Controversial Chicago presidential library drawing support, criticism

White House advisor Valerie Jarrett was in Chicago Monday and addressed the controversy surrounding the multi-million dollar presidential library that has come under fire.
May 6, 2014 2:49:02 PM PDT
White House advisor Valerie Jarrett was in Chicago Monday and addressed the controversy surrounding the multi-million dollar presidential library that has come under fire.

Jarrett was in Chicago to attend a Labor Department seminar, a possible opportunity to hear some White House thinking on the library controversy.

Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett dodged the library question. The Chicago native, who has known President and Mrs. Obama longer than any other White House aide, told ABC7 Eyewitness News that she is not part of the process to determine where the Obama presidential archives will be located.

"There is a separate group that he has appointed to really look the library," she said. "I am dodging this question. I'll say to you, obviously I love Chicago. Chicago's my home town but there are going to be a lot of factors that go into considering where to make this very, very important investment."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel supports Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's bill to use $100 million in state revenue bonds to help site the Obama library in Chicago. The enabling legislation is scheduled for another house committee hearing this week.

"We can't afford $100 million. This state is insolvent," said State Re. David McSweeney.

McSweeney and most other Republicans say Illinois, with a projected budget deficit and billions in unpaid bills, should not commit taxpayer money.

"I want the President's Library here but it should be privately funded," McSweeney said.

Libraries for recent American presidents, Carter, Reagan, both Bushes and Clinton, were built primarily with private donations.

"I think there can be a proper balance," said Governor Pat Quinn.

But Quinn, who spoke at Chicago's City Club, indicated he supports at least some taxpayer contribution here because he says presidential libraries are economic engines.

"They create jobs and economic growth and visitors who come to see and stay and spend money," he said.

Jarrett, who speaks to the president several times a week, acknowledged the competition between Chicago, Honolulu and New York City.

Jarrett did acknowledge the competition between Chicago, Honolulu, where the president was born, and New York City where he went to college.

Last week, Mayor Emanuel called choosing Chicago "a no brainer". Jarrett and apparently the Obama's are seriously thinking about those other two locations.


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