‘East-coasters butt out’ and more from the wildcat Obama Presidential Center debate

Press Coverage

‘East-coasters butt out’ and more from the wildcat Obama Presidential Center debate

‘East-coasters butt out’ and more from the wildcat Obama Presidential Center debate
Mar 10, 2018
Chicago Reader

Excerpt: "An actual blizzard in New York kept architect and panelist Michael Sorkin from making the trip (his remarks were read by Mitchell). But Charles Birnbaum, president of the D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation was there, arguing against putting the Obama Center in Jackson Park, invoking Janet Jackson." [Click the "read more" button above to read the entire article].



  • This article was originally posted on the afternoon of March 9 with the title: "South siders agree on one thing about the Obama Presidential Center: people from the east coast can butt out"
  • The article's title was changed on the evening of March 9 to: "East-coasters should butt out of Obama Presidential Center debate, south-siders agree”
  • The article's title was changed again midday on March 10.
  • On Saturday, March 10, the following letter was sent to the editor of the Chicago Reader; a response has yet to be received:

To the editor:

Thanks to the Chicago Reader for the article about the recent Obama Presidential Center (OPC) symposium at the University of Chicago, and for including mention of Charles Birnbaum from The Cultural Landscape Foundation, one of the panelists invited to participate in the event, and the issues he raised.   As he noted in his opening remarks, Mr. Birnbaum was honored to be invited. 

The article states: "Two clear messages emerged from a blizzard of opinions expressed Wednesday evening …” The first: "We love our African-American president unconditionally.” The second: "If you're from the east coast, don't bother coming here to tell south siders what they ought to do with their parks.” The latter conclusion is based on remarks from "more than one member of the audience.” 

In fact, the second clear message, as can be seen in video from the event - https://youtu.be/A8VAi360xh0 - was not to tell people from the east coast to “butt out” (does that sentiment, by the way, apply to the OPC’s New York City-based architects and landscape architect who actually are planning what will happen in and with Jackson Park?). The message was that South Side residents want the OPC on the South Side, but they have great concerns about physical, economic and cultural displacement, hence the calls for written guarantees such as a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).  That message was delivered passionately, emphatically and with great clarity throughout the evening by numerous area residents, people evidently frustrated that these points haven’t been adequately addressed in the Obama Foundation’s carefully controlled and tightly scripted “community meetings."  To say otherwise diminishes the gravity of the issues and concerns repeatedly raised by the Chicago-area panelists and many in the audience.