Friday, March 09, 2018

Obamamandian Imperative: Crushing Peasants With A Privatized Presidential Center

WashingtonExaminer |  A panel of national and local experts, comprised mostly of African-Americans, lambasted Chicago city officials in a meeting Wednesday night for how they have worked closely with the Obama Foundation to build the Obama Presidential Center on public land despite criticism and serious concerns from representatives of the South Side neighborhood.

"You have all this talk about collusion between Trump and Russia, right? To me, that sounds like collusion between the city and the university, and we see the same thing happening in relation to this," one of the panelists, Jawanza Malone, executive director of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, said.

University of Chicago professors, leaders in the black community, and experts on historic preservation and architecture repeatedly condemned former President Barack Obama and his organization for engaging in closed-door negotiations with the university and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as Obama's first term chief of staff, and said the Democratic leader is ignoring the historic black community's needs.

Panelists indicated that their main gripe is the lack of representation by those overseeing the project. The speakers also listed other grievances they had with the current plan, though they agreed the center itself was not the issue, but rather how it was being rolled out.

Below is a list of 13 of those concerns.
1. Despite receiving invitations to attend and participate in the discussion, no one from the Obama Foundation, city of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, the park district, or University of Chicago chose to attend the meeting, university professor Tom Mitchell announced.

2. The Obama Foundation has refused to sign a Community Benefits Agreement, which Mitchell said would put in "writing the many glowing promises that protect low-income residents from eviction and higher rents." The idea of a CBA was "declared out of bounds with a promise that the Obama administration would do even better than such an agreement." No such deal has been struck in the four years that organizations and residents have voiced concerns about gentrification due to the project.

3. In the early planning stages for the center, which was rolled out in 2014 as a plan for a library, the Obama Foundation did hold community meetings, but Mitchell said they were "more like marketing exercises, sometimes like pep rallies, featuring glossy PowerPoints, but relatively few opportunities for open public discussion.

Instead, we were given breakout groups, which fragment the public and questionnaires that reduce the public to statistical interest groups." Mitchell added that on the "rare occasions when an open discussion was allowed, questions were too often or evaded."

4. What started as a presidential library that would be overseen by the National Archives quickly turned into a privately run operation that saw other private entities try to get a piece of the deal. A PGA golf course scheme and five-acre parking garage were both announced as additions to the center, only to be rescinded later due to public outcry.