We have to say it again. Protect our Parks and other opponents of the Obama Center's land grab in historical Jackson Pamark are not against the center. Rather, they believe that building it in Jackson Park is not just illegal, but bad public policy. It ought to go elsewhere; there is no shortage of better sits.
One needs to say this again, and again, and again, because it doesn't seem to sink in with the public, the people who automatically support anything that Obama wants, or the media.
The issue arose again this week during a hearing before federal District Judge John Robert Blakey on a motion by city attorneys to toss Protect Our Parks' lawsuit.
The legal arguments against the Jackson Park land grab are, in my non-lawyer opinion, solid. To over simplify, a key issue is whether the grab violates laws designed to protect public property, especially valuable lakefront property, from private confiscation. It's easy to get bogged down in the technicalities, but for me the most salient argument was made by legal scholar Richard Epstein. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, he said the deal...
created a situation “rife with conflicts of interest.” But in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Protect Our Parks, legal scholar Richard Epstein said public-trust doctrine places an extra burden on authorities to prove overwhelming public benefit when they offer the use of public parks to such popular, well-connected figures as Obama.
“Obama is one of the most powerful and influential personages in Chicago life, with deep ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Obama’s former White House chief of staff) and with many close connections to key city public officials,” Epstein wrote. “His enormous clout cries out, not for deference, but for searching scrutiny” of whether benefits of the project far outweigh the loss of public-park access.
The lawsuit isn't the only legal hurdle; because the park is on the National Register of Historic Places, further federal approvals are required. But considering how federal regulators previously caved to special interest demands on the defacing of Soldier Field and the expansion of O'Hare Airport, I wouldn't put my money on the feds doing the right thing.
Ultimately, of course, the right thing is to build the center (not a library) elsewhere on the South Side where it will do more good. This is where the mayor, City Council and Park District betrayed the public trust by creating bad policy. Oodles of vacant land are available that are crying out for redevelopment. Put the center on anyone one of those available acres and acres, and the project will offer even more benefits. And the opposition and lawsuit would disappear.
If only Obama's ego and his sycophants would allow it.
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