CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel is firing back at a group trying to block the Obama Presidential Center, calling the federal lawsuit to block the park “frivolous.”
The Obama Center’s newest foe wants to keep the section of Jackson Park just the way it is today, without buildings.
“This is something I find that’s not appropriate for an open space, which is needed for people’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being,” said Charlotte Adelman, one of the plaintiffs and a long-time advocate for parks.
She says she has a personal connection to the area as a University of Chicago law school graduate.
“I lived in apartments and the dorms for six years so I’m very connected to the University of Chicago and the South side of Chicago,” stated Adelman.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel disagrees, stating, “This is a frivolous lawsuit.”
Emaneul has argued the Obama Center will enhance Jackson Park and spark enormous economic and cultural activity.
“This is an incredible investment. It’s one of the largest private sector investments on the South side in decades. Thousands of jobs, thousands of opportunities in education and culture, all enrichment,” Emanuel said.
The Center is close to getting its final governmental approval.
The Chicago Plan Commission votes Thursday and goes before the Chicago City Council later this month.
The Obama Foundation hopes to break ground by the end of the year.
Alderman Bob Fioretti, who ran against Emanuel in the last mayor’s race, represents Adelman and the group Protect Our Parks.
“This lawsuit is not about stopping the Obama Center,” said Fioretti. “We want the center here in Chicago, but what we want is for it to be done right and not take away from public land.”
The plaintiffs say the city does not have the authority to give park district land to the Obama Foundation. They’re also calling the plan for the center a “shell game” because it was first sold as a presidential library.
Emanuel responded to that claim that former President Obama’s papers and various artifacts will be digitized.