Civic group: Obama Center process violates environmental laws

In a scathing letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration, the non-profit Jackson Park Watch has detailed the many ways that the proposed Obama Center violates portions of America's most important environmental protection law.

The Obama presidential library concept--another scar on Chicago's lakefront

The Obama presidential library concept--another scar on Chicago's lakefront.

The letter uses such terms as fatally flawed, disingenuous, improbable and others to describe how the city has tossed aside a number of technical aspects of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) regarding required public input. The letter also challenges Chicago's Planning and Transportation departments for attempting to short-circuit the law's requirements for rational, systematic and comprehensive planning to ensure that all other and perhaps better, alternatives for the Obama Center are considere

Jackson Park Watch also accused the city of ignoring portions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 for similar process-related violations.

The high irony, of course, is the possibility that former President Barack Obama, his Foundation, the Rahm Emanuel administration and others are breaching what has been called America's basic national charter for the protection and restoration of the environment. 

The application by a vast bureaucracy of strict environmental protection tools that liberals glorify may have the potential of delaying, if not stopping, a tribute by the private Obama Foundation to liberal Obama on public land.

If President Donald Trump or Republicans had attempted to  circumvent environmental laws and regulations in the same manner, the outcry from many of the same people who are pushing for the construction of the Obama Center in Jackson Park would be fast and furious.

The letter, dated July 4, follows an April 18 letter to the departments expressing "serious concerns and questions" about the way they were addressing the NEPA process. Jackson Park Watch received no response. But the letter and its intricate technicalities could be a preview of the kind of difficult questions that the Emanuel administration will face in a federal lawsuit filed against Obama Center by Jackson Park Watch. Chicago requested and received an extension until August for the next court hearing.

The group's criticisms include:

  • Lack of clarity and detail about the process for public participation and meaningful contribution in the NEPA review of the proposed road changes to accommodate the Obama Center 
  •  Improper "scoping"  (e.g. public participation) in the preparation of  a document "that is crucial for a hard look at the actual consequences of the actions related to the [Obama Center].

At issue is the accuracy and thoroughness of studies that will and should evaluate alternatives to building the Obama Center as proposed. Among them is  a "no-build" alternative in which Chicago will have to demonstrate building the Obama Center won't hurt the environment.

In other words, the city will have to demonstrate that grabbing public land for a private use, the destruction of parkland including the South Shore Nature Sanctuary, the disruption of a stopover habitat for millions of migratory birds, the failure to acquire the same amount of new parkland the replace the snatched land, the costly relocation of a major arterial, and on and on is less environmentally damaging than the status quo.

It's the Chicago Way for the city to ignore laws, regulations and the public's interest that they protect when Chicago wants to push ahead with public works or politically beneficial projects. The strategy is to persuade the public that the law doesn't apply or to act as if there's no opposition to the city's plan. One can only hope that the Chicago media don't buy it.

My earlier posts on the Obama Center:

My historical novel: Madness: The War of 1812

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    It is amazing what they get away with without a peep from the liberal environmentalists.

    On a related note, The Obama Federation hired former mayor Eugene Sawyer son's company to oversee diversity hiring (the Chicago Way). I tried, to no avail, to find out what the racial makeup of this company is and what the desired quotas of workers on the project will be---my guess is that it won't reflect the racial breakdown of the city.

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