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The [Tuesday] Papers

"The Obama Foundation is conducting intensive economic development studies to help determine if the Obama Presidential Center should be located in Chicago's Washington Park or Jackson Park, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned."

By "has learned," we can fairly assume "was spoon-fed."

*

"A spokesman for the Chicago-based foundation said it 'has engaged a number of consultants to look at different aspects of the potential sites for the Obama Presidential Center.'

"As part of the due diligence, the economic impact analysis will assist the Foundation in their evaluation of opportunities for the Presidential Center to serve as a catalyst for revitalization of the entire area encompassing both Washington Park and Jackson Park neighborhoods," the spokesman said.

By "spokesman said," we can fairly assume "spokesman read from a statement," because nobody talks like that.

*

"This is the first confirmation that the foundation is collecting data on its own to help the Obamas, the foundation board and advisers in the White House understand the economic benefits of each site."

By "first confirmation," we can fairly assume "made up excuse to publish this and pretend that the obvious, as 'confirmed' from a spokesman reading a boilerplate statement, is a scoop."

*

"Each park has positives and challenges when it comes to sparking linked economic development, a top priority of the foundation.

Champions of using Jackson Park point to its proximity to the lakefront and the Museum of Science and Industry, one of the top tourism draws in the city.

The community around Washington Park may present more land for economic development expected to be triggered by the Obama Center. While both parks were designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Washington Park is seen as the more pristine example of his historic urban parks legacy.

"The economic studies are separate from the competition the foundation will be launching soon to solicit proposals from architects to build the center on Chicago's South Side."

*

Compare and contrast that hometown report to what David Dayen wrote today for Salon in "Presidential Libraries, An all-American Scam: Why These Overpriced Vanity Projects Are Bad For Politics, The Economy & History | Barack Obama is in the early stages of raising $1B for his planned library in Chicago. What a waste!"

We spend a lot of time fretting about the power of money in elections. But what about the power of money after all the elections end? The lure of cashing in once leaving politics can have as much of an impact on policy as the continual lobbying and campaign contributions while a politician is in office. Yesterday the New York Times depicted this in rather unseemly fashion, showing how President Obama has vigorously plotted his post-presidency since a week after getting elected to a second and final term.

By "plotted" I mean "flattered potential donors at late-night White House dinners." The scene-setter for the article featured Obama and his wife in a private upstairs dining room this February, hobnobbing until 2 a.m. with venture capitalists, billionaire CEOs, actresses and hedge fund manager Marc Lasry, last seen getting $450 million in public money from Wisconsin to build a sports arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, which he co-owns. The dinner was part of a series of all-night bull sessions with "extraordinarily rich groups of people."

The intent of the dinners: cash, $1 billion in all, seen as the benchmark figure for Obama to build his foundation and presidential library. Eight years earlier, George W. Bush raised $500 million for his showplace, more than all previous presidential libraries combined. Obama's goal is double that. The dinner participants wouldn't pay now but would certainly be asked to pay later, by the guy who regaled them inside the White House and solicited their important opinions on what he should do with his life after Jan. 20, 2017.

From that New York Times article:

"The process started as early as the week after Mr. Obama's re-election in 2012, when the director Steven Spielberg and the actor Daniel Day-Lewis went to a White House screening of the movie Lincoln. Mr. Spielberg held the president spellbound, guests said, when he spoke about the use of technology to tell stories. Mr. Obama has continued those conversations, most recently with Mr. Spielberg and the studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg over dinner at a Beverly Hills hotel in California in June, according to some of Mr. Obama's close advisers.

"The advisers said Mr. Spielberg was focused on helping to develop a 'narrative' for Mr. Obama in the years after he leaves office."

In other words, a fairy tale.

*

Back to Salon:

"[T]he record shows that history suffers when presidents build fortresses around their accomplishments and use well-funded public relations strategies to obscure the facts. As Rick Perlstein explained in The Baffler, modern-day presidential libraries put truth in the background in favor of a no-warts hagiography. If presidents pay for the buildings, they can spin the evidence however they want, you might say. But these places of hero worship are taxpayer-subsidized, publicly owned sites where presidential records are kept for future scholarship. The U.S. government spends about $100 million a year to run presidential libraries, a cost that will grow as we accumulate ex-presidents."

