Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chicago Tuesdays: The 55 promises of Rahm Emanuel

Eric Zorn's crib sheet on our new mayor's promises to Chicago is helpful, I suppose. In that it shortens what Emanuel was releasing to the public as his Chicago pledge to make us such a better city in an abridged version.

But it's still full of lofty pledges. Some good - such as the One Summer Chicago initiative which pledges to work with the County Board President (and best thing to happen in local politics) Toni Preckwinkle "and a broad range of civic, faith, community, and philanthropic leaders" to provide a "wide range of academic, recreational, arts education, jobs, and mentoring programs to a great number of at-risk teens" to reduce summer violence.

There's also this pledge about defeating (ending? I doubt it) food deserts in Chicago.

And then some are... debatable. At best.

Change of Subject: Crib sheet: The 55 promises of Rahm Emanuel
12. Introduce a consolidated, comprehensive capital planning and management process

The best-planned cities develop a 25-year vision and prioritize investments into five-year capital improvement plans using a multitude of investment options, including leveraging private resources and capital. Using this framework, all investments will be maximized and sequenced to reach their full potential and deliver the best value to Chicago. An investment management center will plan, coordinate, and oversee all Chicago infrastructure projects across a multi-year horizon...

Sounds good at first blush, perhaps. Maximizing resources for the best of Chicago. But then you realize that banker Emanuel and his banker pals are talking about further privatizing Chicago's assets for cash-flow purposes.

And then there's the TIF promise:

3. Reform [Tax Increment Financing]

The City will appoint a panel of experts and charge it with developing a policy for how the City invests these funds. The panel will identify return-on-investment performance goals for TIF districts and TIF-funded projects and develop guidelines for TIF transparency, including standards for an annual TIF report and audit, to be made public.
ghettophoto © 2010 basic_sounds | more info (via: Wylio)

Anybody who's been in Chicago long enough and has been paying attention (especially to the writing of Ben Jarovsky of the Chicago Reader) will realize that this promise isn't really any sort of actual reform. Whenever a leader who uses TIF funds talks about making the use of TIF funds public, he doesn't actually mean in a way that the public can actually access and grasp that information. Furthermore, this doesn't seem to offer true reform of the Tax Increment Financing districts, funds, or how they're used. In case you're new to this conversation, a TIF fund was originally intended (or so we're told) to help funnel business into blighted areas.

That hasn't happened. And it probably won't happen. And this promise does nothing to ensure that it would happen. Which is what this is about. The promise only promises to evaluate the ROI. In other words, tens of millions of dollars can - and probably will - still be funneled to the Boeings of Chicago, but the important risks, the risks that may give a chance to the south and west sides, may be deemed too risky until they can find just. the. right. person or developer.

In other words, as far as this promise goes, don't expect to see any real changes. Don't expect hope to come from Team Rahm.

For that, we're on our own.

Though it'd be nice if the local government was actually looking out for the best hopes for us...

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