To the Editor:
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is famously quoted: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but they are not entitled to their own facts.” So how to respond to Ms. Misurell-Mitchell’s “OPC’s seven sins”? (See p. 4 of Aug. 19 Herald.)
We respond to her statements by citing factual sources. Check out these sources and decide for yourself.
Library: To escape 19th-century library technology, the Obama Foundation and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) agreed in February 2019 that in lieu of an archival library, the Obama Foundation would underwrite the cost of digitizing all paper documents and turn over full control of Obama presidential archives to NARA. The Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 does not require a former president to build a record storage facility. Of course, all this has been done quite publicly. https://www.obama.org/updates/obama-presidential-archives-fact-sheet/; https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/information-about-new-model-for-obama-presidential-library
Site Ecology: The Obama Foundation hired a team with previous experience with Olmsted parks and deep knowledge of Jackson Park’s history, ecology and site conditions. Their extensive studies of the site’s trees and soil, water and drainage patterns, and biodiversity have led to numerous design changes above and below ground. These changes will transform the site from a mostly grassy space into varied natural environments that take advantage of site characteristics. https://www.obama.org/the-center/sustainability/; https://www.obama.org/wp-content/uploads/2020.04.30-OPC-Reinforcing-Landscape-Ecology_sm.pdf
Traffic: Cornell Drive, as designed by Frederick Olmsted, was never meant to be a six-lane expressway. Why do opponents of the OPC location continue this debate? Removing the expressway and restoring the park has generated a new traffic plan for the area that will improve traffic flows, pedestrian safety, and expanded transportation options to support both the OPC and the connectivity and growth of South Side neighborhoods. https://jacksonparkimprovements.org/; https://www.obama.org/the-center/construction/
Economic Development: Ms. Misurell-Mitchell simply ignores the transformative opportunities that the OPC presents to Woodlawn and the South and West sides. Through the Lakeside Alliance contractors, an estimated 5,000 jobs are expected to be created, targeting minority firms and offering job training to South and West Side residents — for real jobs leading to union membership and future opportunities. New housing and business opportunities are emerging through developing City-Community initiatives. The Museum of Science and Industry pre-pandemic attracted close to a million visitors; is it far-fetched to think that a museum campus for MSI and OPC would attract 700,000 visitors? https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/doh/supp_info/woodlawn-housing-ordinance.html; https://www.lakesidealliance.com/
Financial Viability: The Obama Foundation’s 2020 audit and tax return have been reported in many places, including the Herald. The Foundation has thus far raised over $700 million to support OPC construction and programming. It is committed to meeting a cumulative fundraising goal of $1.6 billion over the next five years. https://www.obama.org/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-OF-2020-Annual-Report.pdf; https://www.hpherald.com/evening_digest/obama-foundation-fundraising-up-this-year-new-tax-docs-show/article_4cfcdc2e-0072-11ec-a836-f7f36a364382.html
Whatever one’s views on the merit of the Jackson Park site, debate is over and bulldozers are moving. It’s time to get on with the project and make it as beneficial to all of us as possible.
South Side Neighbors 4 Hope