When I visited the Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan Presidential Libraries during the Christmas season of 2016, I was struck by the appropriate scale of both facilities.

The Nixon building was about the size of a metropolitan library and had his childhood home and the Marine One helicopter. Reagan’s library was far grander, as befitted a great President with an impressive legacy.

So, when I first saw the plans for the shrine-like Barack Obama Presidential LibraryYoga Center and Basketball Court, I wondered how the Chicago community would feel about the monstrosity envisioned for his fairly questionable legacy. This is especially true for Chicago, which was ill-served by Obama’s domestic policies.

As more information is being revealed about how badly Obama behaved in office (e.g., allowing Iran to obtain an American drone), more and more Americans are overcoming their reticence at criticizing the first black President. I believe that the mocking of the official portraits is merely the beginning of the end of the grand legacy that was planned.

Now, a group of Chicago community activists have filed a lawsuit demanding answers about the Barack Obama Presidential Center’s “impact on the environment” of the historic Jackson Park area.

“Like the public generally, we find the Obama Foundation and City of Chicago not forthcoming,” Gabriel Piemonte and Janet Geovanis, two members of the Coalition to Save Jackson Park, wrote Wednesday in a Hyde Park Herald letter to the editor. “This is a massive development involving public land, and we have been kept in the dark about too many details.”

The coalition, which filed the Freedom of Information Act complaint on Jan. 16, accused the “wealthy Obama Foundation and the city officials it works with” of refusing “to engage with citizens whose housing, schools, and parks will be forever altered” by the library’s construction.

The group’s FOIA request, filed Nov. 3, sought information on a host of environmental impact issues, including “potential flooding and run-off,” “avian-migration and nesting issues,” and “impact on local microclimate and temperatures in Jackson Park.”

Like so much of the history of the Obamas, the residents fear what was promised will not be the actual reality.

“My client is concerned about deals cut in secret and what those were,” said Daniel Massoglia, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the coalition. “The concern is that private interests are co-opting public land to build what is no longer accurately called a presidential library with very little community involvement.”

…Despite the Obama Foundation’s insistence that the center will have the same feel as any other presidential library, just not be operated by the National Archives and Records Administration, “it has changed and that does matter,” said Gabriel Piemonte, a Jackson Park resident and member of the coalition. “I feel that this isn’t what we talked about,” Piemonte said. “We talked about a more seriously purposed facility.” Piemonte will be content when “the community is a part of the decision-making process about the center,” he said. “The city is not sharing with us.”

I project there will be many more complaints and lawsuits unless the plans for the library begin to reflect the true nature and extent of Obama’s national legacy.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.