An open letter to President and Mrs. Barack Obama,

Please reconsider the possible legal precedent you may be initiating by establishing the OPC in Jackson Park, a public park of artistic and historical significance. This action may have serious negative effects on all public parks regardless of their status.

I support the OPC and its mission, but not the effort to locate this complex in Jackson Park. The controversy and years of delay in completing this project have created serious doubts in my mind concerning the purpose and honesty of the OPC Foundation.

I hold the OPC project in high regard and believe the mantra expressed in your 2008 campaign message “Hope and Change” was sincere. I also believe these words were chosen to replace words such as “business as usual.”

An alternate, the Washington Park vicinity with its existing recreational facilities and old growth landscaping was simply a natural. Comparatively, it would be less disruptive in all aspects and the OPC could have been easily sited on any one of several adjacent vacant properties along Martin Luther King Drive. Moreover, the mere existence of the OPC near Washington Park and fronting MLK Drive could have symbolized and re-emphasized an actual connection with Dr. King's 1963 statement, "I Have a Dream" and your 2008 statement, "Hope and Change".

The residents in this particular area of Chicago are the people who need real hope and real change.

Of most importance, the presence of your OPC could become a visual guardian for the citizens of this community. It would ensure and verify Dr. King's 'Dream' and your "Hope and Change" were not just words or campaign slogans. Perhaps I feel somewhat abandoned by the intent of the OPC project as a whole. As I recall, your Mission Statement read: "to insure, empower, and connect people to their world." Now, it all seems lost in legal rhetoric, bureaucratic discord, and financial considerations.

I have read that locating the OPC in the South Side, in any location, comes with considerable risk; however, selecting Jackson Park specifically might increase its chances for success. I've always believed sailing ships were not designed and built to be moored in the safety of harbors. Perhaps the Washington Park area may be considered by some as a “stormy sea,” but this location would have truly symbolized OPC's courage, commitment, and conviction for real "Hope and Change".

Considering the financial aspects for remedial construction cost for both sites, the Washington Park area would require minor site improvements. In contrast, the Jackson Park site will require extensive demolition of existing landscaping and infrastructure. I also understand, it will require several hundred parking spaces and entail major road construction for traffic re-routing.

Unfortunately, the target for these additional requirements is the terminus of the Midway Plaisance and sections of Jackson Park itself. Omitting these required additional government expenditures and redirecting these dollars to rebuild human lives in the area, would better serve the citizens, rather than funding the destruction of existing landscaping and facilities of Jackson Park.

I'm an 80-year-old retired architect who lived in Honolulu for 30 years. I learned to never underestimate the importance of open, natural park space in densely populated cities.

Ray Pickens

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