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City Breaks Promises Regarding Jackson Park, Obama Presidential Center

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Park District is halting work on the relocation of a Jackson Park athletic field to build the Obama Presidential Center.

The situation is shining a spotlight on whether other promises made by the city, in pushing for the presidential center, have been kept.

CBS 2's Political Reporter Derrick Blakley reports City Hall promised federal law was being followed as it tore down up to 40 Jackson Park trees to make room for the new athletic field, but the feds are not so sure.

The city now said, "In light of concerns expressed by federal agencies, the Chicago Park District will stop construction" until the feds give the green light, which watch dogs insist the city should have obtained in the first place.

"I think the city often blows it by moving too quickly," stated Juanita Irizarry from Friends of the Parks.

Critics compare it to Mayor Daley's bulldozing of Meigs Field, another city action hastily performed without federal approval.

"I believe the city has misrepresented the facts on every issue that's come to public attention," said Herbert Caplan from Protect Our Parks.

Caplan and Protect Our Parks is suing to stop the project.

CBS 2's Derrick Blakley reports when it comes to taxes, the city lied, as well. The mayor originally said it would not cost taxpayers a dime.

"We knew that was ridiculous from the beginning," said Irizarry.

Closing Cornell Drive and reconfiguring other roads will cost $174 million. Earlier this year, state lawmakers quietly approved a possible property tax hike, especially for the Obama Center.

Bob Fioretti, an attorney for Protect Our Parks, said there is a hidden tax in the budget, saying it is, "A museum tax that allows the Chicago Park District to fund operations of the Obama Center. Somebody's not being truthful to the public."

Late Tuesday the city announced an agreement with the Obama Center for a 99-year lease on the 20-acre Jackson Park site for $10.

Once it is built, the city would own the campus, but the center would pay to maintain it.

The lease agreement must be approved by City Council.


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