To the Editor: 

No one wants to point out that the emperor’s letter to the editor is wearing no clothes. But the 12/30/21 letter in the Herald from distinguished emeritus Professor Richard A. Epstein does not meet standards of public decency. He calls out in blurry detail the purported financial failings of the Barack Obama Foundation. The simple response is that the famously cautious Barack Obama is about the least likely person to get ahead of his skies, financially or otherwise. And whatever you may think of Amazon, Jeff Bezos’ people have thoroughly vetted BOF before turning over $100,000,000. Other large donors have done likewise.

This is not Prof. Epstein’s most threadbare argument; that occurs when he says: “The solution is simple: halt the current project and thoughtfully review the South Side alternatives…” He is not serious, of course. Stopping construction would help absolutely no one, least of all our struggling City and its citizens. But Prof. Epstein cannot stop his fan dance – cannot stop fighting the last, lost war.

On the very same page of the Herald, Sara Paretsky notes that her taxes are going to “a Park District that does nothing to rebuild bike paths or other facilities.” The condition of Jackson Park facilities is no secret. Improvements will only happen if Prof. Epstein and Ms. Paretsky (and everybody else) starts rowing in the same direction — leveraging their considerable reputations to advocate that investment in Jackson Park is the best investment the City can make. The OPC is the opportunity of a lifetime for restoration of Jackson Park to something like its historic values. Are we going to waste it in intramural posturing?

Jay Franke

(8) comments

Andy Carter

Jay, Thank you for this wise advice! we do need to start rowing in the same direction, working together for the good of our community. It is just sad that there a few folks, a very few with very loud voices who only see problems with the OPC in Jackson Park and fail to recognize its many benefits and the overwhelming support for the OPC in our SS community.

Ross Petersen

Andy, Please recognize some, like myself, grew up in that Park. Our mothers' chained themselves to trees, such was their dedication to the Park, to nature. It was an important part of our upbringing. The casual manner in which it is being given over to the OPC, without any meaningful meetings, no feedback - that is just wrong. There are numerous sites, adjacent to both Jackson and Washington Parks, where a World class OPC could be built. The benefits would be equal or greater, were they to preserve this Park.


How about just scaling down the OPC project? Instead of a 23 glass and steel high rise building in the park, how about a modest 5 or 6 story traditional ex presidential library built in a Neo Classical style that compliemtns the Museum of Science and Industry.

There do not have be additional above and below ground parking lots on the East end of the Midway Plaissance just north of 59th street.

The current plan to make the Obama Presidential Center similar to Millenium Park and host close to 1 million annual visitors (all by car and bus?) - that should also be scaled down.

Most Hyde Park and U Chicago residents want Jackson Park to be a traditional lakefront park consistent with the traditional Daniel Burnham plan to keep our lakefront free and open to the Chicago public.

The current OPC plan envisions something like Mecca in Saudi Arabia where tens of millions of religious pilgrimages go for the annual Hadji .

(Edited by staff.)

Ross Petersen

It is not a 'glass and steel' building; in fact, it is mostly covered in stone. There have not been any meetings held to discuss this, nor will there Ever be. That is why we are resisting this idea; why it is presently before the court.


Thank you Ross Peterson.

I stand corrected.

OK so it's mostly covered in Stone.

I still think 23 stories building in our lakefront Jackson Park is too tall/big.

How about something more modest?

The Frick Museum off New York's Central Park - something like that would compliment the Museum of Science and Industry Neo Classical style buildings.

Plus this OPC should have some function like a traditional ex presidential library.

The current OPC is what? A cult of personality temple? A Community organizer training campus?

Ross Petersen

The Chicago Park district has a long history of ignoring Parks on the South and West sides. The group Friends of the Parks did a study, documenting this some years ago. The conditions in Jackson Park are an embarrassment, closed bathrooms, closed Darrow bridge.

This has been the case for years. To say that repairs will come with the Obama center is to hold the Park hostage; and how are they to accomplish this, based on current fundraising?

Ross Petersen

Mr. Franke, I think Mr. Epstein did, in fact do a thorough examination of the foundation's finances, and they are far from their goal. Construction costs have doubled from the original estimate, currently at $700 million; then, you need an endowment, operating costs. Total cost is in the neighborhood of 1.2 billion.

The Memorandum of agreement called on Mr. Obama, his foundation, to do the fundraising first. Instead, they plowed ahead, destroying the Women's Garden, cutting down nearly 400 trees. We need to stop and consider what we are doing, and to do what we failed to do, in the past - consider vacant lots, adjacent to the Parks. The lakefront, Parks along it, are our greatest asset; they should not be squandered on patronage boondoggles.

Ross Petersen

Readers should also be aware, this is just phase one. Soon they will embark on phase two, road widening projects: Stony Island, Hayes Drive, even Lake Shore Drive. More Park will be paved, more trees will come down. Phase three is this PGA golf course, which threatens the SSCC nature area, and somewhere around another 2,000 trees.

We already pay for Park upkeep, it is included in our real estate taxes. The Fact is we get next to nothing in return. You are digging a huge hole in our Park, and dumping a billion dollars into it.

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