Chicago Neighbors Say They Were Lied To, File Federal Suit To Stop Obama Library


Barack Obama’s legacy seems as if it’s being dismantled more every day.

First, scandals from Benghazi to Uranium One rocked his presidency.

Then, President Donald Trump reversed many of Obama’s “signature accomplishments” with a few signatures of his own.

Now, even Obama’s attempt to secure his place in history is becoming mired in controversy, providing a fitting end note for the 44th president.

According to the Chicago Tribune, several groups in Chicago are accusing Obama of pulling a “bait and switch” over his proposed presidential library. The claim? It isn’t a library at all, but part of a scheme to seize control of public park land and use it for whatever suits the developer’s fancy.

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A lawsuit is now moving forward, claiming that the planned Obama monstrosity is not what people agreed to.

“Protect Our Parks Inc. also claims in its lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court on Monday, that the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago don’t have the authority to transfer public parkland to a nongovernmental entity such as the Obama Foundation,” the Tribune reported.

The proposal for Obama’s library was originally to have the Chicago Park District sell land for the facility to the city. The city would then, in turn, least the land to the Obama Foundation. But that scheme isn’t sitting well with many area residents.

“The lawsuit, which also names three Chicago-area residents as plaintiffs, argues that such a maneuver would violate state law and represents ‘a short con shell game, a corrupt scheme to deceive and seemingly legitimize an illegal land grab,'” the newspaper reported.

Will this lawsuit prevent construction of the Obama Library?

In basic terms, residents are upset that park land intended for free public use would be transferred to private, non-governmental ownership with the Obama Foundation.

“The plaintiffs accuse the Obamas of committing an about-face on original plans for the Jackson Park site to be home to a national presidential library that would hold historic documents and archives from Barack Obama’s presidency under the National Archives and Records Administration’s supervision,” according to the Tribune.

The plaintiffs may have a point. Many parts of the proposed presidential library seem more like a private recreational center than a thoughtful, serious library.

“The center will also include a large gym, a ‘community forum’ and an outdoor plaza,” pointed out

What, your local library doesn’t have a gym?

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“The people of Chicago were told they would get a presidential library administered by the National Archives, a federal facility, in exchange for the confiscation of historic parkland,” said Charles A. Birnbaum of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, another group that has criticized the plans.

“Instead, they’re getting a privately operated entertainment campus with a 235-foot-tall tower, a recording studio, auditorium and sports facility, and other amenities,” he said, according to Fox News.

Then there’s the parking lot. In January, Fox News reported the planned facility would take a huge swath of land away from the Chicago Park District and, well, pave over it.

An open letter criticizing the plan earlier this year pointed out that “the nearby park ought to be preserved for future generations and not given to a private entity for development into a parking lot,” reported Fox.

In a way, the controversy is rather ironic. Obama’s entire presidency could be called a giant bait and switch. People elected him expecting “hope and change,” but instead received eight years of mediocrity and big-government programs that seemed to hurt more than they helped.

There’s something particularly Obama-esque about taking public land and turning it into an expensive, unwanted ode to himself. More than a year after leaving office, Obama is proving just how out of touch he still is with actual Americans.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.