Amicus briefs in OPC case

To the Editor:

I would like to thank you for providing equal non-coverage of the recent additions to the POP lawsuit.  Indeed, amicus briefs have been filed on both sides, providing interesting new context to the arguments for and against the OPC being placed in Jackson Park. A few other news outlets sought to highlight those that oppose the OPC in Jackson Park and at the same time provide only cursory coverage of the significant community, legal and cultural support for it being placed there.

I found your non-coverage refreshingly unbiased.

However, because it has not been covered by other news outlets, I would like to provide a brief summary of the three amicus briefs filed in support of the City and Chicago Park District regarding the OPC in Jackson Park.  They came from impressive, major, established institutions:

1) All of Chicago’s Museums in the Parks, including the Alder Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, The Field Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, The Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium;

2) 13 Presidential Museums/Libraries from across the country, including both Bush libraries and the Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman and Roosevelt Libraries;

3) 7 Property Law Professors from Northwestern, UChicago, Notre Dame, Columbia and Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Without reference to the arguments of these reputable sources, presentation of these topics in other news outlets have highlighted the work of two fringe yet very outspoken groups, Preservation Chicago and Jackson Park Watch, as well as the conservative law professor Richard Epstein (an emeritus University of Chicago Law faculty member who is also a member of Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution think tank and the Federalist Society). There is a substantial imbalance in the credibility and gravitas between the groups speaking on behalf of the OPC and those on behalf of the POP lawsuit, to the point where they are not even comparable.

I can only imagine that the Presidential Libraries and other Museums in the Park, just like the majority of Chicagoans (and many Americans), thought the OPC was an obvious and beneficial project, and a win-win for Chicago as their centers and museums have been for their local communities.  I can understand why they rose to respond with amicus briefs when informed of this surreal opposition and ridiculous lawsuit.

Jackson Park Watch and Preservation Chicago, in their amicus brief, put forth a ludicrous and factually incorrect argument that the context of the OPC is somehow different from that of the other 11 museums in the parks.  Jackson Park was the site of the 1893 World’s Fair whose layout was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted. Indeed, the OPC will be situated on the former site of the Horticulture Building (you can see the superimposed maps here:  The original concepts of democratic access, education, and operation for the public good that characterize Chicago’s Museums in the Parks were founded in Olmsted’s World’s Fair vision. The OPC is a significant addition to this 125-year tradition.

Their claim of the OPC “destroying” Jackson Park ignores the OPC’s landscaping plan with significant tribute to Olmsted, which will transform a relatively spartan, under-utilized strip of Jackson Park into a habitat perfect for birds and other wildlife. This also ignores the sledding hill, picnic area, walking and biking paths, all public parkland, owned not by the Obama Foundation, but by the City of Chicago, with a stricter lease agreement than the other 11 Museums.

Perhaps “destruction” means having people of our South Side communities actually using our parks for what they were intended.

I imagine that the grand institutions that have written in support of the OPC in Jackson Park, as well as the seven law professors from across this country that have analyzed the actual law, share my sentiment that there are so many holes in the arguments raised by POP and its supporters that it can only be interpreted as a last-ditch effort to put on life-support a lawsuit that hopefully will be justifiably dismissed on February 14th.  I encourage everyone to read the amicus briefs filed on behalf of the City and Park District, or you can read summaries of them on our Southside Neighbors for Hope website.  They represent a bi-partisan, culturally comprehensive and legally sound support for why the OPC should be situated in Jackson Park.

Erin Adams

Southside Neighbors for Hope