relationship between the Obama Foundation and governmental bodies over the Obama Presidential Center (OPC).

Protect Our Parks had asked Blakey to lift the stay on the case that was imposed until after the ordinance’s drop. They said that the City and Park District had misrepresented their actions after they began to cut down trees on the site of the new track and field in Jackson Park and asked that the pre-trial discovery period should commence.

Blakey allowed for discovery to begin, which will allow the plaintiffs to get information about the project from the City and Park District. The Oct. 24 date also allows the lawsuit to move forward before the City Council votes on the OPC use agreement ordinance on Oct. 31.

Blakey scolded both parties, however, for their “fast and loose” actions over the course of the lawsuit. He called the City and Park District’s argument that the OPC and neighboring track and field on Stony Island Avenue are unrelated projects “disappointing.”

“What everybody wants is some clarity of what’s going on here,” said Mark Roth, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

Andrew Worseck, the City’s lawyer, said that matters the plaintiffs argued were concealed, like the Obama Foundation’s funding of the track and field, necessitated because the OPC is set to occupy the site of an existing one, had been public knowledge for months. The defendants also claimed that the old track and field is nearing the end of its lifespan.

The defense team also noted that the ordinance establishes a use agreement, wherein the City would own the OPC and the Foundation would operate it. The ordinance establishes a 99-year relationship between the City and Park District, which will own the whole OPC campus, and the Foundation, which will maintain it.

After he scolded the plaintiffs and defendants, Blakey said the dates and deadlines would stand for moves towards injunction or discovery. When the plaintiffs attorneys said they would like to issue subpoenas, he told them to “fire away.”

a.gettinger@hpherald.com