Opponents of the development of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park say they are not ruling out appealing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The legal opposition to the development of the Obama Presidential Center appeared to have run its course when a Seventh Circuit Court panel ruled last month that Protect Our Parks — which opposes the center being built on Chicago Park District land — did not have standing in federal court to pursue its objections.
But on Friday the group filed a motion for the full court to reconsider the case.
“The principal argument is that there is actually a statute in the Park District code that says public parks property cannot be distributed to a private party for private use without providing substitute property of equal or greater value that will be used for outdoor public park purposes,” says Herb Caplan, founder and president of Protect Our Parks. “The city of Chicago bypassed that statute altogether.”
Caplan says the current deal “essentially gifts it to the Obama Foundation for 99 years for just $10.” He also notes the Obama Presidential Center will not have to pay real estate taxes.
According to Caplan, “the whole arrangement was illegal from the start” under both the U.S. and Illinois constitutions because it takes public land for private use.
“It’s a denial of the public trust doctrine,” Caplan said Wednesday. “I think that the real problem and the thing that concerns me the most is that a lot of people that support the project are not aware of exactly how invasive this project is going to be and are unaware of the legal principles that are involved.”
He also strongly rejects the notion that the group’s opposition to the presidential center is racist.
“I think that if anybody looked at our legal complaint objectively, they would see that the issues we raise have nothing to do with Obama,” he said. “It could have been the Donald Trump Presidential Center and we would raise the same issues. It’s certainly not racist. We are all in favor of the Obama Center being developed in Chicago, but just not on park district land.”