Obama-appointee to federal bench dismisses lawsuit against transfer of park land to Obama's personal monument

The monument to Barack Obama, the community organizer turned president, has vanquished the community organizers who attempted to stop its takeover of public land.  

Federal Judge John Robert Blakey, appointed by Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2014, wants construction to begin “without delay” on the “Obama Presidential Center” (OPC) on former park land belonging to the citizens of Chicago. The OPC should not be confused with a presidential library, as it will not contain any official records of the Obama presidency and will not be under the control of the National Archives or any governmental body at all. It is strictly a private project, under the control of a board of Obama acolytes unaccountable to the public and will function as a monument to Obama.

One of several renderings of the proposed OPC released by the Obama Foundation

In a move the Chicago Tribune called “surprising,” Judge Blakey used strong language to dismiss the lawsuit.   

“The facts are clear in this case and the law is more settled than the parties are suggesting,” Blakey said from the bench.

“Everyone’s had their day in court. … There’s been no rush to judgment,” he said before declaring there should be “no delay in construction. This case is dismissed.”

He also dismissed criticism from the plaintiffs that the museum is a personal monument, not accountable to the public:

“The museum itself is the public benefit,” he said.

“The record is swelling with evidence of the benefits, not only of this particular museum, but also to its location in a park generally and to this particular location,” he said.

The Chicago Sun-Times adds:

Blakey announced his ruling after an hour of oral arguments at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. He concluded in a 52-page written opinion that “the facts do not warrant a trial, and construction should commence without delay.”

However, Judge Blakey’s desire to see groundbreaking and construction right away is not likely to be realized.

…lawyers for the advocacy group that filed the lawsuit, Protect Our Parks, immediately told reporters they would take the case to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

And before construction can take place, the project must also go through what has been a long-running federal review, mandated because Jackson Park is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Once the review is done, there are more time-eating steps, including a public comment period to consider the findings, time to reply and time to weigh plans to mitigate adverse impacts, if any, caused by the development.

Also at issue is another aspect of community organizing: a “community benefits agreement” in which a powerful party (in this case, the rich Obama Foundation backed by the powers-that-be) agrees to payoff community groups. The Sun-Times notes that Chicago’s brand-new mayor wants one:

On top of that, it’s not known how Mayor Lori Lightfoot intends to wrangle a pledged community benefits agreement from the Obama Presidential Foundation, and whether she is on board with the proposed $174 million related-traffic redo plan.

The foundation and former President Barack Obama oppose a benefits deal.

The specifics behind the ruling are explained by the Chicago Maroon, of the University of Chicago:

Public trust doctrine originates from the common law principle of maintaining public access to navigable waterways for commerce, which in Illinois includes submerged land a mile outward from Chicago into Lake Michigan. This land cannot be transferred from the state to a private entity, as it would constitute “private encroachment and interruption,” against public trust doctrine.

Blakey responded in the ruling, “Plaintiffs invite this Court to find that because the OPC site may have been submerged approximately 11,000 years ago, it constitutes ‘formerly submerged’ land for purposes of the public trust doctrine. Respectfully, the Court declines the Plaintiff’s invitation.”

POP’s second major argument called for “heightened scrutiny” in this case due to potential conflicts of interest between the Obamas and the City of Chicago that calls into question the public benefit of the OPC.

Blakey was unconvinced. “Plaintiffs attempt to twist this public benefit into a private purpose, arguing that the Museum’s mission merely ‘seeks to preserve and enhance the legacy of the former President and his wife’ rather than benefit the public,” he argued.

He dismissed POP’s assessment of the Obamas’ intentions behind the OPC, stating, “This Court cannot accept such a mischaracterization.” 

It sounds to me as though Judge Blakey is a true believer in the wonderfulness of Barack Obama, so that nay monument to him is a public benefit.

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