Friday, October 8, 2021

Sweet Home Chicago

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

This is: A weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids and my great-grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise and haunt them after they've become grups or I'm deleted.  

Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups could result in an intersectional meltdown. Intended for H. sapiens who are — in the words of the late, great bon vivant, polymath, and pic-a-nic basket gourmet, Professor Y. Bear — "Smarter than the av-er-age bear." 

Erratically Appearing Hallucinatory Guest Star: Dana — A Gentlereader  

"I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money." -Barack Obama

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies and Great-Grandstickies (and Gentlereaders),

Our former Community Organizer in Chief recently turned up in Chicago and got his picture taken while participating in a ceremonial groundbreaking. I wonder if the pharaohs of Egypt participated when the ground was broken (the sand was shoveled?) for new pyramids or shrines? 

Did they have to stand around in the hot sun waiting for artisans to do rough cuts of their image in stone with hammers and chisels? The details, of course, could be added later before being published in periodicals like the Cairo Gazette or Memphis Monthly.    

Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, lived in Chicago for roughly 18 of his 60 years on Earth. Since somehow being elected, twice, president of a nation hip-deep in systemic racism, he now lives in at least four different places as best I can tell.

The groundbreaking in question was for his sorta/kinda presidential library that's called the Obama Presidential Center. It's more museum/shrine/tourist attraction than library. Follow the link for a detailed description or to give a donation.  

And in case you're unaware, local community organizers and their allies have been trying to prevent this $500,000,000 complex from being built at its chosen location since 2017 and still haven't given up.

{Ain't that ironical... Wait, whaddya mean "sorta/kinda" presidential library?} 

Well, Dana... it's um, complicated.

Long story short, the presidential library/museum system is run by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), a federal agency. They're in charge of the other presidential libraries, which are public-private partnerships. 

A given president's supporters raise the dough and build the facility which is then donated to The Fedrl Gummit who maintains and staffs it. Over the years the facilities have kept getting larger and more elaborate, rather like The Fedrl Gummit, and more expensive to run and maintain, rather like The Fedrl Gummit.  

I found a highly informative article on the Politico website that was written back in 2017 when it was announced that the Obama Foundation ("...inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world"), Mr. Obama's private non-profit, will build, own and operate the Obama Presidential Center. 

The author, Anthony Clark, who literally "wrote the book" on the presidential library system thinks this is mostly a good thing (others do not) since "...what were intended to be serious research centers have grown into flashy, partisan temples touting huckster history."  

Yes, indeed. 

Also, the foundation will pay to have all of Mr. Obama's records digitized and then turn them over to NARA for safekeeping. Scholars won't have to visit the center to access these records like they do at the other libraries, they will be stored elsewhere.

{But, um, doesn't that mean that they're a privately run museum, not a library?} 

Well, the center will include a branch of the Chicago Public Library... as well as a 225ft. tall tower that appears to be an enormous pigeon coop, meeting spaces, an auditorium, a recording and broadcast studio, a restaurant, and a food court.

{A food court?}

I got that from an anonymous source, it might not be accurate.

I also wrote sorta/kinda since if ya go a-googlin' you'll discover that most of the media call it a presidential library, even in stories that go to explain that it really isn't. I know it's hard to believe that the purple press occasionally generates ambiguous and/or inaccurate information, but there you have it.

{But why are some community organizers fighting a half-billion-dollar investment in their neighborhood?}    

Why? they have a problem with the where and how. 

Although there's an empty plot of land available nearby, on a bus line, and adjacent to local businesses "pairing the greatest need with the greatest opportunity" according to the University of Chicago, the site chosen is a chunk of historic Jackson Park.  

Designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead (of Central Park fame) in 1871, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The city is renting 20 acres to the Obama Foundation for 99 years for ten bucks and no taxes. The center can charge for entry, parking, and third-party use and the Obama Foundation gets the money. Certain roads will be closed and a lot of very old trees cut down. It gets worse...

{Hey, that links to the same site the phrase "local community organizers" links to.}

Because that's where the all devilish details can be found if a given gentlereader is curious. As to why that site, and not the one that would be more likely to benefit the neighborhood, the Obama Foundation refuses to comment. 

Sweet home Chicago. 

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

Addendum: The tower. What I at first thought were thousands of pigeon coops at the top of the tower are actually the words from one of Mr. Obama's speeches that includes the inspirational phrase, "yes we can." 

 From the video: "Our goal is not just to create a monument to my presidency..."

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