Jackson Park Watch – February 25, 2019

Greetings, all.  

Another POP hearing this Wednesday- stay tuned!

This Wednesday, February 27, at 10:30 a.m., Federal Judge John R. Blakey will preside over another hearing in the Protect Our Parks lawsuit against the City and Park District. The suit challenges the siting of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

Why is this Wednesday’s hearing important? Following Judge Blakey’s ruling last week that POP has standing and is entitled to bring its case to federal court, the next key issue is how much information the City will be forced to reveal to POP in order for POP to make its case. The City has consistently argued against being required to share such internal information, and in fact not long ago argued that the Judge should make his decision based solely on three public documents – the Planned Development Ordinance adopted in May 2018, the OPC Ordinance in October 2018, and the yet-to-signed Use Agreement appended to the OPC Ordinance. While Judge Blakey did not buy the City’s argument, his decision on the contested issue of “discovery” this Wednesday will determine how much information on a host of issues the City will be required to share.

The extremely contentious nature of the “discovery” issue, one that continues to be rooted in the City’s habits of secrecy and opaqueness, has been demonstrated once again. The parties were directed by Judge Blakey to confer and submit a single joint report on what information the City would provide to POP. POP had streamlined its requests for information, but the City remained adamant. As a result, separate reports were submitted to the Judge. The Judge has now rejected them both, directing the parties to submit a single joint report by 5 pm tomorrow.

Wednesday’s hearing will be a case management conference. Judge Blakey will rule on the disputes over discovery, will set a 45-day or longer period for finalizing discovery, and will also set a firm six-week schedule for the final briefings and ruling. A trial may follow.

On other matters

Judge Blakey’s ruling that the POP lawsuit could continue was followed by some incisive commentary on various aspects of the dispute:

City Lab, an on-line affilate of the Atlantic that covers urban issues worldwide, put the OPC project in the context of other land-use battles in New York, Toronto and Washington, all grounded in controversies and concern about public trust and the lack of governmental transparency in how economic development decisions are made.

The New York Times explored the background story and import of “The Obama Presidential Library That Isn’t.”

The Tribune’s architecture critic Blair Kamin noted that the issue of using lakefront parkland is always problematic and that “‘No Drama Obama’ is in a legal box of his own making.”

The Sun-Times, editorializing on “Rahm’s last big favor for the Obama Presidential Center,” noted that “we have never liked this feeling that the fix is in.”


We appreciate all those who have offered financial support in recent weeks. This kind of work is intensive and expensive since it requires frequent consults with our legal counsel, and thus we continue to welcome (and in fact need) additional financial support. Checks made out to Jackson Park Watch can be sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.

We thank you.

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

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