Chicago residents have given anything but a warm welcome to the proposed location for the Obama Presidential Center.
Since the plans were announced in May 2017, the building of the library in Jackson Park has received criticism from different groups and former community organizer Barak Obama is facing a “minor uprising.”
Jeanette Taylor, the education director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, voiced her concern for the building at a public meeting last September, Politico reported.
“The library is a great idea, but what about a community benefits agreement?” she asked in reference to a contract that requires investments in or hiring from the community where a project is built. “The first time investment comes to black communities, the first to get kicked out is low-income and working class people. Why wouldn’t you sign a CBA to protect us?”
Obama answered, “I was a community organizer. I know the neighborhood. I know that the minute you start saying, ‘Well, we’re thinking about signing something that will determine who’s getting jobs and contracts and this and that’ … next thing I know, I’ve got 20 organizations coming out of the woodwork.”
“He got a lot of nerve saying that,” Taylor told Politico. “He forgotten who he is. He forgot the community got him where he is.”
Taylor, like many others, is reportedly concerned that the new center will drive up housing costs.
The “community benefits agreement” that the community organizers are demanding would require Chicago to freeze property taxes within a 2-mile radius of the center and ensure “a significant guaranteed set-aside of new housing for low-income housing in the area surrounding” the Obama Center.
The Obama foundation would also be required to set up a trust fund for nearby public schools and small businesses, and set aside 80 percent of the construction jobs for South Side residents.
“The organizing effort put pressure on the city,” Virginia Parks, a CBA expert, said. “Elected officials would say, ‘If I’m going to approve this, I’m going to need you to work out some agreement with these people, who are my voters.”
According to The Washington Times, the structure will take up nearly 20 acres of Jackson Park and the renovations are slated to cost 100 million in taxpayer dollars.
Former President Barack Obama made his final pitch on Tuesday for building the presidential center in Jackson Park, saying that he believes it will create jobs, attract businesses and provide opportunities for local residents, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“A lot of times, people get nervous about gentrification and understandably so,” Obama said. “It is not my experience … that the big problem on the South Side has been too much development, too much economic activity, too many people being displaced because all these folks from Lincoln Park are filling into the South Side. That’s not what’s happening.”
“We have such a long way to go before you will start seeing the prospect of gentrification,” he continued. “(My daughter) Malia’s kids might have to worry about that. Right now, we’ve got to worry about broken curbs and trash and boarded-up buildings. That’s what we really need to work on.”
The Jackson Park Watch argues that the city’s plan puts an “undue and unnecessary burden on taxpayers” and “addresses only the needs of the (center’s) visitors and not those of other park users.”
The Obama foundation’s plan will be presented before Chicago’s Plan Commission next.
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