Judge Greenlights Lawsuit Aimed at Stopping Obama Presidential Center
A federal judge dealt a blow to former President Barack Obama on Tuesday. U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey ruled that a parks-advocacy group’s lawsuit that aims to stop the delayed construction of Obama’s $500 million Presidential Center in a Chicago park beside Lake Michigan could proceed. And here’s the kicker -- the judge in the case was nominated by Obama himself. Supporters of the project had hoped the court would grant a city motion to throw out the lawsuit by Protect Our Parks, fearing more litigation might lead Obama to decide to build the Obama Presidential Center somewhere other than Chicago. This lawsuit could delay construction for months. The major point of contention is whether Chicago has legal standing to build the Obama center on public park property. The group argues that Obama’s museum runs afoul of laws dating back to the 1800s barring new developments in a 26-mile chain of parks hugging Lake Michigan. The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s near low-income neighborhoods where Obama once worked as a community organizer. It’s also just blocks from the University of Chicago -- where Obama was a law professor -- and near where the Obamas lived until he won the presidency in 2008. Protect Our Parks is accusing the city of illegally transferring park land to The Obama Foundation. The Cultural Landscape Foundation, which backed the Protect Our Parks suit, said Obama Center planners “created this controversy by insisting on the confiscation of public parkland.” The Obama Foundation would pay $10 to the city for use of the park land for 99 years, cover the costs of building the complex and be responsible for covering operating costs for 99 years. Once built, the Obama Presidential Center’s physical structures would be transferred to the city for free, meaning the city would formally own the center but not control what happens there. Blakey’s ruling doesn’t mean the group will necessarily prevail in the end. The judge indicated that he doesn’t want the litigation to drag out and that he would strictly limit any fact-gathering leading up to trial to 45 days. More here.