To the Editor:
The Jackson Park site originally suggested to the Obama Foundation by the University of Chicago is, as Erin Adams writes, mostly occupied by a track (and also by a playing field, both of which would have to be moved, presumably to another location of what is currently parkland).
Although I am not a fan of the design, I would not object strongly to this location: This land is already what Jack Spicer calls “amusement park” land. The problem is that the Obama Foundation is actually proposing to build its complex on a much larger area than was originally suggested to them.
They want to extend into the circular Women’s Garden, build a playground at the end of the Midway, close one road and reroute others, and all at taxpayer expense.
As I write, our public school teachers are on strike for the second straight week, protesting outrageously large class sizes and lack of adequate support staff for students. If the mayor and governor cannot see where the money will come from to fund these needs of our city’s children, where will they find the money for the Obama Foundation’s requests?
Our city and state face financial disaster. The city is already essentially giving park land to a private foundation that will charge admission for its programming. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency was a milestone of epic proportions deserving honor and we, his former constituents, should be proud to host his presidential center.
The Obama Center can be a beautiful honor, a vibrant community resource, and an engine of economic growth on the South Side, all while staying within a smaller and less costly footprint. That would alleviate some of the concerns about Jackson Park greenspace, too. I urge the Obama Foundation to reconsider its plans.