Chicago voters split on luring Obama presidential library

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CHICAGO — Vot­ers in the city that launched Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer are split over whether to put tax dol­lars into lur­ing his pres­i­den­tial li­brary to Chi­cago.

Less than half of those sur­veyed in a Chi­cago Tri­bune poll — 47 per­cent — said they fa­vored the idea of us­ing tax money to at­tract or build the li­brary, while 45 per­cent said they op­posed it and 8 per­cent were un­de­cided.

There was a gap along ra­cial lines: 61 per­cent of black vot­ers polled were in sup­port and 60 per­cent of white vot­ers op­posed.

The sur­vey was taken as the Barack Obama Foun­da­tion con­sid­ers at least five bids to lo­cate the li­brary in Chi­cago against pro­pos­als to build it else­where, in­clud­ing New York and Hawaii.

Ear­lier this year, Chi­cago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Il­li­nois House Speaker Mi­chael Ma­di­gan pushed to com­mit $100 mil­lion to­ward fi­nanc­ing the li­brary if it is built in Chi­cago.

Mr. Ma­di­gan ar­gued that of­fer­ing the money was “clearly a good in­vest­ment for the fu­ture.”

The idea hasn’t made it very far. A House panel voted in April to ad­vance the plan but drew crit­i­cism for of­fer­ing tax dol­lars when the state is in dire fi­nan­cial straits.

Among those who sup­port the plan, Mr. Obama’s place in his­tory as the coun­try’s first black pres­i­dent is a key sell­ing point, the Tri­bune found in in­ter­views with poll re­spon­dents.

Others said bring­ing the li­brary to Chi­cago could help stim­u­late the lo­cal econ­omy. Some poll re­spon­dents who op­posed the plan ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with Mr. Obama and Demo­cratic lead­ers in Il­li­nois.

But even some Obama sup­port­ers said they don’t think the city or the state are in the fi­nan­cial po­si­tion to spend money on the li­brary.

Op­po­nents also tended to dis­miss claims that the li­brary would be an eco­nomic boon for Chi­cago.

Older vot­ers were less likely to sup­port the idea of tax­payer fund­ing than younger vot­ers. Among those ages 18-35, 54 per­cent backed the con­cept.

That num­ber was just 41 per­cent among those 65 and older. Men were split at 48 per­cent on ei­ther side of the ques­tion, while 47 per­cent of woman backed the idea and 43 per­cent were op­posed.

The sur­vey was con­ducted by APC Re­search Inc., which in­ter­viewed 800 reg­is­tered city vot­ers by cell phone and land­line from Aug. 6-12. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of 3.5 per­cent­age points.

The con­cept of a pres­i­den­tial li­brary dates to 1939, when Pres­i­dent Frank­lin D. Roosevelt handed his pa­pers and other his­tor­i­cal ma­teri­als over to the Na­tional Ar­chives and pledged part of his es­tate in Hyde Park, N.Y., for a li­brary and mu­seum. He formed a non­profit to raise money for the con­struc­tion, set­ting a prece­dent that pres­i­den­tial li­brar­ies should be built with pri­vate money and ad­min­is­tered by the Na­tional Ar­chives.

In re­cent years, pres­i­den­tial li­brary foun­da­tions have been re­quired to cre­ate a pri­vate en­dow­ment to off­set op­er­at­ing costs borne by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. The George W. Bush Foun­da­tion raised more than $500 mil­lion to build his li­brary and cover the en­dow­ment, which had to equal 20 per­cent of the con­struc­tion cost. Mr. Obama is the first pres­i­dent who will need an en­dow­ment equal to 60 per­cent, un­der a law passed in 2008.

Ex­perts es­ti­mate that con­struc­tion of the Obama li­brary could cost as much as $500 mil­lion.

In push­ing for the $100 mil­lion in­cen­tive, Mr. Ma­di­gan noted that the state spent nearly as much on the Abra­ham Lin­coln Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum in down­town Spring­field.

United States - North America - Barack Obama - Illinois - George W. Bush - Chicago - Rahm Emanuel - Michael Madigan - Research Inc - Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum


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