South Siders Take Fight For Obama Library Benefits Agreement To Rogers Park

By Lee Edwards/lee@blockclubchi.org

Members of the Obama Library Southside CBA Coalition protest in front of Ald. Joe Moore’s 49th Ward office in Rogers Park Thursday.

ROGERS PARK — Calling the need for a community benefits agreement ahead of the planned Obama Presidential Center a “citywide” issue, members of the Obama Library Southside CBA Coalition staged a protest on the North Side Thursday morning.

Holding handmade signs, about a dozen protesters marched in front of Ald. Joe Moore’s 49th Ward office in Rogers Park for nearly an hour Thursday calling on the alderman to delay“What do we want? C-B-A! When do we want it? Now!”

Jawanza Malone, executive director for the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), said the group decided to target Moore’s office in Rogers Park because the alderman is a member of the city’s Plan Commission. The Obama Foundation formally submitted revised plans for the $375 million library project to the city’s Plan Commission in January.

“The reality is Ald. Joe Moore and other members of the City Council have a stake in what happens on the South Side,” Malone said. “The impact of the Obama Presidential Center is going to be citywide. It’s not just going to be on the Woodlawn community.”

The coalition plans to stage protests at other aldermanic offices across the city, Malone said, in an effort to win a community benefits agreement before the project breaks ground. Residents living near the Obama Presidential Center would be greatly impacted by the project, he said.

“Just this month it came out in the Hyde Park Herald people [who] were in threat of being displaced who live directly across the street from Jackson Park got a reprieve,” Malone said. “Now, who is to say what happens next year? There aren’t any clear protections in place. The reason why those residents’ rent did not go up $300 is because we made noise about it. What if we weren’t there?”

Sharon Payne, a member of Southside Together Organizing for Power (S.T.O.P.) who has called Woodlawn home for more than 40 years, said she feels “let down” by the Obama Foundation. The Obama Presidential Center will be a boon for the neighborhood, but it’s important to consider the impact on longtime Woodlawn residents, she said.

“A lot of people feel with the name Obama they think everything is great and right,” Payne said. “I think [the Obama Foundation is] being a little short-sighted for the people actually in their base, his base, who got him to this place in the first place.”

Moore was not in his office during the action Thursday, according to ward staffers. On Friday, the alderman said that he does not currently have a position on the proposed community benefits agreement.

“The library will have a profoundly positive effect on the city as a whole, but it’s effect, both positive and negative, will be most clearly felt by the community immediately surrounding the library,” Moore wrote in an email. “In the spirit of Chicago’s decentralized form of government, I will follow the lead of the aldermen who represent the wards most clearly affected by the library. If they believe a community benefits agreement is warranted, I will give their recommendation very serious consideration.”

The Obama Library Southside CBA Coalition has also called on Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) to support a community benefits agreement, but were unsuccessful in receiving pledges of support. Much of the planned Obama Presidential Center would be in Hairston and Cochran’s wards.

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