Monday, January 27, 2014

Is Emanuel provoking an Obama library fight? Or averting a city civil war?

I can see where Mayor Rahm Emanuel is coming from in wanting to get all the interests involved with a future presidential library and museum for Barack Obama to get united behind a single site.

EMANUEL: Averting a fight? Or creating civil war?
It would be easy for the half-dozen or so interests who want to promote their specific site getting so wrapped up in themselves that one of the out-of-town interests that wants to host the Obama presidential library winds up outshining Chicago.
OBAMA: Does Rahm still have clout?
SOME MIGHT THINK that the idea of locating an Obama library as part of Columbia University in New York is too much of a stretch. Or the idea of putting it in Honolulu where Obama actually grew up (and where he appears to think of himself as a native – even though he has lived the bulk of his life in Chicago).

Some will snicker at the thought of either location topping Chicago to become the site of an Obama museum. What would it say if one-time Obama chief of staff Emanuel couldn’t bring the library/museum to his home city.

But if Chicago can’t get its act together, I could easily see this devolving into a 21st Century civil war of political proportions. An Obama tribute (which is what these presidential libraries really are – the papers and other documents related to a presidency could easily be a part of the National Archives in Washington) could wind up showing the multiple factions that exist within our city.

Which is why Emanuel in recent days has made it clear he wants the city to have a lone entry in consideration for a site for an Obama library. A Chicago united could be an overwhelming force that puts the Noo Yawkers or the Hawaiian types in their place in terms of thinking they have any claim to the Obama legacy.

Could Obama library become the equal ...
THEN AGAIN, THE reality is that the groups that lose out in terms of having THEIR preference for an Obama library site could remain bitter.

Emanuel is putting himself at risk of developing even more enemies from the groups that don’t get their way on this issue. Because this is going to trigger the egos to run amok in our city.

There are those with the University of Chicago who think that since Obama once was on the faculty of the law school and because he still owns the neighborhood home that a library/museum near the Hyde Park neighborhood campus makes all too much sense.

... of a Maroons/Lions brawl?
And yes, it is likely that the intense fund-raising efforts of the university and its allies will dry up if city officials wind up thinking that some other site is better.

I CAN’T SEE Maroon-types getting all excited about a presidential library being built near the University of Illinois-Chicago (which actually houses the collection of papers associated with long-time Mayor Richard J. Daley) or Chicago State University campuses – both of which are amongst proposals being considered.

Although the Illinois Senate’s former president, Emil Jones, who now is affiliated with Chicago State, is saying that NOT putting the library in an African-American oriented neighborhood where it might spur some tourist traffic is disrespectful to black people and to an Obama legacy.

Which might be taken more seriously, if not for the fact that some of the people who feel this way were among the same ones who back in 2007 were spewing the trash talk that Obama (because of his white mother and a life lived outside of inner-city Chicago) wasn’t really “black enough” to represent them.

There also are those who think that a library/museum on land that once was Michael Reese Hospital might be the best site, since it is the closest proposal to downtown Chicago.

OR PERHAPS BUILT somewhere in proximity to the proposed Pullman National Park – which itself could become a reality in the next couple of years. There are those Metra Electric line commuter trains that stop right at the site on 111th Street.

Does this site make too much sense for politics?
My own personal favorite involves the Chicago Lakeside proposal at the old U.S. Steel Southworks plant between the South Chicago and South Shore neighborhoods – the latter of which being the place where first lady Michelle Obama was raised.

It involves plans for building luxury housing and retail – a whole community of sorts – right on Lake Michigan. The developers have said they’re leaving the northernmost tip of the site open – so it can be offered as an Obama library site.

I once had the chance to stand on the spot being talked about. It would be literally a lakefront-based museum where people could look to the north and see the Chicago skyline from a very unique perspective.

IT HAS ITS potential – which may well be why it won’t go anywhere politically. Things that make sense rarely advance without difficulty.

This is the political brawl that Emanuel has now placed himself right in the middle of. It will be interesting to see which site his influence winds up guiding the process toward.

And how many political feelings get bruised along the way!


No comments: