Rhetoric intensifies after Logan Foundation’s funding of anti-OPC suit

Erin Adams of South Side Neighbors 4 Hope (Marc Monaghan file photo)

Staff writer

Organizations on both sides of the debate over locating the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park reacted predictably to the news that the Logan Foundation was bankrolling the Protect Our Parks lawsuit against the project.

Neither the city nor the Chicago Park District, the defendants in the lawsuit, would comment on the news of the grant, but two other pertinent institutions, the University of Chicago and the Obama Foundation, did.

“The Logan Foundation is entirely independent of the University,” said U. of C. spokesman Jeremy Manier.

An Obama Foundation spokesperson said: “We look forward to developing a lasting cultural institution on the South Side that will inspire people from across the city and the world, and we remain confident that our plans are consistent with Chicago’s rich tradition of locating world-class museums in its parks.”

The local organizations that have staked positions for and against the OPC in Jackson Park responded more loquaciously. Jackson Park Advisory Council President Louise McCurry was furious, noting that the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects had designed both the Logan Center for the Arts, which was built with a $35-million donation from of the foundation’s namesakes, and the planned OPC. She questioned if the Logan family cares about its relationship with the U. of C. and the Obama Foundation.

“I would encourage community members who are curious to contact the Logans and the University of Chicago and ask why the Logans are not instead supporting the positive work done by hundreds of volunteers who are actively planting, restoring, repairing the park and organizing art, music, dance and recreation programs,” McCurry said.

She said Protect Our Parks’ “goal is to stop and delay our children from having a new track and field, new gymnasium, new running and bike paths, a sledding hill for winter recreation and a new library and video center to encourage our children’s educational needs and college aspirations.”

McCurry requested a meeting with the Logan Foundation to “show them how their money could be better used for positive park programs instead of supporting one negative group who is actively working to delay the positive improvements and programs of the OPC for our community children.”

“There is so much good they could do with that reported $100,000,” she said.

Both Southside Neighbors for Hope (SSN4H) and Jackson Park Watch, two small organizations for and against the OPC in Jackson Park respectively, also issued statements.

“We are dismayed by the recent reporting of the Logan Foundation donation in support of the POP lawsuit. This is yet another attempt from wealthy people who do not live on the South Side of Chicago to block the siting of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park,” said Erin J. Adams with SSN4H, who said the OPC belongs on the lakefront alongside other Chicago cultural institutions.

“The proposed plan for the OPC will revitalize an underused portion of Jackson Park to create a destination that people will travel from around the world to visit while the people of Chicago can proudly visit and enjoy as our collective backyard. We will not let a few opponents drown out the voices of our many community members, in particular our families and children, who will most benefit,” Adams said. “These wealthy North Side opponents do not speak for us or represent our interests.”

The development pleased Margaret Schmid of Jackson Park Watch, which she runs with Brenda Nelms.

“Jackson Park Watch continues to think that the Protect Our Parks lawsuit raises important questions about the safeguarding of invaluable public assets such as Jackson Park as well as the need for proper public process,” Schmid said. “We applaud the Logan Foundation donation to Protect Our Parks since it will help even the David v. Goliath paying field and make it more possible for these important public issues to be properly aired.”

Good Kids Mad City, a youth-led, anti-violence group that sent representatives to confront Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) about supporting a community benefits agreement at her ward meeting earlier this week, used Twitter to reject the Logan Foundation chairman’s suggestion that the OPC in Jackson Park “is both legally and morally wrong” and ought to be relocated.

“Naw, it can come, but we need that community benefits agreement though,” the group said in a tweet. “Obama Foundation, thanks.”