Barack Obama began as a "community activist" on Chicago's Far South Side, protecting regular folk from the plundering of the rich and powerful. Now the rich and powerful--Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the University of Chicago, to name a couple--are trying to grab parkland from a South Side neighborhood. For Obama's presidential library. (Story is here.)
Will he stand aside and let this happen? Will he betray his own constituency? He will if he is untrustworthy as he has proven to be when it comes to keeping his promises. (Refer to Obamacare and "keeping your doctor.")
Suddenly, Chicago parkland is not as sacrosanct as its friends once thought. It's publicly owned and should not be turned over to private enterprises, such as George Lucas' appetite for a lakefront site for his own museum. A perfect alternative is available, suggested by Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, but Emmanuel and Lucas won't hear of it.
Nor should parkland be used for a quasi-private purpose such as the Obama library. (Just like the cash-strapped state of Illinois shouldn't have to come up with a $100 million bribe to help pay for the library.
Here's an important question that doesn't seem to be answered: Why grab valuable parkland and open space for the Obama library when there is so much vacant land in Chicago? Drive around the South Side, and you can see large swaths of abandoned and open land near the proposed library park sites. Much of it is owned by the city, which has a program of selling it off for $1.
Chicago should assemble this vacant open space for the library. Besides saving parkland, it would encourage economic development in neighborhoods that need a shot in the arm and reduce the city's inventory of barren land.
But that makes too much sense.