To the Editor:
In a recent letter, Mary Anton and Liz Moyer say: “Here are the plain facts.” Actually, a little fact-checking is in order.
Importantly, there is the issue of cost. Anton and Moyer assert: The OPC will bear the full cost of construction of the center. In fact, under the current plans, taxpayers would pay for the road changes the Obama Foundation demands and also for utility relocation work. The rough estimate for the road work alone is $175 million. Taxpayers would also pay unspecified and uncapped amounts for environmental remediation work required by the construction of the OPC and its underground parking garage (see Section 8(c) of the Environmental Remediation and Liability Agreement appended to the OPC Ordinance passed by the City Council).
They also assert that the OPC will operate “. . .pretty much the way all of the other museums in parks operate.” In fact, the proposed operating arrangements for the OPC would be significantly different in several ways. Since the OPC would not be in an actual public park (the OPC site would be owned by the City and controlled by the Obama Foundation, not by the Park District), under the terms of the Use Agreement, security, access, permitting, and maintenance would be under private, not public management. As has been seen with Millennium Park, sudden and dramatic restrictions on public access and public events would be possible. A second and directly related point: The Obama Foundation would have to obtain approval for its proposed security arrangements from the Department of Homeland Security, scarcely a common procedure for other museums.
We respect differences of opinion about this highly controversial project but hope that we can be clear about the facts.
Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch