By MARC MONAGHAN
The future of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park may be awaiting the resolution of a Federal lawsuit brought by Protect Our Parks (POP) against the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District, but that doesn’t stop the OPC-in-Jackson-Park controversy from entering other discussions within the Hyde Park, Woodlawn and surrounding neighborhood communities.
During the March 13 meeting of the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council (MPAC), council member Mary Anton presented a motion to “establish a committee to explore the potential of creating bicycle/hiking paths east-west along the outer panels of the Midway Plaisance … with membership to be composed voluntarily and drawn from MPAC and surrounding community members.”
Anton’s complete initial motion contained a clause charging the committee to assess the benefits, if any, that might accrue from incorporating UPARR (Urban Park and Recreation Recovery) Act “designation and funding into the project.”
UPARR designation is a hot-button item in any discussion of land adjacent to Jackson Park, because approval of the construction of the Obama Presidential Center within Jackson Park would require the designation of land lying outside of Jackson Park as UPARR land to replace area within Jackson Park converted to non-recreational uses by the OPC.
After Anton read her proposed motion, Marc Lipinski and other members of the MPAC immediately questioned the need to include the discussion of UPARR designation and funding within the scope of the work of the proposed committee. This then precipitated a long discussion of the entire motion among the 22 people present. As the designated 8:00 p.m. meeting ending time approached, tempers rose. “Kiss off,” one committee member said to another. Council President Bronwyn Nichols-Lodato interjected, “this is democracy in action folks.”
Anton agreed to drop the reference to UPARR “designation and funding” and other clauses from her motion, which was then passed by a show of MPAC members hands with none in opposition, establishing a MPAC Pathways Committee. The meeting then adjourned.