Once again, former President Obama is taking executive order to another level. Chicago’s favored son is rankling many of its citizens over plans for his presidential library. Which, according to Philip H. Devoe, in NRO, is not being called a library, but rather a center.
It seems Obama is once again taking executive power for granted: His library will neither contain his presidential documents, which have all been digitized, nor be administered by the National Archives and Records Administration — the two elements required of a presidential library. In fact, the Obama Foundation has named it the Obama Presidential “Center,” and the only books it might contain are would come from the Chicago Public Library.
In its initial bid for the right to host the library, put forth on behalf of the city, the University of Chicago offered large tracts of idyllic land in Washington Park and Jackson Park as two potential sites. Almost immediately, the people of those parks’ districts began scratching their heads. “Why not build it in one of the many blighted areas?” they asked. “Why are you taking a huge chunk of our parks?” Obama’s response was essentially an ultimatum: If the library couldn’t be built in a Chicago park, he’d take it to Honolulu or New York City.
Last spring, unhappy Chicagoans asked the Obama Foundation (the group overseeing the library’s construction) to sign a community benefit agreement, in which the CBA would commit the Foundation to set aside jobs for residents around the library, protect low-income housing, support black-owned businesses, and strengthen neighborhood schools. Guess what? Not only did the Foundation refuse, but also Mr. Obama, when asked by a resident to sign the agreement at a public meeting about the library, refused.
The Obama Foundation’s website boasts that center will include a community garden, a “test kitchen,” and a recording studio where visitors will be able to “create their own songs, speeches, short films, and interviews.”
But neighborhood residents have said countless times that they don’t want any of that. They want their public park, their low-cost housing, and their culture. They want their elected officials to listen when they bang their fists on the table.
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