WBEZ | chicago politics http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-politics Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Jesse Jackson Jr. leaves federal prison for halfway house http://www.wbez.org/news/jesse-jackson-jr-leaves-federal-prison-halfway-house-111763 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/jjj_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 3/27/2015</em></p><p>CHICAGO (AP) &mdash; Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. arrived at a Baltimore halfway house late Thursday, hours after leaving an Alabama federal prison where he was serving a sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal items.</p><p>Jackson arrived Thursday night with members of his family at the Volunteers of America halfway house, where he begins his transition back into society.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m very very happy that I&#39;m with my wife and children, I&#39;ve missed them a very long time,&quot; Jackson said as he pushed through a group of reporters to enter the halfway house.</p><p>Earlier in the day, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking by phone shortly after picking up his 50-year-old son, described his release from the minimum security federal prison camp at Maxwell Air Force Base as a &quot;joyous reunion.&quot; He added that the younger Jackson was doing &quot;very well.&quot; The civil rights leader was not with his son when he checked into the facility.</p><p>The halfway house has been in operation for more than 30 years in the same two-story brick facility in Baltimore, according to spokeswoman Danielle Milner.</p><p>The facility serves between 500 and 700 residents annually with housing, employment counseling and other transitional services. Some people are allowed to live in their own homes, but that&#39;s up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, she said.</p><p>Jackson Sr. had said earlier Thursday that his son will be living at the halfway house for six months, but federal officials have not confirmed that.</p><p>&quot;He is respecting the rules and the process,&quot; the Rev. Jackson said. &quot;He is not asking for any special privileges.&quot;</p><p>Jackson Jr. said he didn&#39;t know what would happen once he has checked into Volunteers of America.</p><p>Jackson began his 2 &frac12;-year prison sentence on Nov. 1, 2013, and his release date is Sept. 20, 2015. After that, Jackson must spend three years on supervised release under jurisdiction of the U.S. Probation Office and complete 500 hours of community service.</p><p>At some point, it will be his wife&#39;s turn to serve out her punishment on a related conviction.</p><p>Sandra Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, was sentenced to a year in prison for filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. In a concession to the couple&#39;s two children, a judge allowed the Jacksons to stagger their sentences, with the husband going first.</p><p>Jackson served in Congress from 1995 until he resigned in November 2012. In June 2012, he took medical leave for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues.</p><p>The Jacksons spent campaign money on fur capes, mounted elk heads, a $43,350, gold-plated men&#39;s Rolex watch and Bruce Lee memorabilia, as well as $9,587.64 on children&#39;s furniture, according to court filings.</p><p>Jackson&#39;s resignation ended a once-promising political career that was tarnished by unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to President Barack Obama&#39;s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has denied the allegations.</p></p> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 18:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/jesse-jackson-jr-leaves-federal-prison-halfway-house-111763 Garcia, Emanuel battle in heated first debate of runoff http://www.wbez.org/news/garcia-emanuel-battle-heated-first-debate-runoff-111708 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahmchuydebate.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>UPDATED: 1:32 PM 3/17/2015</em></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s two mayoral hopefuls turned up the heat for their first one-on-one debate Monday night.</p><p>In the first of three live, televised events before the April 7 runoff election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Commissioner Jesus &ldquo;Chuy&rdquo; Garcia hit each other in the same spots as usual during the NBC and Telemundo debate: Emanuel criticized Garcia for not giving specifics, and Garcia called out Emanuel for paying too much attention to downtown, rather than the neighborhoods.</p><p>The two went back and forth on a number of topics that are familiar to the campaign trail, like public safety, schools, city finances and red light cameras. On finances, Emanuel said a property tax hike was not on the table, despite comments to the contrary from a top ally last week, as well as a warning from Emanuel himself last Friday that property tax bills would &ldquo;explode&rdquo; if Springfield didn&rsquo;t help reform pensions. Campaign staff later said that property taxes are the &ldquo;very last resort&rdquo; and any increase would &ldquo;protect middle-class homeowners and seniors.&rdquo; The city of Chicago faces a looming $550 million dollar state-mandated payment toward police and fire retirement funds.