Jackson Park Watch Update – July 23, 2018

Greetings All!

Protect Our Parks (POP) lawsuit prompts the City to play catch-up

Protect Our Parks filed suit against the City and Park District in mid-May arguing, not against the Obama Presidential Center per se, but again its location in historic, public Jackson Park.

In opposing the POP suit, the City requested a hearing delay for a surprising reason: As reported in Crain’s, the City asserted that “The City Council has yet to introduce, much less enact, an ordinance authorizing the construction and operation of the [Obama Presidential] center….there is a significant gap in the approvals necessary for the project to proceed, and in the details of how the foundation will be authorized to use the site and operate the center.” The City maintained that a delay was therefore necessary for the City to introduce and the City Council to enact the needed ordinance and approvals.

Among the questions that leap to mind is this: How could the Plan Commission have acted or the federal review process been launched without such basic approvals?

The next hearing on the POP lawsuit was recently rescheduled for late August with the expectation that an ordinance would be introduced at the July 25 City Council meeting. However, such legislation does not appear on the agenda for that meeting, and a City spokesperson told Crain’s it would not necessarily be introduced in July, just “in the near future.” We and many others will be most interested in following the City Council action.

North Side/South Side Parallels

The coverage in recent days of the plans for a massive residential and commercial development on a prime spot along the north branch of the Chicago River has had clear echoes of the Obama Foundation’s unveiling of its plans for Jackson Park a year ago. The hyperbole and lack of details in the public presentations about those ambitious plans have invited skepticism and criticism, as have the efforts to limit public comments by refusing to hold a Q-and-A. Blair Kamin noted in his Tribune report:

“The Obama Foundation, which is charged with building the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, repeatedly used the same tactic at its public meetings. Like Sterling Bay, the foundation said the format was an opportunity for intimate, reasoned discussion instead of a public shouting match.

“But democracy is, by its very nature, messy. Opponents of the Obama center rightly charged that the format denied the community a chance to hear itself.”

Also in the media

TIME has just published a major piece about controversies swirling around the OPC. The Hyde Park Herald published an important letter from JPW outlining its concerns with the federal review process.


JPW’s current focus is the federal review process that has been triggered by the Obama Foundation’s expansive plan. As mentioned in the prior Update, the third Section 106 meeting, long postponed, is now projected to be held in “late summer,” whenever that might be, as is the initial public meeting regarding the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We can only speculate about what is behind these repeated delays. In preparation, JPW is carrying on with research, analysis, collaboration, and careful monitoring.

Please support us

Despite the impression that the City and Obama Foundation are cultivating, this is not a done deal. Our work continues. We will appreciate your contributions! Please send checks (payable to Jackson Park Watch) to JPW at P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch

Comments are closed.