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Obama Library Decision Delayed Until After Mayoral Runoff

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 9, 2015 3:35PM

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were expected to name the University of Chicago as the winning bid for the Obama Presidential Library by the end of the month. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election campaign against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, however, threw a wrench in those plans and the Barack Obama Foundation announced a decision on the library’s location would not be made public until after the April 7 mayoral runoff election.

Sources close to the foundation told the Associated Press Obama didn’t want the library to become a larger mayoral campaign issue nor did the impression want to be given the president is supporting Emanuel over Garcia. (Although Obama did swoop in during the late stages of the February election campaign to give the mayor a boost with black voters by announcing the Historic Pullman District would become a National Monument.)

The Obama Presidential Library has emerged as a campaign issue in the runoff election. Emanuel has consistently said he would “move Heaven and Earth” to ensure Chicago would be home to the library. Yet the mayor’s efforts have only extended to U. of C., which will receive over 20 acres of Chicago Park District property if their bid is chosen by the Obama Foundation. U. of C. has spent six years and $18 million buying properties around Washington Park, which many believe is the university’s preferred location for the library. Counting vacant city-owned lots, the contiguous land mass would total 10 acres.

The University of Illinois Chicago is another finalist for the Obama Presidential Library. Their proposal includes using 23 acres of vacant city-owned land for one of its sites in North Lawndale. But the Obama Foundation said last month Emanuel’s proposal to cede public land to U. of C. helps the university’s chances. Obama’s ties to the university, where he taught law, cannot be discounted.

The other bids for the Obama Library are in New York and Hawaii.