Pullman National Park? You’ve Gotta be Kidding

Published November 12, 2013

But apparently you’re not. Crain’s recently published“Pullman inching closer to national park status,” an article detailing plans by Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and Rep. Robin Kelly of Chicago to introduce a bill to make Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood a national park. They and local supporters say a national park designation could “bring much-needed funds and development to the neighborhood.”

The article notes the approximately 300 acres of empty factories and occupied bungalows and mansions in the district already have city and national historic landmark status. If these historic landmark designations have failed to generate the economic growth people in the area desire, there’s no good reason to expect economic growth from declaring the area a national park.

Have you ever been to the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois? It’s one of the poorest areas of the state. Yellowstone is America’s greatest national park, but it’s hardly a bastion of economic power and prosperity. Creating a national park doesn’t guarantee sudden wealth. Where there is lots of wealth in or near a national park, nearly all of it would be there without the park.


The article also notes, “Over the past 20 years, the state has spent about $20 million stabilizing and restoring (the vacant Pullman factory and administration complex) without being able to find new uses for them.”

There’s the nub. Illinois state government has nothing to show for its $20 million of spending. The state government is beyond broke and unable to pour more useless millions into Pullman. Chicago’s finances are a mess and likely to worsen, as revealed in the Chicago Tribune’s recent series of articles on the multibillion-dollar borrowing and economic development scams perpetrated during the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley. Rather than face the reality of failed stimulus, Mr. Durbin and company have decided to throw more good money after bad. Unlike the state and city governments, the federal government has a printing press, but even this might not be enough.

“One of the largest obstacles is coming up with enough money to consider this opportunity when we are currently hard-pressed to pay for our existing historic sites,” Crain’s quoted Mr. Durbin saying.

When even he acknowledges the abysmal fiscal situation of the federal government he helps run — and declares the federal government is “hard-pressed to pay for our existing historic sites” — there’s no way a responsible person could endorse creating another federal park to add to the government’s fiscal problems.

Crain’s also quotes a nonprofit community development leader as saying: “The general consensus is the park needs to happen before (President Barack Obama) leaves office,” because that’s where Mr. Obama was a community organizer. “We’re hopeful we can convince him that the park will be part of his legacy.”

Millions for a 300-acre monument to a sitting president is hardly money well-spent.

[Originally published on Crain’s Chicago Business]