OPC plaza

The Obama Presidential Center model view of the plaza and roof terraces.

At Ald. Leslie Hairston's April 27 5th Ward meeting, Obama Foundation and construction company officials updated the community on employment as the groundbreaking date for the Obama Presidential Center draws closer.

Construction is due to begin this fall, with a predicted opening date in the fall of 2025. Michael Strautmanis, the Obama Foundation's executive vice president for civic engagement, said the Obama Foundation's construction costs will be nearly $500 million.

"It's time for us to start showing you what we mean when we say that the OPC is here to expand, not limit, opportunities in our community," said Strautmanis on April 27. The foundation is committing $850,000 to workforce development organizations and is committing to training 400 new apprentices from the South and West sides. Half of subcontracts are due to go to diverse vendors, well over the city's 26% requirement.

Construction is due to begin this fall, with a predicted opening date in the fall of 2025. Strautmanis said the Obama Foundation's construction costs will be nearly $500 million.

Maurice J. Robinson, head of diversity and inclusion for the Lakeside Alliance, the consortium of construction companies that will build the OPC, said the group is meeting with small contractors every Tuesday and Thursday. The alliance has more than 130 packages available, ranging from $20,000 to $20 million.

"There's enough room for everyone on the project," he said, adding that they want half of the hires to be Chicagoans. He noted that people like being able to work close to home and surmised that this bodes well for South Siders.

The Lakeside Alliance’s career inquiry form is available at lakesidealliance.com/contact, and the Obama Foundation’s jobs website is obama.org/opc-jobs.

Strautmanis also remarked on the deliberate choice of Jackson Park for the Obama Presidential Center campus, calling it "a way of showcasing the historic engagement and agency of this community that helped him create the life that he had."

"The Barack Obama that we know today wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the 5th Ward. And so it is more than just a physical structure. The exhibits inside it are going to tell the story of the Obama presidency, and it'll highlight the significance of their family's background on the South Side of Chicago."

Hairston comments on police reform ordinance, City Council meeting

"Derek Chauvin's verdict gave most of us a sigh of relief that police can be held accountable and that together we can make sure that justice can be had at some point," Ald. Hairston said in opening remarks.

"I truly hope the verdict is a sign of changing times where all citizens can be treated with the respect and humanity that they deserve by law enforcement. I hope that this is a sign that the days of police seldom being held accountable for their murderous actions may be coming to an end. George Floyd got the accountability that Breonna Taylor and so many others didn't."

That said, Hairston observed that several more Black people have been killed by police since a Minnesota court found Chauvin guilty of murder. "I know that I am proud to represent all of you to protect your rights," she said. "I will continue to work hard for you so your lives in this community will have safety without disrespect, and I will always continue to work closely with all 5th Ward commanders to safeguard those protections."

With the Progressive Reform Caucus, Hairston continues to lobby for the Anjanette Young Ordinance, which would ban the police from executing no-knock warrants in the city and introduce stricter limitations on police informants.

It has not been assigned a hearing in the Public Safety Committee.

Hairston attended the April City Council meeting, held partially in-person, via Zoom.

"Some of my colleagues refused to get vaccinated, and I will be hesitant to attend in person," she said. "Remote participation has worked just fine. We can get the job done without taking the risk to our health. And I also noticed that during the meeting they were not following sanitary precautions. They were not wiping down the mics in between speakers. And as many of you all know, I sit in the front row, so I didn't want anything to come to me."

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