To the Editor:

Now that the JPAC officers have helped the Obama Center acquire a prime chunk of Jackson Park — in exchange for $10 — they’re getting ready to turn much of the remaining space used by people for soccer, baseball, basketball, the dog park and picnics over to the OPC-backed pro golf course. To expedite the privatization of more of the park, JPAC officers want to make it harder for community members to object to these plans. We should now attend four, instead of two meetings a year in order to vote, and we should volunteer for such work crews that JPAC deems necessary.

I attended every meeting for three years when the privatization of the park was first proposed, initially for the Garden of the Phoenix and then for the OPC. JPAC officers were always enthusiastic about privatization, and always worked to silence opposition. When I or others tried to speak against privatization in meetings, one of the JPAC team would bellow, “Outside Agitator! Outside Agitator!” over and over, making it impossible for any meaningful discussion to take place.

I attended every meeting the City and Park District set up for community discussion of the OPC, but there was never any discussion. We were presented three or four pre-determined scenarios to vote on, but could not discuss alternatives to privatization. There were and are many issues about park use, about traffic flow, and so on that should have been discussed in depth before the trees came down, but attempts to have such discussions with the City, the Park District or the Obama Foundation were stifled at every turn. It looks very much as though the same tactics are coming into play for replacing the park and the lakefront beaches with a pro golf course.

The pro golf course is very much back on the table, as it was made clear in the November JPAC meeting, and the JPAC management apparently wants to make it as hard as possible for people opposed to the giveaway to have a voice.

Like everyone in this community, I pay exorbitant property taxes. Mine have increased almost eight-fold in 15 years, and a big chunk of my bill is allocated to the Park District. I applaud people with the time and physical stamina to work in the park, but remaining in this neighborhood, paying these taxes, supporting a park district which does nothing to rebuild bike paths or other facilities, is a strong and sufficient contribution to Jackson Park.

It’s common in dictatorships, especially in the old Soviet bloc, for the local party leader to demand volunteers come out on weekends and holidays to do manual labor. When I read this part of the JPAC management proposal for changing voting eligibility, I’m afraid that was the first thing that came to mind. And if people who care about the park are not able to perform manual labor, will they have to get a doctor’s excuse to present to the JPAC team?

It’s long past time to stop the Jackson Park giveaway. And it’s long past time to start having meaningful discussions about the restoration and maintenance of what’s left of usable park space.

Sara Paretsky

(1) comment

Ross Petersen

This Obama center is not a Presidential library; it is a community center and museum. Further, it is a patronage boondoggle, like the Soldier Field remodeling, or McCormick Place (Which now sits empty, unused). It is the misuse of Public Park land, and the development of an Olmsted designed landscape. No one had any input, any say on these plans, and Obama made heavy use of the race card against opponents. It is not about race it is about the environment, Park Preservation. Where is urban planning, not to mention design, in all of this? Why did they never consider vacant lots, adjacent to these Parks?

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