DOWNTOWN — As New York and Hawaii compete with Chicago for President Barack Obama's library and museum, Mayor Rahm Emanuel continued his local pitch Thursday — promising to create a "competitive" bid for the project.
"We're not just going to rely on the president's opinion of the city of Chicago," Emanuel said.
"We will be subtle in our reminders of where his family's from, where he started his career," said the mayor — who's not exactly known for his subtlety — with a laugh. "But we want to be very competitive."
Emanuel offered no specifics, but did say in January the city planned to submit one unified proposal. And he hinted that one of Chicago's "many institutes of higher learning" could house the library.
The mayor testified Downtown Thursday on behalf of state House Bill HB6010 that would appropriate $100 million in state funds to help build Obama's presidential library.
Emanuel touted the library's potential educational, economic and cultural benefits, and said it could help Chicago reach its goal of attracting 55 million tourists annually by 2020.
The library could "make Chicago a destination for international travelers around the world," Emanuel said.
"The investment of $100 million will return dividends way beyond $100 million for the City of Chicago," he said.
Also testifying Thursday were representatives from Chicago State University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago and the Illinois Arts Council.
Karen Riley, executive director of the Business Leadership Council, said the project could be "the economic boon needed for the South Side."
Riley stressed that local construction crews could build the library and museum, while its presence would strengthen the South Side for years.
Chicago State student Dennis Johnson, who's president of the school's student government, said the library could powerfully connect North, West and South Side communities — especially if it were built on the South Side.
Too many North and West Siders never travel south, he said. Plus, Johnson said he hoped the library would continue Obama's legacy of South Side community organizing by providing local resources.