</p><p>&ldquo;Every effort going forward on police and fire is to avoid a property tax. I&rsquo;ve laid out a specific plan before the election. You&rsquo;ve laid out a commission,&rdquo; Emanuel said to Garcia.</p><p>The mayor says he&rsquo;d ask employees &ldquo;to help us a little&rdquo; to stabilize pensions, and that he&rsquo;d lobby Springfield for reforms to the sales tax and a Chicago-run casino that would be &ldquo;fully dedicated&rdquo; to pensions.</p><p>Meanwhile, Garcia sought to further define himself as the &ldquo;neighborhood guy,&rdquo; taking many opportunities to try and convince viewers not only that his experience in the community will drive his decisions, but that Emanuel focuses too much on the &ldquo;rich and wealthy&rdquo; or on downtown interests.</p><p>&ldquo;The mayor doesn&rsquo;t mind taxing low-income people and working people,&rdquo; Garcia said, referring to the city&rsquo;s red light camera program. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why on day one I will get rid of all those cameras.&rdquo;</p><p>The two candidates also sought to blame the other for the city&rsquo;s financial crisis. Emanuel took a new swipe at his opponent where he maintained that Garcia, as a state senator, voted in 1997 to create a holiday for Chicago Public Schools teacher pension payments. Garcia continued to accuse Emanuel of not following through on his campaign promise to put the city&rsquo;s financial house in order.</p><p>On public safety, Emanuel contended the city was &ldquo;safer than it was before, but not safe enough where people from all parts of the city can enjoy it.&rdquo; Garcia repeated his push for more police officers, and said he&rsquo;d start hiring them with half of what the city spends now on police overtime.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ political reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 08:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/garcia-emanuel-battle-heated-first-debate-runoff-111708 Election officials report light voter turnout in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/election-officials-report-light-voter-turnout-chicago-111617 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ballot receipt_me_1.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Election officials in Chicago say they expect turnout in the city&#39;s municipal election to fall well below 2011 levels, when the mayor&#39;s race was wide open.</p><p>Four years ago, about 42 percent of eligible Chicago voters cast ballots. Mayor Richard Daley had retired after more than two decades in office. In municipal contests before 2007, the turnout hovered around 33 percent.</p><p>Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen says turnout reports are citywide, including wards where there are uncontested races. He says there could be an evening rush.</p><p>The cold and wind might be keeping some away. The temperature was 8 degrees with a wind chill of 8 below when polls opened.</p><p>Election officials say the anticipated lower turnout follows higher early voting numbers than in previous years.</p></p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/election-officials-report-light-voter-turnout-chicago-111617 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into April runoff election http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-forced-april-runoff-election-111616 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" andrew="" class="image-original_image" garcia.="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rahmface_ag.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to supporters after finding out he faces a runoff with Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" wbez="" /></div></div><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to capture a majority of the vote Tuesday in his bid for a second term, an embarrassment for the former White House chief of staff who now faces a runoff this spring against Cook County Commissioner Jesus &quot;Chuy&quot; Garcia.</p><p>The result exposed possible vulnerability for an incumbent who has widespread support from business leaders, national name recognition and raised millions of dollars in campaign funds. He participated in half a dozen debates and forums and received a last-minute boost from President Barack Obama.</p><p>Still, he wasn&#39;t able to capture the more than 50 percent necessary to avoid an April 7 runoff against Garcia, a former alderman and state senator, who finished far below Emanuel&#39;s vote total but far above the other three challengers.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" an="" andrew="" april="" class="image-original_image" election="" emanuel="" face="" garcia="" in="" ll="" mayor="" mean="" rahm="" rallies="" response="" results="" runoff.="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chuyspeech_ag.jpg" style="height: 434px; width: 620px;" supporters="" that="" the="" title="Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia rallies supporters in response to the election results that mean he'll face Mayor Rahm Emanuel in an April runoff. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" to="" wbez="" /></div><p>&quot;We have come a long way, and we have a little bit further to go,&quot; Emanuel told supporters. &quot;This is the first step in a real important journey for our city.