Groundbreaking delayed for Obama Presidential Center in Chicago
The rush to build a monument to Barack Obama in Chicago has run smack into regulatory red tape. Savor the irony, especially given the massive deregulation President Trump has undertaken. Keep in mind that this project is not a presidential library that will be part of the National Archives. It is, instead, a monument to the man, and so far as anyone can tell, books are not a feature of the 3 buildings. There will, however, be basketball courts.
The Obama Foundation Friday announced that groundbreaking, planned for this year (less than 2 years after its namesake left office) will be delayed. Lolly Bowean of the Chicago Tribune reports:
The Obama Foundation has pushed back the groundbreaking date for the Obama Presidential Center after the federal review process was delayed for a second time this summer, officials confirmed Friday.
Disappointed Obama fans will have to postpone their pilgrimages. The Foundation says now that groundbreaking will take place in 2019. Given the ability of opponents of any project to sue, demanding environmental impact statements and the like, this may still be optimistic.
Before the presidential center can be built, the federal government will review its impact on Jackson Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and evaluate the project’s environmental effects. Any impact that the review highlights will have to be resolved before construction can be allowed.
There have already been two public federal review meetings. A third was scheduled in June, but then it was delayed until July. Now it has been delayed until late summer, according to the city of Chicago’s website.
The federal review process has to be conducted because of Jackson Park’s historic status and because it involved closing and expanding major streets.
Nobody has yet discovered an endangered species in the dirt of Jackson Park, nor have any American Indian archeological artifacts yet been discovered.
The Obama Foundation, which is sponsoring the project, has been funded by a long list of what Bernie Sanders likes to call “millionaires and billionaires,” but oddly enough reports no donations from Barack and Michelle Obama, who are themselves worth many millions of dollars, having received a huge advance (reportedly $65 million) from a German-owned publisher for post-presidency books. Most foundations that carry the name of an individual or family (the Ford Foundation, for example) were endowed by that individual or family.
There are more potential hurdles ahead, some of them the product of community organizers, more delicious irony:
The news of the delay comes just a day after activists gathered on the South Side at a meeting to discuss placing a community benefits agreement proposition on the February ballot.
“We have a new window of opportunity before the next election to protect the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Parrish Brown, an activist with the Black Youth Project 100 Chicago Chapter, in a written statement. “We’re gathering to make sure Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel and the local aldermen do the right thing, or we’ll have to elect people who will.”
The coalition wants an ordinance that would require that 30 percent of all newly constructed housing near the presidential center be set aside as affordable housing. They want a property tax freeze for the longtime homeowners closest to the site and an independent monitor to make sure local residents are hired to work on the project. In addition, they are now calling for a community trust fund and support for the neighborhood schools.
Almost certainly, the project will be built, and the rush to break ground is quite understandable. History will be delivering its verdict on the Obama presidency, already looking rather incompetent, given the rapid rise in solid economic growth once some the shackles imposed by Obama were relaxed by President Trump.
But I always thought there was something wrong with building monuments to living people.