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Illustration by Rohan McDonald.

Obama Center officials acknowledge the displacement they will cause

Officials acknowledged this month that the Obama Presidential Center’s construction could force a number of long-time South Side residents out of their homes. Department of Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman said to  Block Club Chicago that city officials “recognized the potential for displacement” of residents near the middle of the project’s designated area.

Aldermen unanimously endorsed a revised agreement for the Center to be built in Jackson Park. Within Alderman Leslie Hairston’s 5th Ward, 19.3 acres of city land will be sold for only $10 to the Obama Foundation. This payment secures the lot for the Obama Foundation for the next 99 years. The foundation has yet to agree to sign the community benefits agreement requested by groups critical of the $500 million plan. The agreement would combat gentrification with a property tax freeze and ensure the ongoing housing security of the area’s lower-income population by mandating that 30% of all new and rehabilitated housing be earmarked for those residents.

Painting for reading: Kerry James Marshall mural set to fund West Side library regionalization

Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to sell a Kerry James Marshall painting to fund the regionalization of the Legler Branch library on Chicago’s West Side. The sale of the painting is expected to generate more than $15 million toward expanding the library’s  facilities, programming, and hours, as well as create a public art fund for projects in underserved communities.

The Civic Federation president Laurence Msall criticized Emanuel’s decision and was in turn criticized in a letter signed by four West Side aldermen this month.

“Every time a new investment is coming to the West Side, critics from other parts of the city can’t wait to shoot it down and tell us what’s best for our neighborhoods,” the letter reads, alluding to the $95 million investment in West Garfield Park’s police academy.

“We have not had a regional library with weekend hours on the West Side in over 40 years. That’s two generations of children who grew up in our neighborhoods without the same amenities families everywhere else in the city take for granted,” the aldermen wrote.

The painter himself isn’t impressed, observing to ARTnews that the city would raise more money selling the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza.

Freedom of Information Act costs time as backlog builds

A recent article co-published by the Chicago Sun-Times and ProPublica exposed flaws within the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The act claims to allow for a greater transparency of government documents, but requests made under it are often brushed off or ignored.

Since 2010, over 200,000 citizens have requested documents through FOIA. Within that number, thousands have requested assistance from the public access counselor (PAC) within FOIA. However, according to ProPublica Illinois’ latest study of 30,000 cases,  FOIA is frequently ignored or misinterpreted throughout the state of Illinois. The PAC’s staff may take months or years to resolve the cases they receive. According to ProPublica, PAC rarely utilizes the full extent of its authority to compel agencies to comply, and even when it does, with few repercussions, sometimes the orders are still disregarded.

The FOIA Act gives access to a wealth of information, if you can get it. Here’s a handy guide, also published by ProPublica, on how to navigate FOIA.

An academic hoax asks if academia is a hoax

Three academics submitted 20 fake papers, known as The Grievance Studies Hoax, to a range of high-profile journals in the fields of gender studies, queer studies, and fat studies. Seven of the papers had been accepted for publication when the trio took their experiment public on Tuesday October 2. Six of the papers had been rejected, and seven more were still going through the review process. The experiment is similar to the Sokal Hoax from the 1990s and to a number of other tests run by academics and journalists to see how much their peer reviewers are paying attention. Yascha Mounk reported on The Grievance Studies Hoax  for The Atlantic.  A number of readers took issue with the writer’s criticisms, referring, for example, to how overworked peer reviewers are and the value in publishing more eccentric ideas.

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