&quot;</p><p>Nodding to the themes in the weeks ahead, Emanuel noted the city&#39;s immigrant history after a bilingual address by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat who&#39;s been prominent in the national push for immigration reform and once was a critic of Emanuel.</p><p>Garcia, born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, got his start in politics as an immigrant rights activist in the city. He was a water commissioner under the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.</p><p>&quot;This city needs a mayor who will listen to people,&quot; Garcia told supporters, noting his support from neighborhood residents.</p><p>Garcia and Emanuel&#39;s other challengers &mdash; Alderman Bob Fioretti, businessman Willie Wilson and activist William Walls &mdash; had hoped to capitalize on resident discontentment over Emanuel&#39;s handling of schools and city violence.</p><p>Emanuel pushed for the closure of about 50 neighborhood schools in 2013, a year after the city&#39;s first teachers&#39; strike in 25 years. The Chicago Teachers Union &mdash; whose fiery leader had once considered a bid to challenge Emanuel &mdash; backed Garcia during the race as the alternative to Emanuel.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/luis_ag.JPG" style="height: 434px; width: 620px;" title="Rep. Luis Gutierrez spoke in support of Rahm Emanuel on election night. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>Voters noted both issues at the polls, with early estimates signaling lower turnout than 2011 after former Mayor Richard Daley retired and the mayor&#39;s race was wide open. About 42 percent of eligible voters came to the polls.</p><p>Joyce Rodgers, who is retired, said she believed the school closings cost Emanuel the trust of the African-American community &mdash; and possibly the president&#39;s.</p><p>&quot;There is total disappointment (in Emanuel),&quot; she said. &quot;I believe that Obama&#39;s been let down, too, he&#39;s just not going to say it.&quot;</p><p>Still others in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood said they were supporting Emanuel because he is positive on issues such as job creation, education and safer neighborhoods.</p><p>&quot;Rahm has all (those) contacts and he is getting those corporations here, so he is giving people hope they can get a good job,&quot; said Willie King, a 56-year-old retired janitor.</p><p>On the campaign trail, Emanuel said his first term saw some tough decisions and payoffs, including budgets that didn&#39;t rely on property tax increases, drawing business to the city, getting a longer school day and raising the minimum wage.</p><p>The non-partisan election on Tuesday also featured contests for a new city treasurer, aldermen and advisory-style ballot questions on campaign finance and an elected school board.</p><p>Emanuel won his first mayoral race without a runoff four years ago. He ran an intense re-election bid, raising roughly $16 million, more than four times his challengers combined.</p><p>He vowed to hit the campaign trail on Wednesday morning, shaking hands at El train stops as he&#39;s been doing.</p><p>&quot;We will get back out there, talking to our friends and families and neighbors as they make a critical choice about who has the strength, who has the leadership, who has the ideas to move this great city forward,&quot; Emanuel said.</p></p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-forced-april-runoff-election-111616 Results: 2015 Chicago municipal election http://www.wbez.org/news/results-2015-chicago-municipal-election-111614 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ballot receipt_me_0.PNG" alt="" /><p><div id="all"><a name="all"></a></div><script type="text/javascript" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/scripts/pym.js"></script><script> var pymGov = new pym.Parent('all', 'http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/files/elections/2015/by_state/IL_Page_0224.html?SITE=2015ELECTIONS&SECTION=POLITICS', {}); </script></p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/results-2015-chicago-municipal-election-111614 Inaccurate voter data could hurt Asian voter blocs, other ethnic groups http://www.wbez.org/news/inaccurate-voter-data-could-hurt-asian-voter-blocs-other-ethnic-groups-111605 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ward.PNG" style="height: 274px; width: 620px;" title="File: A map on the wall of a Chicago campaign office. Many campaigns use the same source to find likely voters, but the advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice worries inaccurate data diminishes minority voter blocs' appeal. (WBEZ/Derek John)" />The staff at Asian Americans Advancing Justice has been busy registering new voters and planning their exit poll strategy for Tuesday. The organization wants to increase visibility for the Asian community.</p><p>But Kathleen Yang-Clayton with the organization says that&rsquo;s difficult when even the staff is misidentified.</p><p>&ldquo;He identifies as Japanese-American, multi-racial and he was listed as African American,&rdquo; Yang-Clayton said of one of her co-workers.</p><p>Many campaigns and advocacy groups like Advancing Justice use a database to target voters. Yang-Clayton took a little sample in her office, researching all of her co-workers, most of them Asian. Exactly half of the 14 were incorrectly identified.