University of Chicago an obvious choice for Obama library

By Managing Editor

Unsurprisingly, Chicago is going to make a bid to be the site of President Barack Obama’s Presidential Library and Museum. Now that New York’s Columbia University has announced its plans to propose that the library be constructed on its campus, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is aggressively working to promote Chicago as the right location.

It only makes sense to house Obama’s presidential artifacts in the city where he began his political career, but Emanuel’s efforts, though bountiful, are limiting.

Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times on Jan. 23 that the city will make one unified bid for the Obama library, consolidating all local proposals into one rather than supporting several of the city’s universities in trying to secure the rights to the building on their own.

“We are going to run a process,” Emanuel told the Sun-Times. “But my goal is to have the City of Chicago, with its major educational institutions, have a single proposal.”

A single proposal is sensible in theory—especially given Emanuel’s relationship with Obama and knack for fundraising—but it forces all parties to cede power to Emanuel, allowing him to call the shots and have the ultimate say in the library’s location.

The proposed location will undoubtedly influence whether Obama chooses Chicago as the home of his presidential library, so if he is going to be presented with only one option, it must be a compelling one. A location hasn’t been decided upon yet, but the University of Chicago has garnered attention for the library proposal it has been drafting in private for more than a year.

During that year, UofC has likely set aside some serious cash and devised a few fundraising ideas. If the university were to join forces with the city, the package would be more appealing to Obama, who allegedly wants to choose a library deal that comes with “robust funding” so he and the first lady will not be weighed down with fundraising obligations for life, according to the Sun-Times article.

However, UofC officials told the Sun-Times that the university doesn’t have much interest in being involved in the proposal unless the library would be constructed on its Hyde Park campus. At the same time, UofC’s past year spent planning is in vain if the university declines to partner up with the city.

The Obamas have strong ties to both UofC and the Hyde Park neighborhood, so an on-campus library location has obvious appeal. Emanuel must keep this in mind in the coming weeks as he begins forming a foundation to oversee the selection process and fundraising.

Being home to a presidential library has obvious economic benefits, so Emanuel must tread lightly if he wants his competition to check out.