Jackson Park Watch Update – February 27, 2019

Greetings, all.   

Today’s Protect Our Parks federal court hearing – City drags feet again, Judge to “micro-manage” the discovery process as a result

Today was the latest federal court hearing in the David v. Goliath saga of the small non-profit Protect Our Parks’ lawsuit against the City and Park District.  The lawsuit challenges the siting of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

Today’s hearing focused on issues related to discovery, that is, the kinds and amounts of information that the City and the Obama Foundation will have to turn over to POP as a part of the case.  This is a key issue: back-room decision making and the absence of meaningful community input have been hallmarks of the process of siting the OPC in Jackson Park from the beginning.  This includes the related plans to close and realign roads at taxpayer expense, construct a 235-foot  museum tower, clear-cut the site, and obliterate all traces of the current Olmsted design.  The discovery process in the POP lawsuit is an important chance for the public to get information on just what has occurred.

Judge John R. Blakey began by questioning both POP and the City attorneys about the status of discovery.  It was readily apparent that the City, which has not yet produced any documents beyond those that are already publicly available, was once again dragging its feet.  Saying “We will have discovery,” Judge Blakey ultimately directed the City to produce a variety of documents including those concerning projected costs to the city and state of the proposed OPC plans and road changes; traffic and environmental analyses; and an analysis of the financial benefits to the Obama Foundation of the proposed OPC plans. He directed the City to identify an official  to be deposed by POP concerning those documents, leaving open the possibility of additional depositions later on.

Judge Blakey concluded this section of the hearing by setting April 19 as the close of discovery, a very tight timeline.  He went on to set an equally demanding schedule for the next steps in this case:

  • May 3 as the date for the parties to submit motions for summary judgment, each asking the Judge to rule in its favor
  • May 17 as the date for the responses to these motions;
  • May 24 for the replies to those responses; and
  • May 30 for a hearing on the motions.

As the hearing seemed to be drawing to a close, the City’s outside attorney from the firm Mayer Brown raised a new round of questions as to what documents the City was to produce.  After a brief exchange with the attorney, Judge Blakey announced “I will have to micro-manage your discovery,” and set another hearing for next Thursday, March 7, at 11 a.m. to review progress on discovery.

Other top news:

Also today, Preservation Chicago released its 2019 Chicago 7 Most Endangered List, identifying the most threatened historic buildings and sites in the city.

For the third year in a row, Jackson Park, the South Shore Cultural Center, and the Midway Plaisance were ranked in first place, with plans for the Obama Presidential Center and a PGA-style golf course judged to be the current most significant threat to historic buildings and landscapes in Chicago.  Presentation Chicago specifically noted that parceling off these public lands for private use would have devastating impacts on these historic sites and landscapes and would establish extremely negative precedents.


Thanks to all who have recently offered financial support.  We continue to welcome your donations.  Checks made out to Jackson Park Watch can be sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.  Donations that need to be funneled through our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks can be sent to FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, with a note indicating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch.

We thank you.

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

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