</p><p>&ldquo;Brian Hara who also identifies as Japanese-American was listed as Caucasian, Irish,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Chicago has more than 1.4 million registered voters. The database shows just over 35,000 Asians are among the voting population.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s already what we empirically have experienced as being under counts,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>When you register to vote, you give your name and address. You check a box saying you&rsquo;re a citizen and if you&rsquo;re of legal age. But campaigns know more about you than that -- like your race, age, past voting behavior.</p><p>&ldquo;I can also see household income and the car that you drive and some cases, your magazine subscription. And I can use this information to find out what you might be interested in,&rdquo; said Michael Miller, an assistant professor in political science at Barnard College.</p><p>Miller has worked on a number of campaigns as a strategist. The refined information he&rsquo;s talking about is called micro-targeting. He says any campaign that wants to be successful needs this.</p><p>&ldquo;You can cut turf so that you can have walkers just dropping literature for the people who you know are going to vote for you,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Maybe a reminder to go out to vote. Others are going to be trying to have conversations with folks the campaign thinks are persuadable.&rdquo;</p><p>Miller says the main database website Democratic campaigns use is maintained by a Washington, D.C.-based organization called NGP VAN. It&rsquo;s the same one Yang-Clayton uses.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Testing out the voter database &mdash; one hit, one miss</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/san%20for%20cms.PNG" style="height: 346px; width: 620px;" title="A view of the voter information stored in a database commonly used by local campaigns. (Courtesy of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago)" /></div><p>Just to test it out, we entered my name into the database. The information showed my race as Asian and ethnicity as Korean. That&rsquo;s correct. But then we entered in the name of my colleague Odette Yousef. The database said her race is Hispanic and her ethnicity is Mexican. Odette is actually of Middle Eastern descent.</p><p>These data errors might seem a little funny, but Yang-Clayton says the difference in numbers could dictate the way campaigns do outreach and the language they do it in.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve seen in the data we use from VAN is that when there&rsquo;s a systematic undercounting, the impression that&rsquo;s given is that Asian Americans don&rsquo;t vote. So why make the effort,&rdquo; she asked.</p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">Voter database only meant as &#39;starting point&#39;</span></p><p>Bryan Whitaker with NGP VAN, the company that maintains the database website, says the voter lists are generally good, but admits there are flaws across the board, not just for Asians.</p><p>Whitaker says he lives in a predominantly African-American community in Washington, D.C.</p><p>Whitaker, a white man, says campaigns try to appeal to him as if he is African-American. He says he&rsquo;s likely misidentified as being black because of his neighborhood.</p><p>He says the data is collected and analyzed by a separate group. They collect information from boards of election, marketing research and the U.S. Census. However, census data is based on the census tract and not at an individual level.</p><p>Whitaker says the lists are meant to be used as a starting point for campaigns.</p><p>&ldquo;A successful campaign will have a volunteer in those neighborhoods who is checking the lists before they actually go out and start knocking on those doors. That&rsquo;s the quality assurance check on those lists,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Yang-Clayton says the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice is able to make corrections to their own list, but that won&rsquo;t show up system-wide. And she questions whether campaigns actually take the extra steps.</p><p>Asians make up about 5.5 percent of the city&rsquo;s population. Yang-Clayton feels data inaccuracies hurt smaller groups like this.</p><p>&ldquo;Every point that&rsquo;s shaved off because they&#39;re misidentified or you don&rsquo;t click the right radio button to add people in has a significant impact,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>She says improvements could be made with finer data or even if the state has voters self-identify themselves.</p><p>Yang-Clayton says better data could show that Asians have a bigger influence on election day.</p><p><em><a href="http://twitter.com/soosieon">Susie An</a> is a WBEZ reporter.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/inaccurate-voter-data-could-hurt-asian-voter-blocs-other-ethnic-groups-111605 Early voting starts in Chicago's mayoral race http://www.wbez.org/news/early-voting-starts-chicagos-mayoral-race-111522 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/3002776434_643d076694_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Early voting is set to begin for Chicago&#39;s municipal election, including the mayor&#39;s race.