Defending public  trust doctrine


To the Editor:

From its initial conflict of interests conception, the backroom deal of former Mayor Emanuel and the University of Chicago to simply seize priceless public park land in historic Jackson Park to build an incongruous personal ego monument, it has been a test case of emotion, greed, and raw political power versus the existence of Constitutionally guaranteed rule of law.

The key issue has always been the enforcement of “Public Trust” doctrine. Apparently, that now has now been reinterpreted to mean “Forget the law, Trust Me.”  So far, “Public Trust” and “Rule of Law” have become the enthusiastically trashed victims of defendants’ fat cat P.R. power polemicists.

Insider Chicago politics has always enjoyed an ugly negative distinction that serves to keep federal prosecutors busy, but in UChicago’s past glory days it was the University that enjoyed the distinction of being the one significant, independent, fearless leader fighting the corruption of City Hall. Now, it pains me to say as an alumnus, that it appears to have mutated into a complicit co-conspirator.

The recently released timely, and totally independent, draft AOE report finding that building the proposed Obama Center in Jackson Park would alter the characteristics of an historic property that qualify it for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, would seem to be a welcome return of calm, cool, rational and unbiased reason to what has become a vicious Hyde Park cage fight. But no, in the ever expanding UChicago footprint, hypocrisy still trumps reason and the public interest. But hypocrisy is not law.

The lawsuit to stop the construction of an OPC in Jackson Park has not suddenly become irrelevant. With the valuable added leadership of the Law School’s nationally known Constitutional scholar Richard Epstein, the Protect Our Parks lawsuit is in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Herb Caplan

President, Protect Our Parks