Illinois taxpayers will cough up almost $200 million as part of the state’s plan to improve the area around the Obama Presidential Center, which will be constructed on the South Side of Chicago.
Earlier this month, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed off on a bill that included $174 million for road work near the project and another $50 million to repair a rail stop, the Washington Examiner reported.
“Bringing the Obama Presidential Center to Chicago took leadership and vision, and we are gratified that our partners in Springfield also saw the potential for what this means for all of Illinois. The state’s $174 million investment in infrastructure improvements near the Obama Center on the South Side of Chicago is money well spent,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement that was released Friday as ground was broken for the rail stop project.
The rail stop project is supported by state and federal tax dollars through a federal grant matched with state money. Emanuel was a one-time chief of staff to former President Barack Obama.
The Obama Center is still in the process of getting all local, state and federal approvals. One issue that has emerged is that the 23-story center would eat up a slice of historic Jackson Park. Some opponents of the project want the park spared, and want the center built on private land.
FOX NEWS: Obama Presidential Center to cost taxpayers nearly $200M: report pic.twitter.com/Dru9oufqQA
— Tania Shah (@Sam_Yes_VSS) June 16, 2018
A lawsuit by a group called Protect Our Parks is objecting that the center, which was initially sold as the spot where Obama’s presidential papers would be housed, will in fact only have digital copies of his papers, Fox News reported.
“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,” the lawsuit said.
Wow. Is this really how you want to spend tax dollars? With all of the crime and problems Chicago has, you want to spend it on the Obama Presidential center? Mr. Obama, if you had half a heart you would put a stop to it. The money is better spent on real infrastructure….
— Don Gardner (@Dongee63) June 16, 2018
Emanuel, however, has said that honoring Obama is good for Chicago.
“The Obama Presidential Center will be a transformational project for Chicago’s South Side, and this state funding demonstrates Illinois’ commitment to honoring the legacy of Chicago’s favorite son and daughter,” he said.
Chicago’s city council recently supported moving ahead with the center, but Alderman David Moore objected to spending money on work related to the center while streets in his community are in disrepair.
“I’m in a community where there are streets that are totally jacked up far worse than what’s around Stony Island, and the administration is saying they don’t have money to do those streets,” Moore said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I can’t get $800,000 to go to streets that haven’t been done in 20 years.”
“I’m more passionate for my constituents,” he said, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Neighborhood residents have also argued there is no plan to deal with potential displacement after the center changes the character of the neighborhood.
“There has been talk about a neighborhood stabilization plan … but right now there is no plan, and the devil truly is in the details. Will that plan include aggressive measures to preserve and expand affordable housing, including a 30 percent set-aside, or will it be a repackaging of existing but inadequate measures to say, look, we addressed your concern?” activist Alex Goldenberg said in a statement.
The Obama Foundation needs the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency to use Jackson Park for the presidential center.
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