February 27, 2015

Polling firm confirms support for South Side Obama library on parkland

The foundation behind the planning and logistics of the Obama presidential library has commissioned a poll gauging South Side support, raising speculation that the University’s proposal may be selected.

According to the Associated Press, Brilliant Corners, a Democratic polling firm that worked for both of Obama’s presidential campaigns, polled about 600 South Side residents earlier this month. The full results of the poll have not been released, but according to individuals involved, about 90 percent of respondents support placing the library on the South Side. About 70 percent support using public land from Washington Park or Jackson Park for the library. After being told that other vacant land on the South Side might not be large enough to house the library site, the percentage of supporters increased to 90 percent.

Although the University owns plots of vacant land on the South Side, including land located just west of Washington Park, that have been included as part of the potential library site, University officials have said that “there is not a sufficient parcel of contiguous land for the Presidential Center campus.”

The results of the poll are consistent with those of two prior polls, one by the University and one by the Chicago Tribune, which both found that most South Side residents support using parkland for the library. As with in these two other polls, the respondents in the latest poll cited Obama’s political legacy in Chicago and the economic benefits that the library might bring to the South Side as reasons for their support.

Meanwhile, park conservationist group Friends of the Parks has mounted strict opposition to the use of the parkland for the library, speaking out at various community meetings held over the last two months regarding the library. It is also planning a potential lawsuit against the Obamas, if they choose the University’s proposal.

On February 11, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to transfer the parkland occupied by the two sites to city control if the University site is selected. The measure now goes to City Council, which is expected to vote on an ordinance introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel sometime next month.