- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Former President Obama is now in the political crosshairs by community organizers he once called his own in the Windy City.

Chicago activists are proving to be a thorn in the 44th president’s side as the logistics of bringing the Obama Presidential Center to the South Side unfold. The Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Coalition is demanding the Obama Foundation sign a community benefits agreement (CBA), while the nonprofit group counters that it has gone the extra mile to protect local minorities.

Jeanette Taylor, the education director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, told Politico for an interview published Wednesday that she confronted Mr. Obama via video conference on the CBA debate in September and was not satisfied with his response.

“The library is a great idea, but what about a community benefits agreement?” she asked. “The first time investment comes to black communities, the first to get kicked out is low-income and working-class people. Why wouldn’t you sign a CBA to protect us?”

Mr. Obama then allegedly cited his past as a community organizer before noting the large volume of competing organizations a CBA would attract.

“He got a lot of nerve saying that,” Ms. Taylor told Politico. “He forgotten who he is. He forgot the community got him where he is.”

Some of the community organizers’ demands within the CBA include:

  • Frozen property taxes within a two-mile radius of the Obama Center.
  • A trust fund for local public schools and small businesses.
  • 80 percent of library construction jobs must go to South Side residents.

The Obama Foundation asserts that its project, which should open by 2021, already has an agreement with contractors requiring “half the $300 million in subcontracts be extended to businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, people with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals.”

“An economic impact study commissioned by the Obama Foundation forecasts that the center will create 5,000 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs on the campus and in the surrounding area after it opens in 2022,” the website added.

“They’re building a center,” Alderman Leslie Hairston, whose ward encompasses Woodlawn, told Politico. “They can’t solve all the problems of the city of Chicago. You really have to be focused on what a not-for-profit can and cannot do.”

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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