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Illinois House approves $100 million for Obama library in Chicago

A plan to spent $100 million to build a Barack Obama presidential library in Chicago has taken a step forward.
April 17, 2014 3:18:24 PM PDT
A plan to spent $100 million to build a Barack Obama presidential library in Chicago has taken a step forward.

Thursday an Illinois House executive committee approved House Speaker Michael Madigan's bill to construct the library honoring President Obama.

Despite the state's precarious fiscal situation, this bill sailed through the committee by a nine to zero vote.

It is sponsored by powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose own wife was on the witness list that also included the city's top elected official.

"We are not going to rely on the president's affinity for the city of Chicago," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

As he sat alongside the bill's sponsor, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Mayor Emanuel began a parade of witnesses who agreed there is no guarantee that Barack Obama will choose Chicago for his presidential library.

Those testifying included University of Chicago Vice President Susan Sher, First Lady Michelle Obama's former chief of staff.

"I think it's really important that we in Chicago do not take this for granted and put our best foot forward and I think this bill would do it," she said.

It is estimated that the cost of an archives to house Obama's White House papers and artifacts could cost as much as half a billion dollars. The Madigan bill would authorize the state to borrow $100 million to help finance construction.

"One hundred million dollars is not out of line," Madigan said. "It's clearly a good investment for the future."

Speaker Madigan's wife Shirley, who chairs the Illinois Arts Council, also testified.

"This is a hope, this is a dream and we can make this become a reality," she said.

New York City, where Obama attended Columbia University, and Honolulu, where he spent most of his childhood, have also indicated they'll compete for the likely tourism magnet honoring the nation's first African-American president.

"Our city is already great and vibrant but this will make it, open it up even internationally," said Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago).

After finishing college in 1983, Obama moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer and lawyer. He married and had children here and launched a political career that climaxed with his election to the presidency in 2008.

The mayor agreed, it would not make sense for the Obama library to be anywhere but Chicago.

"It's a natural it should be in Chicago," Emanuel said. "It's a no-brainer in my view."

While all the executive members did not cast a vote, the nine who did included at least two Republicans.

So far, the Republicans have not announced any organized opposition to the bill which could come up for a full House vote during May.


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