To the Editor:
Your article “Prof predicts OPC lawsuit will fail ultimately” (HPH, March 6, 2019) conveys some interesting information while leaving out some key points.
Federal Judge John R. Blakey gave Protect Our Parks permission to pursue its case against the siting of the OPC in Jackson Park on numerous counts, all important. The public trust doctrine claim mentioned in the article addresses the effective giveaway, without full scrutiny, of public trust property to and for the benefit of a private entity, as POP has alleged. In addition, Judge Blakey approved for full review POP’s claims for violation of the due process clause under the U.S. Constitution; claims that the amendment of the Illinois Museum Act to allow presidential centers on parkland constitutes illegal special legislation; and claims that approval of the OPC Ordinance by the Chicago City Council on Oct. 31, 2018, was outside of the City Council’s proper scope of authority. These are all serious questions which require scrutiny and adjudication, but importantly also should open up a dialogue that works towards solutions. That unfortunately has not occurred in a real way so far, as evidenced by the lack of a CBA at this point.
We emphasize that neither POP nor Jackson Park Watch nor any organization that we know of wants to deny the OPC a place on Chicago’s South Side. To the contrary, we are excited to have such a wonderful addition to the South Side.
However, it is unfortunate that the Obama Foundation’s continued insistence on this exact site, in this exact design — all at an exorbitant and unnecessary cost in plain human terms given the dislocation of residents that is not being addressed, the spending of millions of public monies, the giveaway of public trust land, the unnecessary and disruptive roadway closures that destroy the community and Jackson Park — has not surprisingly led to the OPC project being stuck on hold. Were the OPC to be relocated off of public parkland to any of the many possible locations in the near neighborhood, the POP lawsuit would be largely mooted, the required federal reviews would be much different in scope, and construction of the OPC – in tandem with a CBA as desired by so many – could begin promptly.
Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch