December 28, 2013

Hawaii pressing hard for Obama library

Chicago is the front-runner to be host to an Obama library.

By Josh Lederman
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Robert Perkinson, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, talks about the possible location in the Kakaako district of Honolulu to be considered for the Barack Obama Presidential Library in Honolulu. The plot of land can be seen to the far right.

The Associated Press

From a future office on the beachfront property, Obama could have panoramic views stretching from Diamond Head, Honolulu’s iconic volcanic crater, to the island’s lush, fog-tipped mountains. A break wall formed by volcanic rocks buttressing the site from the Pacific Ocean might mitigate the site’s tsunami risks. Students at the university have already started developing risk models.

Picturesque views aside, the plot sits in a gritty corner of Honolulu called Kakaako, where homeless encampments have cropped up on many sidewalks and methane exhaust pipes peek out from a landfill-turned-park. On a recent morning, a young woman in traditional Hawaiian garb was pushing two naked children down the street in a grocery cart.

Wary of creating the impression Obama is already looking beyond his presidency, White House officials are reluctant to discuss the library, and insist that advisers are spending little time on it.

Still, Obama’s deputy chief of staff, Alyssa Mastromonaco, has been tapped as the point person for all things related to the library. Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser often described as the guardian of Obama’s legacy, also is involved.

Outside the White House, Julianna Smoot, Obama’s re-election deputy campaign manager and a former White House social secretary, has been tasked with raising money; if previous presidential libraries are a guide, the venture will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Marty Nesbitt, a Chicago businessman and Obama friend who served as treasurer for his first presidential run, is closely involved, while former White House communications director Anita Dunn is expected to handle the press component.

Tom Apple, the chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said he understands Obama’s reluctance to discuss his hopes for a future library this early. Apple recalled a conversation years earlier when he was University of Delaware provost and pitched Joe Biden on building a “Biden Center” at the vice president’s alma mater.

“He was the vice president, so he said, ‘I can’t engage in any of that while I’m sitting. So go forward, try to do all these great things, but we have to wait until I’m out of office until we can do any of these kinds of things formally,”’ Apple said.

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