Sunday, January 18, 2015

For anyone who's ever... this blog, it should be clear by now that President Obama doesn't have a bigger fan in the world than yours truly. (Sometimes I think it's genetic; my mom thought Richard Nixon could do no wrong.*) In fact, before Google changed everything on this website, there used to be a blurb explaining the origin of its title, "Boring Old White Guy." I can't find it anymore, but here's what I wrote last year in the Oak Leaves:

You know, when Obama was making his run for the White House back in 2008 a lot of my boring old white contemporaries were literally freaking out about the black guy with the funny name who “palled around with terrorists” and looked to be our next president. (I don’t dare tell you what my late father had to say about him.) And I just wanted to say to all of them: Don’t worry; it’ll be okay. (I even thought about creating a sign that said: BORING OLD WHITE GUYS FOR OBAMA.)

And now I remember: the father of one of my son's friends asked me to work on behalf of candidate Obama in Wisconsin in the months leading up to the 2008 election. I couldn't back then; my kids were young and I was buried. (I did, however, knock on doors in Davenport, Iowa in 2012. It was a great experience; you can read about it here.) But that's when I got the idea for the sign.

So, having said all that, on the subject of the Barack Obama Presidential Library, I'd love to see it located in Chicago, but not at any cost.

From a piece in the Times this morning, "Chicago No Longer Seems a Lock to Host Obama’s Library, and Many Are Alarmed" (all emphasis mine): 

But as the Obamas and their foundation near a decision on the location of the library — after narrowing the options down to Hawaii, Chicago and New York City — someone in their camp recently let it slip that they are not so pleased with Chicago’s bids.

A person close to the Barack Obama Foundation, which is overseeing plans for the library, anonymously told local reporters last month that foundation officials had “major concerns” with proposals from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Foundation officials were said to be alarmed that the University of Chicago does not yet control the land where the university wants to build the library.

The UIC location would be less than a mile from my new house; the article doesn't say what the drawbacks of that bid would be. But the U. of C. plan's flaws are obvious:

The University of Chicago has suggested two possible locations: in Washington Park, a 380-acre space designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, where surrounding neighborhoods could use the economic boost a sparkling new library would bring. The second location, Jackson Park, on the South Side lakefront, has considerable support. The University of Illinois at Chicago, on the near West Side, has offered a separate space.

What the piece doesn't say is that the U. of C. locations would be carved out of existing park land. Ignoring for a minute that this is probably illegal (and a challenge from the Friends of the Parks is already in the works), it's also completely unnecessary: there's tons of vacant land on the South Side of the city. Couldn't the library be built on one of those sites? And, really, isn't it typical of the University of Chicago to want to build the library on land owned by the parks rather than use some of its own vast real estate holdings? The arrogance!

Chicago takes a lot of (justifiable) pride in its vast park system. Let's not start cutting it up for private use -- even for someone as great as Barack Obama. Where would it end? Next thing you know some Hollywood big shot would want to build some ugly monument to himself along the lakefront

If this is the price we have to pay for having the president's library in Chicago, I say: go ahead, put it in New York or Hawaii. 

* Actually, I do have one beef with the Obamas: they didn't send their children to public schools. I have a problem with public officials (like Rahm Emanuel, the product of public schools) who seem to think that public schools are good enough for everyone else but not for their kids. (I like the fact that Michael Bloomberg took the subway when he was mayor of New York.) Can you imagine, for example, if the mayor of Chicago (or any other big city) had his own private water supply? What would that say about the water the rest of us use? Aren't public schools similar? Private schools may be okay for private citizens (and I could argue otherwise), but not for public officials.

P. S. Of all the pictures I could have stolen posted from the Web, I chose one from the President's speech in Cairo way back in 2009. I remember listening to it in real time and thought it was the best speech I had ever heard in my life. (And I choose my words carefully.) The address was a breath of fresh air after the disastrous Bush years and is an example of why we elected this man president. You can read the speech here or watch it here. It's as relevant today as it was then.

No comments: