Mayor Emanuel gathers support for Obama library ordinance

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Mayor Emanuel gathers support for Obama Library
Mayor Emanual is continuing his push to make Chicago the home of the Barack Obama Presidential Library.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Emanuel is continuing his push to make Chicago the home of the Barack Obama Presidential Library. The mayor wants to build the library on park district land but not everyone agrees with that idea.

With 42 aldermen as co-sponsors, the mayor's ordinance will eventually pass. It will allow the transfer of land in either Jackson or Washington Park on the South Side to ensure that the University of Chicago's bid satisfies requirements set for the Obama Presidential Library.

"We need jobs, we need the kind of world-class amenity to bring people to the South Side of Chicago," said 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns. "This is what a lot people in the community want and we need to bring it on home."

Victoria Crider opposes the transfer of public land to the university, which has resisted demands that its nearby medical center open a trauma center to treat gunshot and other critically injured victims:

"We are for the Obama Presidential Library. We're just against the University of Chicago hosting it," Crider said. "If they can't save black lives on the South Side of Chicago, then they don't need the first black president's library."

The mayor said the library is a separate, citywide issue.

"This is an economic and job opportunity for the communities and it's a treasure for the entire city," Emanuel said.

Cochran and other South Side aldermen who support the mayor are vexed by the library versus trauma center question.

"I think that the city should leverage this trauma center issue as much as we possibly can with the University of Chicago," said Ald. Willie Cochran of the 20th Ward.

Meanwhile, at least one Emanuel campaign opponent fired away at university officials.

"If they are so concerned with the people of this city then the trauma center should be established now and not wait for a library to come in," said Ald. Bob Fioretti.

The mayor, whose ordinance would replace acreage used by library buildings, is hopeful that preservationists will not take the city to court for misusing protected green space.

"My hope is that they will see our ability to create a win-win situation," Emanuel said.

The University of Chicago Medicine released a statement this afternoon saying it is listening to civic, community and faith leaders and is reviewing the current and future needs of patients.

The Chicago Park District must separately approve the transfer of any land. The Park District board is scheduled to meet in early February.