Is the Obama Presidential Center a land grab?

Executive Director of Friends of the Parks, Juanita Irizarry on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers on Lumpenradio.

On May 10th, Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry issued a statement to the press regarding developments with the Obama Presidential Center (OPC).

Juanita said in part:

Of course, everyone wants a black and white answer.  What is the exact number of parkland that the Obama Foundation should give replace?  But it’s more complicated than that.
The answer as to the amount of green space the OPC owes Chicago is premature.  The Obama Foundation and the Chicago Park District would like Chicagoans to accept their premise based on the assumption that streets through the park will be converted to green space.  But that issue is still being studied under the required Section 106/NEPA federal review processes.  All potential alternatives are supposed to be considered in a thorough analysis that normally takes a couple of years for a project of this scope.  Yet we are being asked to sign on with support this month.  It begs the question whether we are being asked to accept a done deal that will be justified after the fact.

Additionally, they want us to accept the greening of Cornell Drive as adding parkland while they add a cement plaza on their campus.  That doesn’t sound consistent.  If it is grass that makes a space part of park replacement acreage, then their concrete plaza shouldn’t count in their figure of parkland added.


Meanwhile, the same National Park Service which the Obama Foundation and the Chicago Park District are citing as affirming their plan as a sufficient substitution for public parkland suggested at the most recent Section 106 consulting parties meeting that a baseball diamond that must be replaced could be located on the Midway Plaisance.  That is ridiculous!  So while there may be an effort to comply with the letter of the law to replace parkland, there doesn’t seem to be a priority to comply with the spirit of a truly park positive outcome.  Upon hearing a few years ago of the plans for the OPC in a park and the Obama Foundation’s commitment to a park positive outcome, Chicagoans envisioned more than what we seem to be getting.  We expected new parks to be created in the community, not just a reconfiguration of the spaces and uses within the current boundaries of Jackson Park.

Juanita Irizarry will be the in-studio guest May 25th on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers, live at 11am on Lumpenradio, 105.5fm and streaming live at We also podcast on, iTunes and Spotify.

3 thoughts on “Is the Obama Presidential Center a land grab?

  1. Fred, so you subscribe to Politico?

    05/14/2018 07:11 AM EDT

    By Natasha Korecki ( ; @natashakorecki) and Kristen East ( ; @kristenicoleast)

    Good Monday morning, Illinois.

    THE BUZZ: State Sen. Daniel Biss is now “all in” for J.B. Pritzker and is formally announcing his endorsement of the Democrat today, both the Pritzker campaign and Biss tell POLITICO.

    While it’s been two months since Pritzker won the Democratic gubernatorial primary by 20 points, Biss had yet to offer a full-throated backing of the billionaire, saying he still had some questions about how Pritzker would tackle campaign finance reform and push for a graduated income tax. Why is it important? Biss didn’t finish second and manage to raise more money than the better-known Chris Kennedy without building a strong following. His word will mean something to those supporters and Pritzker needs that energy in the fall.

    Sure, Biss had attended a unity breakfast after the primary and said he opposed Gov. Bruce Rauner, but he also made public comments seeming to question whether he was really fully behind Pritzker. That includes this: “It’s really important for us to say more than just we are against Bruce Rauner,” Biss told Illinois public radio in April. “I would love for J.B. to empower me to make that kind of affirmative endorsement of his campaign.”

    That’s now happened. Biss said the two have spent some time since March to hash over issues. Among topics discussed between Biss and Pritzker, who spent $70 million in the primary race: campaign finance reform.

    “I always said I’d support the nominee. To do that the right way it was important to take time to have a series of conversations with JB,” Biss said via text Sunday. “That enabled me to figure out the best way to advocate for him and to push a progressive agenda in Illinois.” Biss added that Pritzker has been “really strong and vocal” about the need for a progressive income tax, “which I think is wonderful and very important.”

    Biss’ official statement: “I’m thrilled with his relentless focus on a progressive income tax as the right way to fix our budget without burdening the middle class or the poor, and I’m pleased that he’s committed to fight for campaign finance reform so our political system is accountable to everyone. That’s why beyond my long-standing commitment to defeating failed governor Bruce Rauner, I am all in to elect JB Pritzker. This year I will be proudly campaigning for JB Pritzker, Juliana Stratton, and Democrats up and down the ticket.”


    A solid Biss endorsement is just the message of unity Pritzker wants at a time when the exact opposite is happening with the Republican Party. We told you last month about intraparty turmoil in the GOP chair’s race. That’s still in play as is the feud between Rauner and his primary opponent, Jeanne Ives, who are still unable to bury the hatchet.

    From: Fred Klonsky Reply-To: Fred Klonsky Date: Monday, May 14, 2018 at 8:41 AM To: Bob Lyons Subject: [New post] Is the Obama Presidential Center a land grab? Fred Klonsky posted: ” On May 10th, Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry issued a statement to the press regarding developments with the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). Juanita said in part: Of course, everyone wants a black and white answer. What is t”

    1. I do, Bob. What BS. JB has said absolutely nothing knew about anything, including what I think are vague promises about a progressive income tax. What did Biss “get” for waiting to be “all in”? Nothing.

  2. A Presidential Center, or a vehicle for laundering post-dated bribes?

    See how many bankers and financiers who got a get-out-of-jail-free card from the Obama administration make contributions for this sham, and then you’ll have an idea…

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