A coalition of Chicago community groups are urging local lawmakers to pass an ordinance that would enforce promises from the Obama Foundation of jobs and community development, the Chicago Sun Times reports.
Community stakeholders began calling for a benefits agreement two years ago when the foundation announced that the South Side would host President Barack Obama’s presidential library. Many expect the center to displace some longtime residents and fail to generate the jobs and other benefits that are promised.
According to the newspaper, scores of residents have gathered at several meetings to discuss their concerns and push the foundation to sign an agreement that guarantees the promises.
However, President Obama attended one of the meetings and told the residents that he would not sign a benefits agreement, The Sun Times said.
According to DNA Info, the former president said the agreement is unnecessary because as a nonprofit it would deliver resources to the community.
He added: “I know the neighborhood. I know that the minute you start saying ‘Well, we’re thinking about signing something that will determine who’s getting jobs and contracts and this and that’ … next thing I know, I’ve got 20 organizations coming out of the woodwork.”
Jay Travis, of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, told the news outlet that a lot is at stake.
“Will Chicago be home to all people regardless of race and income or will we sit back and watch city government systematically remove us?” he asked.
The Coalition’s website says that Chicago has a long history of displacing poor Black families to make “improvements” to the city.
Since the foundation has declined to sign an agreement, the coalition is pressing the City Council to put the promises in writing.
“From our perspective [an ordinance] is the best possible route to get something concrete, bound by contractual law and negotiated with the communities,” Jawanza Malone, executive director of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, told the newspaper.
The two aldermen who represent districts near the Obama Center were unavailable to comments to The Sun Times.