Common sense regarding the parks

To the Editor:

There comes a time when clear thinking and unemotional common sense are more honest and trustworthy than the Siren pitch of a con man wanting to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. It is not surprising that candor and logic have never been applied to the proposal to build an Obama Center in historic landmarked Jackson Park. At last, with such a critical approach, let’s look at it objectively and without partisanship, political or racial bias, or selfish self-interest.

The facts are not in dispute. Parkland, amenities and programs continue to be unequally distributed across the city according to a FOTP study just released. It again reveals that the Chicago Park District favors white, North Side and higher income neighborhoods while parks serving minority and lower income communities get short shrift because the Park District Board of Commissioners are “beholden to the Mayor” [former Chief of Staff to the former President], according to the report.

The only objection to building an Obama Center has always been its proposed location in Jackson Park, and that it must be built only in Jackson Park – that happens to be the major much needed and much used public park amenity serving the “open, clear and free” recreational needs of people living in the south side of Chicago.

There is no demonstrable reason that the proposed Obama Center must be constructed in historic, landmarked Jackson Park and only in Jackson Park. If it is intended to be a benefit to residents of the south side, it would best serve that purpose if it were built in a neighborhood location where people actually live and work, and where it would add not subtract from community needs.

There are many identified south side locations, where young Barack Obama had worked as a community organizer, that are readily available and have been proposed for the Obama Center. They are neighborhoods in immediate need of community investment and necessary neighborhood life improvements.

Jackson Park is priceless lakefront, publicly owned public park property, dedicated as a public park dating back to the World Columbian Exposition of 1893. It is the prized and world-famous creation of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And, by chance, it serves the immediate outdoor needs of south side residents.

Here is a simple thought experiment. If it was legal for the Park District to suddenly decide to gift away this priceless public park land to a private non-governmental entity for 99 years and $10, then why couldn’t that have been simply done? Why instead has it been necessary to engage in all the deceptive land flipping maneuvers contrived by the Mayor and the Park District ?

Was Jackson Park made the sacrificial lamb because other private non-park interests were to be served and this “minority” public park was considered to be easy pickings?


Herb Caplan

Protect Our Parks