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State lawmakers try to clear a path for Lucas Museum and Obama Library in Chicago

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A bill has been passed in Illinois by state lawmakers aimed at improving Chicago’s efforts to build both the George Lucas’ Museum of Narrative Art and Barack Obama’s Presidential Library.

The new legislation counters a lawsuit filed by Friends of the Parks – the campaign group attempting to halt development of George Lucas’ museum project and the proposed development of President Obama’s Presidential Library – clarifying that the city has the right to build the facilities on parkland, including “formerly submerged land”.

Friends of the Parks had previously argued that the George Lucas museum would be built on a protected waterway, but the ruling discounts that. Speaking after the decision, the group said that the measure will not solve the legal problem for Lucas’ museum or the Presidential Library.

"It is deeply troubling that our mayor and state public officials are trying to use the Obama Library as a shield to sneak the Lucas Museum on to Lake Michigan," said Friends of the Parks in a statement.

"It basically authorises Chicago to run a mall up and down the Lake so long as they call it a museum. It is a complete blank check to abdicate the legal duty of protecting the lake for the people of this State and for generations to come.”

The legislation – which was Senate approved by a 94 to 16 vote – will now go to Illinois governor Bruce Rauner’s desk, who will decide whether or not to sign the bill into law.

“Current and future generations deserve the opportunity to learn first-hand the impact of President Obama on Illinois as a member of the General Assembly, a US senator and our President, and to also learn how our state had an impact on him,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan after the Senate meeting.

State senator Kwame Roul, who holds the former seat of President Obama, added: “This bill, if passed, would send a strong message to the selection committee that there won't be any obstacles to the Presidential Library being built on parkland.”

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, was unveiled in November last year after Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator, George Lucas selected Chicago to be the museum’s home. The park district signed a preliminary agreement with Lucas last September, proposing the 17-acre site, now a parking lot, to house the museum.

Four US universities are currently battling it out to host Barack Obama’s US$500m (€419.5m, £329m) Presidential Library – a repository for preserving and making available the papers, records, collections and other historical materials of every President of the United States since Herbert Hoover in 1929. The President and first lady will in the next month choose one location from either the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois in Chicago, Columbia University in New York or the University of Hawaii as host of the archive, learning and visitor complex documenting Obama’s time in office.

“I commend the Illinois General Assembly for making it clear that they agree with Chicago’s position that presidential libraries and other museums enhance parkland for the benefit of the public,” said Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.

“The Obama Presidential Library and Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would not only benefit residents and visitors for generations to come, these institutions would provide incredible economic, cultural and educational opportunities to the city and state.”

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A bill has been passed in Illinois by state lawmakers aimed at improving Chicago’s efforts to build both the George Lucas’ Museum of Narrative Art and Barack Obama’s Presidential Library.
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