Rising lake levels argue against OPC


To the Editor:

The Herald has been conscientiously publishing the variety of letters it receives commenting about the prospect of building an Obama Center in historic Jackson Park. Notably, the letters from supporters of that project have been almost entirely an emotional repetition of the same false PR talking points without ever acknowledging and addressing the reality of the POP lawsuit now being heard in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and on its way to a final Supreme Court ruling on the Constitutional legal issues that are of national importance.

The lawsuit alleges the Chicago Park District and former Mayor Emanuel violated the mandates of Public Trust and their sworn duty to preserve and protect the dedicated lakefront public parks held in trust for the benefit and use of all citizens and Chicago taxpayers. Its significance is that without the protection of legally enforcing Public Trust law, the defendants’ arguments for giving priceless lakefront public park property to a private entity with a personal agenda will not only trash Jackson Park but will open the door to private exploitation of the entire lakefront by all manner of rich and powerful land developers with political insider connections and similar dreamy pie-in-the-sky promises of economic benefits to follow.

But all those promises of economic benefits, even if potentially true, would still exist if the OPC is simply moved out of Jackson Park. The lawsuit seeks no more than relocating the proposed Obama Center a short distance into an underserved and depressed neighborhood such as nearby Washington Park, which is a community in need of new investment and development, where both UChicago and the City already own land available for development. It has been identified as a superior location to produce those promised benefits of an OPC by the defendants’ own experts.

Furthermore, the current rising lake level, and consequential costly flooding taking place in Jackson Park is not going to part for an OPC. The Army Corps of Engineers has already determined that the lake level will be at least one foot higher in the future. This would seem to be a reminder from Mother Nature that the environmental destruction of cutting down over 600 mature trees and replacing them with a 235-foot-high tower that will serve to cast a shadow and kill and deny refuge to migrating birds in the pristine park, is not the way for intelligent people to anticipate and prepare for the conditions of global warming and meet the growing open space needs of inner-city local residents.

Herb Caplan

President, Protect Our Parks