</p><div><p>Early voting starts Monday at 51 locations in Chicago. The <a href="http://www.chicagoelections.com/en/early-voting.html" target="_blank">Chicago Board of Election Commissioners</a> says each site also will offer voter registration. The election is Feb. 24.</p><p>Sites will be open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Five sites will be open on Sunday, Feb. 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.</p><p>Voters need a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Voters can use any site in the city regardless of their address.</p><p>Election board officials say voters who need to change their name or address or those registering to vote for the first time need to have two forms of ID. At least one must have the voter&#39;s current address.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 12:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/early-voting-starts-chicagos-mayoral-race-111522 Fundraising for future Obama library picks up http://www.wbez.org/news/fundraising-future-obama-library-picks-111408 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP401486246971.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; The nonprofit raising money for President Barack Obama&#39;s future library has picked up the pace of its fundraising, with up to $4.4 million rolling in during the final months of 2014, records released Thursday show.</p><p>All told, the Barack Obama Foundation has raised at least $3 million and possibly as much as $6.2 million since its formation nearly a year ago. The largest checks have all come from donors in Chicago, which is working aggressively to shore up its bid to host the presidential library and museum.</p><p>Two universities in Chicago have been competing vigorously with schools in Honolulu and New York to build the project, and the president and first lady Michelle Obama are expected to announce their decision within the next few months. Building the library is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, financed mostly by donations raised by Obama&#39;s foundation.</p><p>Contributing most generously to the project have been longtime Obama supporters who gave or helped raise hefty sums to Obama&#39;s presidential campaigns. Many were repeat donations from those who have given to the library project before.</p><p>Fred Eychaner, founder of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., gave the foundation between $500,000 and $1 million in the last three months of 2014, records show. A major Democratic fundraiser, Eychaner gave almost $8 million in the last election cycle to liberal groups and has hosted fundraisers for Obama at his home.</p><p>The foundation&#39;s only other donors to exceed $500,000 came from Cari and Michael Sacks, also of Chicago. Michael Sacks is a business executive with close ties to Obama&#39;s former chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Obama appointed Cari Sacks to the Kennedy Center&#39;s presidential advisory panel in 2010. The couple previous gave the foundation more than $250,000.</p><p>Two members of the Obama foundation&#39;s board &mdash; Kevin Poorman and board chairman Marty Nesbitt &mdash; have also given sums of less than $100,000 to the nonprofit.</p><p>Obama&#39;s foundation is voluntarily disclosing large contributions in ranges of dollar amounts. While it&#39;s already raising money to cover its own costs, the foundation has said most of the funds to build the library won&#39;t be raised until after the Obamas leaves the White House. Obama and the first lady have pledged not to raise money for the foundation until after they leave office.</p></p> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/fundraising-future-obama-library-picks-111408 Hey Mayor! http://www.wbez.org/news/hey-mayor-111330 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/heym.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>You may be noticing more political ads as the February municipal elections inch closer. The election determines the future face of City Hall: all 50 aldermanic seats are up, as well as the office of mayor. &nbsp;But what do Chicagoans want the next mayor&#39;s priorities to be? &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The 2014 Mikva Challenge Soapbox contest asked young Chicagoans, <em>&quot;If you were the next Mayor of Chicago, what is the first community issue you would tackle, and why?&quot;</em>&nbsp; Here&#39;s what they had to say.</p><p>(To hear each student, scroll over the play button and click on the player that pops up. A complete playlist is also available below.)</p><p><img class="alwaysThinglink" src="//cdn.thinglink.me/api/image/604082955626741761/1024/10/scaletowidth#tl-604082955626741761;1043138249'" style="max-width:100%" /></p><p>(WBEZ/Andrew Gill, Cate Cahan, Logan Jaffe)</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/66215899%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-EMuvr&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hey-mayor-111330 For Obama library, a contest of haves vs have-nots http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-library-contest-haves-vs-have-nots-111319 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Obama-debate_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama has preached economic opportunity and equal access to education as cornerstones of the legacy he wants to leave behind.