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Our View: Pay for Obama library with private funds

Published: Monday, April 28, 2014 9:48 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 28, 2014 11:19 p.m. CDT

Like many museums across the U.S., presidential libraries are excellent ways to preserve history. They are culturally significant facilities, and we support their creation in principle.

Regardless of one’s political view of a particular presidential administration, our presidents are a significant part of U.S. history. Their contributions and historical documents related to their administrations have tremendous value.

Like other presidents before him, President Barack Obama one day will have such a facility built in his honor. We hope that library is built in Chicago honoring the president’s long ties to the city and to Illinois. Such a facility to showcase the nation’s first black president would add to an already culturally rich city.

That said, we’re outraged at a state legislative committee’s recommendation to spend $100 million in public funds toward this effort, which is entirely unnecessary. Libraries built for former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all were financed through private donations.

Illinois still has a pension system – the most underfunded in the nation – with a $100 billion deficit. It also has unpaid bills in excess of $6 billion.

The state’s most powerful Democrats, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, are trying to force the $100 million expenditure for an Obama library anyway, fearing competition from New York, where he went to college, and Hawaii, the state of his birth.

A total of $7 billion was spent on the 2012 presidential campaign. If that kind of money is available in a presidential election, we see no reason why the president’s supporters wouldn’t pay for a library to honor his legacy.

We urge legislators on both sides of the aisle to do the responsible thing and kill this proposal.

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