In other words, we'll all be paying for Obama's propaganda palace for the rest of our lives.

*

From that Baffler article:

Then there is [the National Archives and Records Administration's] ghastly record when it comes to honoring these institutions' actual statutory reason for existing. The Reagan Library "lost" thousands of pages of records concerning John Roberts's time at the Justice Department, "'finding' them once he was confirmed by the Senate." Don Wilson, the national archivist appointed by Ronald Reagan (on the recommendation of Dick Cheney), was so bad that the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, which usually superintends the library system with about as much vigilance as the Intelligence Committee reins in the CIA, was forced in 1992 to conclude he had "failed to exercise care and diligence in fulfilling his responsibilities." So why in the world did George H.W. Bush name Wilson executive director of his library and foundation? Could it be because with only hours left in the Bush I term, Wilson signed a secret document granting Bush physical custody of the White House e-mail backup tapes? (A federal judge would later strike this document down as "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law," but by then Wilson had already begun his new job.)

Presidential libraries suffer backlogs of unprocessed Freedom of Information Act requests stretching back for as many as a dozen years. No wonder the transparency activists at the Center for Effective Government gave the National Archives and Records Administration - the National Archives and Records Administration! - an "F" in the center's 2014 Access to Information Scorecard. NARA defends this whole rotten system with an absurdly anachronistic and specious argument, writes Clark: "Presidential libraries need to continue to be spread out around the country so that more people may access the records" - "cover," he says, "to secure continuing taxpayer subsidies for the private history at the library museums - since the records aren't, and won't be, available."

Which brings us back to Chicago, and the current presidential aspirant to immortality. Like so many things Obamian, when it comes to transparency, fantasies of reform turn to ashes in our mouths. On the very first day of Barack Obama's first term, civil libertarians cheered when the new president reversed an executive order removing White House e-mails from the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests. Then, this year, on March 17, the White House made an announcement: it was removing White House e-mails from the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests.

But even better:

But Chicago is not yet completely an oligarchy. To make these gears turn, the powers that be have to lubricate past that pesky irritant: public dissent. So last May, the university brought forth the numbers to flush it away. A study from the Anderson Economic Group estimated that the "annual net economic impact of the Obama Library operations and visitor spending" would be $221.9 million, including revenue from forty projected new businesses and a whopping 1,900 "net new jobs."

Do you see the problem? I knew you would; you're smarter than the Chicago media. Yes: This directly contradicts the study published only six months earlier estimating that an Obama library built on the former hospital site would cost the city $142 million. Meanwhile, the study concluded that this same tract would generate $208 million in "net proceeds" for the city if they built a casino there - which happens to be one of Mayor Emanuel's fondest political dreams for the Michael Reese site.

Me, in June:

"In other words, the University of Chicago, self-proclaimed haven of intellectual dispassion, commissioned an indefensible study that produced just what they were looking for!"

-

Back to Salon:

"The Obama Foundation boasted that the library site would bring hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity to the city. But Anthony Clark, author of a book about presidential libraries called The Last Campaign, calls this a massive overstatement.

Clark wrote in Salon in 2013 that most libraries "struggle to attract visitors," no matter what kind of technical wizardry they serve up. I can think of a thousand better ways to aid the residents of the south side than "a pair of virtual reality goggles" allowing visitors or Web users to "be transported to Mr. Obama's 2008 speech on race in Philadelphia." To quote Clark: "Presidential libraries are supposed to be . . . guardians of history, of the documentary evidence of a presidency. They're not supposed to be theme parks."

From that "massive overstatement" link, which is a Marketplace piece:

[Consultant Jason] Horwitz says the development could create more than $200 million in economic activity from dozens of new restaurants and shops, even a hotel, to meet the demands of 800,000 library visitors a year.

"It would be fantastically unprecedented for 800,000 visitors to come to a presidential library," says Anthony Clark.

Five years ago, Clark was a senior aide in the U.S. House of Representatives, focusing on oversight of the National Archives and presidential libraries. He has since authored a book on presidential libraries, The Last Campaign.

"The idea that the library creates an economic boost that lasts indefinitely is just not borne out by the numbers," says Clark. "In fact, library attendance, no matter which library . . . declines over time."

Many of the 13 current presidential libraries have attendance figures in the tens of thousands, or low hundreds of thousands.

