Obama Center is official

Notes from the 9/30/21 issue

Obama Center is official

On September 28, the Obama Foundation, local officials, and former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama officially broke ground on the Obama Presidential Center. This comes after nearly seven years of speculation about where the site would be located, whether it would be a library or a museum, and who would benefit. Photos released in recent weeks, and found in this issue, show the early environmental impact  of the development on Jackson Park. Rising rents and property taxes are still of concern to residents in neighboring communities, as groups like the Obama Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition continue their push for protections that could help prevent the displacement of current residents. 

The foundation was subject to a long federal review process to get here, as well as a lawsuit from local groups, but the project is moving forward and its impacts will become more measurable as time goes on. The process has been met with resistance from the beginning. Environmental groups and activists have been sounding alarms about possible negative impacts on the surrounding community since the Jackson Park site was first announced. But on the topic of a community benefits agreement, Obama explicitly stated that he would not pursue one—a fascinating position considering the project required the acquisition of nearly twenty acres of public land that was frequently used by residents in the area. “This is the community that sent him to Springfield, this is the community that sent him to the Senate, this is the community that sent him to the White House. We should be the community that gets to stay and benefit from the Presidential Center,” activist Dixon Romeo said. It would be devastating to Obama’s legacy if the dire prophecies of the Center’s neighbors came true.

State relief for families

Governor J.B. Pritzker recently announced $327 million in relief funds through the CEDA Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant program with support from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The initiative is meant to assist families with rent, electric, and gas bills, as well as food and other expenses, regardless of immigration status. Up to $1,000 for utilities could be awarded to households in the program year 2022, up from an average of $750 last year. Recommended documents for application include a Social Security card or I-TIN, or other identification, and proof of income. Applicants need to supply their utility bills for LIHEAP and lease for rental assistance. People may apply through May 31, 2022 and can visit helpillinoisfamilies.com.

CORRECTION: The Weekly made some errors in our Best of the South Side 2021 issue (September 16). In the Auburn Gresham & Chatham section, the correct business address for  Oooh Wee It Is is 33 E. 83rd St.. In the Gage Park section, the photographer credited should have been Jesús Hidalgo. And in the Hegewisch section, the photo of Melany Flores should have been attributed to Valentina Pucarelli. We apologize and regret the mistakes.

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