Chicago Republicans Slam $100M Plan to Host Obama Library

Thursday, 01 May 2014 07:32 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Democratic lawmakers in financially strapped Chicago are forging ahead with legislation that would have the city spend $100 million for Barack Obama’s presidential library,  The New York Times reports.

Dems are so gung-ho on the project that two weeks ago they pushed through the Obama library bill – 9-0 in favor -- at an Executive Committee meeting where there was not a single Republican present, according to The Chicago Tribune. After the GOP cried foul, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan claimed there had been a “misunderstanding” and retook the vote, which split along party lines in the Democratic-controlled committee.

Chicago, the president’s adopted hometown and the state where he was elected to the U.S. Senate, is competing with New York, where Obama attended college, and Hawaii, his birthplace, to be the presidential library’s home. Interested cities have until June 16 to submit a Request for Qualification to The Barack Obama Foundation, according to its website. The foundation’s board will then review the submissions and announce its decision by early 2015.

Windy City Democrats want to make sure the decision is not left to chance, according to the Times, which notes that pledging $100 million at this stage in the process would greatly increase the city’s chance of landing the library.

Many Republicans argue the city is too broke to be offering that kind of money.

“The Democrats are putting up five or six different income tax hike proposals — all under the guise that we don’t even have enough money to run basic state services, but then let’s find $100 million for the library?” said GOP House Leader Jim Durkin. “I’m just baffled. I’m dumbfounded.”

Library supporters argue that the money would not come from the general revenue fund, according to the Times, but “as part of a larger construction program and a still undefined funding source.” It would be recouped via tourism and economic development that would be realized by having the library in Chicago, they argue.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president’s former chief of staff, cautioned Chicagoans not to “rely on the president’s affinity for the city of Chicago” but put up the funds to ensure the library will locate there.

Madigan, the House speaker, agreed.

“We did it for Abraham Lincoln here in Springfield,” he said. “We can do it for Barack Obama in Chicago.”

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