UNIVERSITY VILLAGE — The mayor strongly suggested Wednesday that his re-election was the best bet at winning the proposed Obama Presidential Library.
Asked at a news conference if his losing would prompt President Barack Obama's foundation to move away from a Chicago site, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "That's for the foundation to answer, not for me. But I also think leadership counts."
Emanuel said he was "straightforward" in his desire for the library and that he has displayed the "strength that's necessary to resolve issues."
The mayor repeated that it's a one-shot opportunity for Chicago to gain an economic engine that will drive jobs and development for decades. "This is worth hundreds upon hundreds of jobs, thousands upon thousands in economic opportunities across the South Side," Emanuel said.
"It's either South Side or West Side," Emanuel said, pointing to the proposed sites at the University of Chicago and at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "It cannot be the Upper West Side of Manhattan," where Obama's alma mater Columbia University is also competing to land the library. "That's not allowed," he added. "Because it's too much of an important thing economically and jobwise."
Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Chicago), his opponent in the upcoming April 7 runoff, countered that he is just as capable of leading the library to be settled in the city.
"I have never wavered in my full support of bringing the Obama Presidential Library to Chicago," Garcia said. "I served with the president in the Illinois Senate. I have always supported President Obama. His legacy — and his library — belongs right here.
"While it is my view that the library does not have to come at the expense of public park land that has enormous historical significance for everyone in Chicago, I will support the South or West Side site," he added. "As mayor, I will do everything within my power to make certain that the Obama Presidential Library is built in Chicago, and that the jobs and contracts that go with it benefit the community, as well."
Emanuel has tried to use the library as a campaign issue, as Garcia has wavered on it, first saying he would not devote park land to it, then clarifying that he would allow either the South Side or West Side neighborhood residents to resolve that issue.
Emanuel spoke at a news conference largely on state budget issues at a Chicago Fire Department station commonly used as a film location for the TV show "Chicago Fire," not far from UIC and the North Lawndale site proposed by the university on the West Side.
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