Another reason why the Jackson Park give-away to the Obama Center is illegal and corrupt

In a previous post, I discussed the details, as outlined in a federal lawsuit filed by Protect Our Parks against the gifting of Jackson Park land to the Obama Center, violates local, state and federal law. As far as I know, this is the only place in the media that has attempted to dissect the legal arguments against the ceding of  19.3 acres of publicly owned Jackson Park land for a token payment of $1 to a private entity, the Obama Foundation, for whatever use it--i.e. former President Barack Obama--decides.

There's another legal roadblock that the lawsuit points to, one that the city and the land-grab crowd have completely ignored. Protect Our Parks said the "controlling" law in the transfer of public property a private entity is found in is the Park District Code, 70 ILCS 1205/10-7. It states:

Any park district owning or holding any real estate is authorized to convey such property to a nongovernmental entity in exchange for other real property of substantially equal or greater value as determined by 2 appraisals of the property and of substantially the same or greater suitability for park purposes without additional cost to such district.

So, it is fair to ask: Where the hell is the property of equal or greater value that the Obama Foundation will give to the city in exchange for ripping off the 19.3 acres of prime, publicly owned lakefront land?If the offer has been made, I haven't heard of it, I don't think it was reported and if it happened, it was behind closed doors, as is the Chicago Way. 

Protect Our Parks apparently hasn't heard of it either:

In all their proceedings, Defendants have simply held this Park District Code provision secret, as if it did not exist, and have consciously failed and refused to enforce or comply with its requirements, in direct violation of the express mandates and due process required under the Park District Code, the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution, a duty that the Defendants and their Officers have sworn to protect.

Some unexpected headwinds gusting against the Obama Center. People protest the proposed Obama Presidential Center outside City Hall as the Plan Commission approves the project. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Some unexpected headwinds gusting against the Obama Center. People protest the proposed Obama Presidential Center outside City Hall as the Plan Commission approves the project. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Here's one guess: Maybe the University of Chicago, which has partnered with the Obama Foundation in this travesty, will gift the land to the foundation. Some part of its serene campus in Hyde Park, or in bustling downtown Chicago? And how precisely do you determine the value of the 19.3 acres of Jackson Park? If the Chicago Way applies (is there another option?) someone's brother-in-law who knows a guy who knows an appraiser will come up with an evaluation that says the Jackson Park land is worth, oh say, a dollar. Which is what the city is getting from the foundation for handing over control of the land.

The lawsuit bluntly blasts this process:

The City and the Park District clearly realize and fully understand that this established law precludes the Park District from arbitrarily transferring possession, use and control of this dedicated “open, clear and free” public parkland in Jackson Park to a private nongovernmental private entity’s self-determined use. Defendants have chosen to deal with it in a classic Chicago political way, known as a short con shell game, a corrupt scheme to deceive and seemingly legitimize an illegal land grab, one that will endure for centuries to come, regardless of future changing public park needs and increasingly consequential environmental conditions.

Furthermore, as the scheme has been designed, it is the public taxpayers of the already overtaxed and budget deficit saddled State of Illinois and City of Chicago who will be required to now pay, together with all the resulting and escalating high costs for changes in street and public utility infrastructure demanded by the Foundation, an egregious new special add-on Park District real estate tax to pay for the Presidential Center’s upkeep, and to further accommodate and enable this private nongovernmental entity to exist in the public Jackson Park. Notably, by law, the "charitable" Foundation itself is not subject to real estate taxes payable to the Park District and will apparently, at most, pay only token rental for its acquired control of this priceless lakefront public park land. [Emphasis added.]

What's this? A new, special add-on Park District property tax? Levied on Chicago homeowners who already are paying among the highest property taxes in the nation (much of it going to huge benefits to government employees who now longer are working)? To subsidize what amounts to a publicly supported propaganda machine for Obama on public land?

So classic. It will be a case history studied for years in political science and history classes as one of the more powerful demonstrations of how the "power structure" runs big city politics. Of how the interests of the public are far behind those of special interests. And, sadly, how the Chicago media are missing or ignoring the biggest of Chicago Way story of the year.

My earlier posts detailing the problems with the  Obama Center:

My historical novel: Madness: The War of 1812


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    The language and intent of the code governing the transfer of Park District property to such nongovernmental entities as the Obama Foundation seem as perfectly clear as the fact that it’s been imperiously ignored. I eagerly await the ultimate (and I’d bet, expedited) Illinois Supreme Court ruling on this matter. Oh, there’s no doubt that it will rule in favor of the Presidental Center; I just want to see how it perverts the code’s language to achieve the result that it wants to achieve.

  • In reply to Bob Foys:

    I believe only hope rests with the federal court. I fear, however, that a fed judge will rule that the suit is filed in the wrong place because so many state and local laws were allegedly violated. Then on the fast track to the Illinois (supremely politicized) high court.

  • Although brief, this article gets to the heart of the illegality of the Obama Presidential Center plans. One thing not mentioned and largely overlooked in the national media is: the Obama Center is to be accompanied by a proposed $60 million luxury golf course. Which the Obama Foundation approves, and which Obama himself seeks as an amenity for his political fundraising and personal amusement. Dennis, if you do a follow-up on this piece, could it include an expose' on the shady origins of the golf course scheme, which is far more destructive in its implications than the Obama Center itself. These facts are well-documented, from a Freedom of Information Act request, which obtained the secret emails between the Park District Commissioner, Rahm Emanuel, and the Obama Foundation

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