"The most-visited temporary exhibit at a presidential library in history was at the Reagan a few years ago, and it wasn't on the wit and wisdom of the great communicator, it wasn't on the secrets of the Cold War, it was on the treasures of the Disney vault," says Clark.

So, the impact the libraries have on local economies is modest, he says.

Benjamin Hufbauer agrees. He is the author of Presidential Temples, and teaches a course about presidential libraries at the University of Louisville.

Lesson: If the Chicago media would talk to the nation's foremost disinterested experts - and analyze their data - the picture they convey would be different than the one they're presenting by merely passing on the unvetted claims of hired hands with skin in the game.

*

To be fair:

But Hufbauer points to one big exception: the Clinton library, which was built amidst mostly abandoned warehouses in Little Rock, Arkansas.

"It sparked hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment," says Hufbauer. "And now it's a very successful touristy area in downtown Little Rock."

So why was the Clinton library different?

Horwitz says it's because the library did not have to do all the heavy lifting in redeveloping the area.

"It certainly seems that the Clinton Library served as an anchor," says Horwitz. "When a lot of other development was occurring in this downtown area, and it was a compliment to that."

In other words, presidential libraries can help, but they can't transform an area all by themselves.

In other words, the Clinton library added a piece to the economic development of a gentrifying downtown warehouse district. It also could have been a wax museum or an aquarium.

-

Noted . . .

* From Perlstein in the Baffler:

"I made my way inside the gym, stationed myself beside the rostrum crowded with television news cameras - and was quite nearly tackled by Jeremy Manier, the U of C's executive director of news and public affairs, spouting talking points: 'economic development'; 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity'; 'long Chicago tradition of museums in public parks.'"

Manier is a former Tribune reporter.

* From Salon:

"All presidents ponder their legacy in the final days, but having a senior adviser, former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter Shalaigh Murray, working on legacy projects from inside the administration, two years out, can cause some distortions."

* From the New York Times:

"Mr. Obama "seemed incredibly relaxed," said another guest, the writer Malcolm Gladwell. He recalled how the group, which also included the actress Eva Longoria and Vinod Khosla, a founder of Sun Microsystems, tossed out ideas about what Mr. Obama should do after he leaves the White House."

-

Seemingly related . . .

"The arguments in favor of hosting the [Olympic] Games - the immediate and long-term economic benefits, the international branding for the city, the national pride - don't stand up as well to scrutiny as they once did," the Tribune editorial board opined four days ago.

"Research by Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College, shows that Olympic tourists displace other tourists and anticipated increases in trade and investment don't materialize, while the branding benefits and feel-good effects for citizens are ephemeral."

Dear Tribune: The research you cite was all available back when you were cheerleading for the bid. Some of us pointed to that research again and again back then, in vain. To pretend that the arguments in favor of hosting the Games once stood up to scrutiny but now don't is wholly disingenuous. I'd be happy to send you some links to prove my point.

And when the Obama library turns out to be hugely disappointing in terms of economic development - while nicking taxpayers forever - I'll link to this column and say I told you so again.

-

More important, than the editorial boards, though, are the reporters and their editors, who have (once again) utterly failed to do their due diligence. Then again, I bet a couple of you actually end up working for the library one day - and telling the truth now would quash that bright future.

-

Other absurd economic development reports accepted blithely by the media:

* The NATO summit.

* Draft Town.

* The Blackhawks new practice facility.

Learn, dammit!

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NSA And AT&T Joined At The Hip
Reading your e-mails, no big whoop.

Canada To Take In Trump Refugees
Special offer!

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Wussy, Uncouth, Nots, EMISunshine and the Rain, Adam Ness, The Living Statues, Great Peacock, Pleasure Leftists, Cinchel, Like Mots To Flames, Northlane, Dengue Dengue Dengue, Aaron Behrens & Jonas Wilson, Julian Alvarez, Juanes, Toto, KMFDM, Slipknot, The Fall Four, Marina City, Paint Me Red, She's Crafty, and Greg Ward II.

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BeachBook
* Janelle Monae Leads Chicago Protest Against Police Brutality.

* Patrick Kane's Lawyer Is Arguing With People On Facebook.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Hurricane Rahm.



Permalink

Posted on August 18, 2015


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