Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The president punts

In my last post about Chicago's bid for the Barack Obama Presidential Library, I speculated that the final decision to be made by President Obama and the First Lady about the library's location, scheduled to be announced at the end of this month, would have a tremendous impact on Chicago's upcoming mayoral election to be held on April 7. Well the president it seems has wisely chosen to delay the announcement until after the election.

Regardless of the decision where to locate his legacy museum/library, New York City, Honolulu, or Chicago, the president would have been in a lose-lose situation had he announced the winner right before the election.

The announcement of the delay itself has created considerable speculation among the pundits as to the final outcome of the competition. Some suggest it means that the president has not chosen Chicago, but doesn't want that decision to hurt the chances of his friend and former Chief of Staff, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of winning re-election. Others suggest that Chicago is indeed the choice, and the president does not want to be accused of using the announcement as a weapon to put the mayor over the top.

Of course, Obama knows full well that he will be raked over the coals for whatever he does; as someone humorously suggested, if Barack Obama were to openly come out in favor of air, 80 percent of Republicans in this country would hold their breath. As he is in his final term however, it's very likely that he is immune to fear of criticism from the intransigent right. That leads me to feel that the president is probably leaning toward New York or Honolulu, (as he wouldn't be fazed by making the controversial move to help the chances of his friend and political ally), but I wouldn't put serious money on it.

As far as the candidates' positions on the library, as I pointed out, Emanuel has engineered a land swap with the Chicago Park District, who agreed to hand over roughly twenty acres of one of two historic parks, Jackson or Washington Parks, both on the south side, in exchange for undisclosed vacant land owned by the city that would theoretically become devoted in one way or other to park use.

Personally I believe this is a terrible idea for reasons I enumerated here and here.

Emanuel's opponent, city commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, originally opposed the idea of the park swap as well, but has softened his stance as building the library at whatever cost is an exceptionally popular issue with a large percentage of Chicago's African American community, a constituency that both candidates desperately need to win the election.

So it turns out that both Emanuel and Garcia are willing to give up precious park land, and our historic and architectural legacy for votes.

And this election for me, at least as far as this issue goes, is a wash.

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