Susan Sher (left) and Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago, talk with reporters after a House committee voted on a bill that would partially fund the construction of the Obama presidential library./Kate Rooney/MEDILL
Members of an Illinois House committee voted unanimously Thursday to advance a bill to the floor that will designate $100 million for the potential construction of the Obama presidential library in Chicago.
Supporters of the bill, including co-sponsors House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago, said the investment will bolster Chicago’s chances when a final proposal is submitted to Obama’s library committee in June.
"A $100 million investment would be a reasonable down-payment compared to the economic impact it would have,” said Susan Sher, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama. “The Clinton library has already had over a $2 billion impact on the Little Rock economy.”
One area that needs the economic boom, according to supporters who testified at the Bilandic Building, is the South Side.
“The presidential library would bring hope not only to Chicago’s South Side, but to the Chicago period,” said Dennis Johnson, student government association president at Chicago State University. “This could change the economic imbalance within the city."
Rep. Davis said that the president and first lady’s roots in the South Side also warrant the library location.
"This is where they met, this is where they worked, this is where their children were born, this is where they went to church, this is their city,” Davis said.
“If the time comes that we are called on to work with other institutions and partnership to build this library on the South Side, then we will welcome that opportunity as well,” said Young, who is among representatives from schools, such as University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Chicago, aiming at a common goal of bringing the library to their city.
Illinois faces potential competition from Hawaii, where Obama was born, and New York, where the president attended Columbia University, which both have expressed interest the library.
Madigan urged committee members to narrow the location choice before a final proposal is submitted by the city.
“Today will be a very good start to a process which is underway, and is continuing," Madigan said.
The Barack H. Obama Foundation is expected to announce the decision by the president and his wife in early 2015.