The more I read about how wonderful the Obama Center ("don't call it a library") will be, the angrier I become. Not just because it is a mistake on the lake--violating the spirit if not the letter of Chicago's Lakefront Protection Ordinance*--but also because it is sailing under the false color of being a symbolic, if not a real, boon for a depressed community.
As I wrote on Friday, it is an insult to the community, a virtual "screw-you" to satisfy the elites who think that they have a right to grab a precious, revered and historic lakefront park to satisfy their (and the Obamas') egos. If they really wanted to do something for the South Side
community, they'd place the "center" in a more advantageous spot west of the precious University of Chicago Hyde Park campus that could use an economic, cultural and social kick start. There is plenty of vacant and available land that would be a hell of a lot more accessible to the neighborhoods than the location east of the Metra line, the long Midway Plaisance and Washington Park. West of the Dan Ryan Expressway and close to the CTA's Red Line would have been a good spot.
Instead we hear what a wonderful thing for good, truth and beautify it is to grab all of five acres of additional parkland to do what liberal limousine liberals love best--to shut down a major traffic arterial. All in the name of some threadbare idea that cars don't have any business in the "urban milieu." It is the height of hypocrisy for Chicago's progressives who give lip service to lakefront protection but cast away their principles because...? You can fill in the blank for yourself.
And please don't tell me that I oppose the site of the Obama Center because I "hate" him, or because of his race or because a right wing nut. Early on I wrote that Chicago should host the library (but Illinois shouldn't be extorted into paying for it) and not some place that has a less direct connection with his background. I also suggested that it be in a spot that would speak to his commitment to people who could most use his help. How is it that I, supposedly a heartless conservative, am coming to their defense and not the ever-so-caring progressives?
It's not too late to junk this stupid, selfish and hypocritical idea.
*The ordinance recognizes that the City's Lake Michigan shoreline possesses special environmental, recreational, cultural, historical, community and aesthetic interests and values that require protection and preservation. The area includes all harbors, piers, breakwaters, locks of the Chicago River, and public open spaces along the water. -- City of Chicago Planning and Policy website.
A public hearing is required; will there be one? And will lakefront activists find the courage to testify against the site?