We are receiving significant national attention…please read and share this excellent article by James Freeman…
Before making commitments to environmental “stakeholders” who have no stake in his business, perhaps JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon should have observed the resistance mounted by local stakeholders in Chicago to the planned Obama Presidential Center. On the other hand, Mr. Dimon will likely never try to build a bank branch in the middle of a public park.
In June this column figured that former President Barack Obama had finally defeated the community organizers who have been protesting his plan to erect a monument to his presidency in Chicago’s Jackson Park. (The center will not hold Mr. Obama’s official papers, therefore it will not be a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.) That’s when a federal judge ruled that the city of Chicago had the authority to allow the center’s construction, even though the park is a historic landmark designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 19th century.
But now it seems that Mr. Obama may have messed with the wrong bunch of environmentally sensitive stakeholders. On Thursday a federal agency called the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation said in a letter to the Federal Highway Administration that the plan needs more study and that it’s “concerned that not enough detail is provided to properly characterize the nature and intensity of the adverse effects to the cultural landscapes” of Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance, another park nearby.
Charles Birnbaum, CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, calls the letter a reminder that the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park “is not a done deal, as its proponents would have us believe.” He adds that while his organization does not oppose building the center on Chicago’s South Side, “we do not support the confiscation of nationally significant, historic public parkland for the facility.”
Could a federal bureaucracy, teaming up with community organizers, manage to thwart this Obama development plan? On Wednesday leaders from five other organizations published a letter to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Representatives from Preservation Chicago, Jackson Park Watch, Friends of the Parks, Hyde Park Historical Society and Save the Midway wrote:
Nearly every aspect of the planned Center will have an adverse effect on Jackson Park – the 235-foot tower, the landscaping, the removal of 20 acres, the removal of hundreds of trees including many old-growth trees, the road closures, as well as moving replacement park land to the Midway Plaisance.
The more one studies the critique from Obama center opponents, the more they seem to be making a rather modest and reasonable point about sensible conservation. So perhaps it’s unfair to compare them to Mr. Dimon’s new corporate “stakeholders” and their demands for drastic climate action.
In any case, conservationists aren’t the only members of the community who have organized to challenge the current Obama plan. A recent report prepared by the city acknowledging the planned center’s “adverse effect” on Jackson Park triggered this dispatch in the Chicago Maroon:
The report comes on the heels of another anti-[Obama Presidential Center] measure in City Hall: Aldermen Leslie Hairston of the 5th ward and Jeanette Taylor of the 20th ward, the wards that encompass the planned development, earlier this month filed an ordinance to compel the signing of a Community Benefits Agreement before OPC construction begins. Among other initiatives, the ordinance seeks to impose strict requirements for low-income housing in new development surrounding the OPC.
If one didn’t care about the preservation of treasured city parks—and managed to forget that Mr. Obama imposed a record amount of regulation on his fellow citizens—one could almost feel sorry for Mr. Obama as he continues to face formidable political and procedural hurdles. Imagine how different his presidency might have been if he had attempted a private development project before constructing the world’s most expensive bureaucracy.
To read the article online at the Wall Street Journal’s website, click here.