Legal fight over construction of Obama Presidential Center continues

 April 16, 2024

Last week saw a federal court clear the way for a sprawling complex honoring former President Barack Obama to be built over a Chicago park.

Yet according to Wall Street Journal columnist James Freeman, opponents won't stop in their quest fighting to have that victory revoked. 

Circuit Court judges rule in favor of Obama Foundation

At issue is an effort by the Obama Foundation to build the Obama Presidential Center, something it says "will be a welcoming, vibrant campus where people from across the street or from around the globe can come to get inspired, find common ground, and take action."

The move is being opposed by a group called Protect Our Parks, which is attempting to protect Chicago's Jackson Park from developments.

Freeman noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld an earlier lower court decision in favor of the Obama Foundation.

Lawyers for group dispute city's authority to lease out Jackson Park

However, he also observed that Protect Our Parks is being represented by "renowned legal scholar" Richard Epstein along with fellow attorney Michael Rachlis.

The pair wrote an op-ed piece for the Chicago Tribune in which they maintained that additional litigation on the issue "is sadly necessary."

Epstein and Rachlis argued that the state legislature's 1869 land grant creating Jackson Park precludes the city from leasing part of it to another party.

They further suggested that the federal government is obligated to demand a more extensive environmental impact review.

 Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett touts benefits that center will bring

For her part, Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett issued a statement pledging "to protect the interests of our community and ensure we are able to deliver on the commitment we’ve made to bring our world-class institution to Chicago."

"The Obama Presidential Center will include a presidential museum, a branch of the Chicago Public Library, a forum building for local, national and international gatherings and an athletic center," she declared.

Jarret explained how "[t]he campus will offer a fruit and vegetable garden, walking and biking trails, a sledding hill, playground, and spectacular open spaces featuring public art displays."

"Taken together, the campus will provide space for rest, recreation and relaxation for park-goers in the midst of our beloved urban landscape," she promised.

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