Chicago’s race and class differences on display in fight over Obama Library

Six groups are vying for the Barack Obama Presidential Library in Chicago:

The library is “such a prize that nobody is going to yield power to anybody else,” veteran Chicago political analyst Don Rose said.The squabble also puts Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, in the difficult position of trying to present a single, unified bid, lest the feuding weaken the city’s odds against rival campaigns to put the library in New York or Hawaii…

The main point of tension is between the University of Chicago, where Obama spent 12 years as a constitutional law professor until his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate, and a group advocating for Bronzeville, the city’s historic center of black culture, business and politics.

“They think that they can get whatever they want,” Bronzeville organizer Harold Lucas said of the university. “If you compare the cranes in the sky and that opulent growth of this university to the surrounding, predominantly African-American community, it’s a travesty. It’s a clear tale of two cities.”…

There are also two potential bids on the Far South Side, one led by Chicago State University and the other by a group promoting the historic Pullman neighborhood. It was in those areas that Obama established his earliest roots in the city as a community organizer in the mid-1980s, setting up job training programs and defending the rights of public housing tenants.

The University of Illinois at Chicago, on the Near West Side, is also taking a shot, as is a real estate developer pushing the former U.S. Steel Corp. site on the southeast lakefront.

Lots of interested actors and a number of them could make a good case that the library would help economic development – even the University of Chicago says their plan would be to build the library off-campus so it would help a neighborhood. This seems like a classic situation for some backroom deals and a growth machine perspective where those with more political and business power will end up calling the shots.

Is this a true test of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s abilities as a mayor? It will be interesting to see how he moves among all of these options.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s