</p><p>But in the contest to host his presidential library, two public universities that serve needy communities fear the playing field has been tilted against them by a pair of elite, private schools with seemingly endless money.</p><p>As Obama weighs a decision he&#39;ll announce within months, the University of Hawaii and the University of Illinois at Chicago are struggling to offer the upfront resources needed to offset the massive cost of building the library and presidential museum, expected to run close to half a billion dollars.</p><p>The other two schools in the running, Columbia University and the University of Chicago, are both top-10 schools with a combined endowment of more than $15 billion.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-bids-obama-library-risk-111313" target="_blank">Chicago bids for Obama library at risk&nbsp;</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>The Obamas are expected to raise much &mdash; but not all &mdash; of the money themselves, so a university&#39;s ability to contribute will be a major factor. The Barack Obama Foundation, which is screening proposals and will recommend a winner to Obama, has asked each school in the running for explicit details about what financial and other resources they can bring to bear.</p><p>&quot;Look, when it comes to raw fundraising prowess, we&#39;re not in a position to compete with New York and Chicago,&quot; said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, during a recent interview in his Honolulu office, overlooking the panoramic, oceanfront site that Hawaii has proposed for the library. &quot;We bring different assets to the table. But if the question is who can raise more money, Honolulu&#39;s going to come in third.&quot;</p><p>In an unusual move this week, the Obama foundation let it be known that it was displeased with Chicago&#39;s proposals &mdash; in particular, the fact that the University of Chicago can&#39;t guarantee access to its proposed South Side sites because they sit on city park district property. Still, the blunt warning through the media appeared designed mainly to light a fire under the University of Chicago to fill holes in its proposal, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s office quickly stepped in to say the city was working to acquire the land for the library&#39;s use.</p><p>Across town at the University of Illinois at Chicago, student trustee Danielle Leibowitz said her university has suspected that it&#39;s the underdog all along. A key player in her school&#39;s bid for the library, Leibowitz said the university wants to team up with a community foundation to build the library in North Lawndale, a blighted, heavily black neighborhood on the West Side.</p><p>&quot;If he wants to be consistent with the message he&#39;s given throughout his presidency, it really only makes sense to give it to us,&quot; Leibowitz said. &quot;To suddenly hand over your legacy to a private institution seems rather hypocritical.&quot;</p><p>The University of Chicago and Columbia declined to comment for this report.</p><p>The Obama foundation said each school has its own unique strengths and regardless of which school is chosen, the foundation will be able to raise the needed money.</p><p>&quot;The foundation is looking at each response as a complete package and will choose a partner which, on balance, offers the best opportunity to create an outstanding presidential library and museum,&quot; the foundation said in a statement.</p><p>As public, taxpayer-funded institutions, the University of Illinois and the University of Hawaii face legal and practical limitations on how much they can contribute to a project such as Obama&#39;s library. Still, both schools have sought to show they&#39;re eager to do what they can. Hawaii lawmakers have expressed interest in having the state pitch in, while the foundation partnering with the University of Illinois has pledged $5 million. Obama was born in Hawaii and started his family and political career in Illinois.</p><p>Columbia and the University of Chicago have been coy about what they&#39;re offering. But people familiar with those schools&#39; proposals, who weren&#39;t authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity, said both schools are prepared to absorb a substantial chunk of the cost themselves. They&#39;re also working to secure attractive real estate where the library can be built.</p><p>Although the foundation has tapped Julianna Smoot, a major Democratic fundraiser and former Obama campaign official, to direct fundraising, the foundation&#39;s board has said it won&#39;t start seriously raising money to build the library until much later. The Obamas have pledged not to solicit donations until after they leave office.</p><p>Meantime, the question of what message Obama wants his library to convey has grown more pronounced as the economic recovery continues to leave many behind. Marcus Betts, a spokesman for the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee, said Obama has a rare opportunity to show that one&#39;s background need not predetermine one&#39;s ability to succeed.</p><p>&quot;If you think about what Martin Luther King Jr. would do, where he would put a project like this, I think the answer becomes very clear,&quot; Betts said. &quot;It really boils down to the have and the have-nots.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 14:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-library-contest-haves-vs-have-nots-111319