No reason to put OPC in Jackson Park


To the Editor:

Strange, emotional statements continue to be said about the lawsuit seeking to relocate the Obama Presidential Center outside of Jackson Park. The only issue being litigated in the federal court is making the public trust doctrine a reality.

By analogy, consider doctors who are entrusted with the life or death of their patients. They take the Hippocratic Oath, which provides quite simply “Primum non nocere,”, a Latin phrase that means “first, to do no harm.” Commissioners of the Chicago Park District, although they are politically appointed, swear a comparable oath of office to preserve, protect and maintain the priceless lakefront public parks that have been placed under their protection.

So how did everything go so wrong in Jackson Park, the world famous masterwork  of Frederick Law Olmsted  that dates back to the Columbian Exposition of 1893?

Start with what is never even hinted about in the media or by any of the proponents of locating an Obama Center only in Jackson Park – the central 235-foot tower (pictures of it always carefully fudge its size and predominance), bigger than any other structure in Jackson Park,  Woodlawn or South Shore. It is at least 19 stories higher than any of the specialized art and science museums that already exist in any of the city’s public parks. Yet, the Defendants’ P.R. agit-prop magicians continue to deliberately ignore that impossible-to-miss incongruity, and talk instead about introducing a sledding hill.

If former President Obama conscientiously desires to locate his proposed Center (not a highly desirable Presidential Library as originally marketed) where he began his career as a community organizer, then why will he not choose to build it in any of the underserved and needy neighborhoods available in Bronzeville, Woodlawn and South Shore, where he was an organizer, ignoring these real life communities where people live and work and that, unlike Jackson Park, actually need redevelopment. An Obama Center investment would bring about the local economic rehabilitation promised by the Foundation. If a museum in the park could do the trick, the much grander existing Museum of Science and Industry would in its 126-year-long existence have long ago turned deteriorating Woodlawn into a thriving South Side Old Town.

It is telling that not one of the high paid Obama foundation P.R. pitchmen dares to discuss what is so obvious. There is NO compelling reason for an Obama Center to be built in Jackson Park and only Jackson Park. There are numerous reasons for determining the location the proposed Obama Center in a way that respects public trust law, and building in a neighborhood where it will serve the public interest.

Herb Caplan

President, Protect Our Parks