By: Mark Glennon*
Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit to stop construction of the Obama Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park yesterday filed a motion essentially alleging lawyers for the city and the Chicago Park District lied to the judge respecting work that has already started in the park.
According to the motion, the city and park district earlier represented to the court that no work would commence on the Obama Center until a later hearing, but then proceeded with demolishing an existing track and field in park and destroying century old trees in order to build the center.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month on that construction work. An architectural publication called that “Rahm’s Meigs Moment” — a reference to Mayor Richard M. Daley’s pre-dawn, surprise raid to tear down Meigs Field in 2003.
The court last month allowed that work to proceed and set a schedule for the case based, according to the new motion, on representations that the track and field work was unrelated to the Obama Center.
Those representations were false, according to the new motion. As evidence, it cites a Donation Agreement between the park district and the Obama Foundation (which is building the center) that ties the work at issue to the center.
It also cites an earlier press release by the park district that says, “Current plans for the Obama Presidential Center will require the relocation of that field and prompted a joint effort between the Obama Foundation and the Chicago Park District to build a new, updated turf field.”
Further, according to the motion, federal approvals for construction have not yet been obtained. The city is therefore “performing the construction activities…prior to any required federal review and approval.”
From the new motion: “The City and Park District’s material misrepresentations and gamesmanship warrant that the Court requires the parties’ mandatory disclosures immediately and also that the Plaintiff be allowed expedited written discovery from the Defendants. The City and the Park District are essentially playing a game of cat and mouse, by concealing and misrepresenting facts.”
A hearing on the new motion is scheduled for Thursday, September 20.
The lawsuit was brought by Protect Our Parks, Inc. and certain individuals against the city and park district. Case No. 18-cv-03424 in the Northern District of Illinois.
These new allegations of dishonesty appear entirely sound to me and are yet another chapter in the Obama Center fiasco. We’ve written earlier about how the center has been dishonestly rammed through — illegally for the reasons laid out in the original complaint. Initially pitched as a presidential library to be constructed entirely with private donations, it’s in fact a political operation, not a presidential library, and is heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars and free parkland. Our article about how federal as well as Illinois taxpayers are footing the bill was featured in the Wall Street Journal.
I last visited the site a couple weeks ago and the work going on is very substantial. Interestingly, it’s hidden by tall construction curtains that block off most viewing.
Our earlier articles on the center are linked here:
*Mark Glennon is founder and executive editor of Wirepoints.