EDITORIAL: Obama library belongs on South Side

2014-06-19T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Obama library belongs on South SideBy The Times Editorial Board nwitimes.com
June 19, 2014 12:00 am  • 

As the Barack Obama Foundation weighs potential sites for Obama's presidential library, Chicago's South Side should tip the scale.

Organizations and cities had until Monday to submit initial proposals, but the foundation isn't releasing the list of applicants. A final decision is expected next year. 

The University of Hawaii, along with Honolulu and the state, proposed an oceanfront site that the Honolulu Star-Advertiser said would attract an estimated 330,000 visitors annually. The president was born in Hawaii, despite claims to the contrary by "birthers" who continue to argue his birth certificate was forged.

Columbia University, where Obama earned his undergraduate degree, proposed a site in West Harlem. 

But Chicago's South Side is where Obama first flexed his political muscle, and the family's ties there remain strong.

Five separate Chicago bids — from three universities, a community organization and a real estate developer — are attempting to lure the presidential library, according to The Associated Press. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, doesn't care which bid wins, as long as it's in Chicago. 

"You and I know that a library on the South Side would be a homecoming for the Obamas, who met in Chicago and whose work on social justice, economic empowerment and educational advancement started there," Emanuel wrote to Martin Nesbitt, the Chicago businessman heading the search for the library.

Nesbitt has warned that his ties to the city won't make Chicago a lock to attract the library.

But Emanuel is right. The library belongs on the South Side.

Wherever the library is built, it will be an economic boon to the surrounding area. Not only will construction jobs be created, but tourism also will generate jobs in the surrounding area.

The University of Chicago cited a study it commissioned that said the library would attract 800,000 visitors a year and create 1,900 permanent jobs.

The Obama presidential library should be built on Chicago's South Side, which has the most political significance to Obama's career and where the library can bestow big economic benefits.

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