Coalition for the Obama Presidential Center forms – Consumer News

on Aug23

23 August 2017 | 6:40 pm

As more details are unveiled about the Obama Presidential Center, two watchdog coalitions have formed to represent South Side citizens likely to be affected by the development.

This afternoon, the Chicago Department of Transportation planned to unveil a traffic plan for the area around the 22-acre Obama Presidential Center, expected to open in 2021. The proposal includes closing part of Marquette Drive to make room for a planned golf course in Jackson Park.

The Obama Foundation also today announced plans for a combined park and parking facility on an underused section of Midway Plaisance, across from the site of the presidential center. The park and parking facility “are designed to unlock the full potential of Jackson Park as a recreational destination for the community and visitors alike,” the foundation said in a press release announcing the plan. (Read the full release here, and see updated conceptual site plans here.)

Meanwhile, a group of South Side businesspeople and activists last week formed the Coalition for Obama Presidential Center. The coalition, they say, will represent all residents of seven South Side communities affected by the creation of the center in Jackson Park. Ogbonna Bowden, a Woodlawn dentist who is president of the new coalition, says he aims to be sure everyone in the community is aware of the meetings going on and kept apprised of plans. “The lower-socioeconomic people have no idea what’s going on,” he says.

Other officers include Melinda Kelly, president of the Chatham Business Association, and Warren Beard, a community organizer at the Woodlawn Organization.

The presidential center is “the biggest thing to happen on the South Side in anybody’s memory,” says the Rev. Dr. Leon Finney, pastor at Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church in Bronzeville. Finney says that many meetings are held on short notice and at odd places, such as hospitals. Some residents, he says, feel left out. The coalition will work to ensure proper notice of meetings.

“It’s going to be an accountability issue,” Bowden says of former President Barack Obama’s promises to make the center an economic engine for the South Side. “When those things are supposed to happen, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t,” Bowden says. The coalition, he emphasizes, “will represent those people whose voices are never really heard.”

The group’s aim is to “benefit the community and change lives,” Bowden says. Access to good jobs, better education, economic development and lower crime are some of the coalition’s goals.

“The foundation sees the community as a key partner in its work, and in my time at the foundation, we’ve met with hundreds of groups and individuals on a wide range of topics,” said Michael Strautmanis, the Obama Foundation’s vice president of civic engagement. “We are grateful for the strong support and interest shown by our new neighbors and look forward to continuing this dialogue. As always, we have an open-door policy, and are committed to working with and meeting with all stakeholders in the community.”

Another group, Jackson Park Watch, has written to the city complaining about a lack of transparency surrounding the plans, reports Lynn Sweet in the Chicago Sun-Times. A list of the group’s complaints are here.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, visited Chicago in May to unveil the initial design for the presidential center. The invitation-only meeting was held at South Shore Cultural Center. Obama will visit Chicago again in December to address the Economic Club of Chicago.

Read more:‚Äč 6 things we still don’t know about the Obama Foundation



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