On Wednesday, City Council approved two high-profile items left on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s final to-do list before he leaves office: the $6 billion Lincoln Yards development and the $95 million police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park.
With two months left in his tenure, Morning Shift takes a look at what else Mayor Emanuel is trying to lock in before a new mayor is sworn in.
Why did Mayor Emanuel push for Lincoln Yards, the police academy?
David Greising: I think the idea of getting it done while the deal’s there to be done, which really was unnecessary especially in the case of Lincoln Yards. If Sterling Bay, the developer of Lincoln Yards, were to walk — which is highly unlikely — there are other developers that would be happy to step in. That’s a really valuable property on the north branch on the Chicago river, a former steel plant.
On what Mayor Emanuel’s legacy means for his successor
Greising: What’ll be interesting is to see when the next mayor takes over, they have a lot of opportunities to interfere with the speedy development. So even though this deal has moved at breakneck pace, the actual build-out of it and all of the permitting that will needed for it can be very slow-walked for many, many years. And it seems likely that could happen under either Lightfoot or Preckwinkle.
Heather Cherone: The subsidy, the Tax Increment Financing district, hasn’t been approved yet and is set to be approved next month. So there’s going to be a whole other City Council fight next month. And this is even perhaps a bigger lift because you are basically saying whatever tax revenue that this massive 6,000-unit project is going to make for the next 20 years won’t benefit anybody else other than Sterling Bay
Greising: And that TIF fight brings to the surface that question of rich city, poor city and the tax breaks that are given to this Chicago-based developer for the benefit for the people who will be be by and large middle income and higher income residents while in many neighborhoods, there’s no development and TIF money is irrelevant because no one is willing to invest capital there.
Over the next couple of weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Preckwinkle and Lightfoot really zero in on this issue because that’s the vote that will really set the course of economic equity and economic development for years to come.
Rahm’s other priorities, projects that won’t get done
Dan Mihalopoulos: One of the things that’s going under the radar is that for years, Rahm has been trying to get a new management contract for the Port of Chicago … where the ships go down on the southeast side in the Calumet river and Lake Calumet.
I’d also like to mention some things that I think are not going to get done … the express train to O’Hare that would be coming at a premium cost.
Cherone: Alderman Anthony Beale, who represents the far South Side and is a close ally of Rahm Emanuel, said he thought it was dead and that he would in fact move to block it until there is an an agreement to extend the Red Line south to 130th Street, which I think is a much more important project that could have serious economic development impacts on the South Side. That’s also something that Rahm Emanuel tried to get done and wasn’t able to.
Greising: There’s also, and probably more problematic for the new mayor, unfinished business. For example, contracts with police, fire and teachers, the $10-billion pension bond that Rahm said he wanted to sell … at one point, he talked about introducing a constitutional amendment to help facilitate pension reform.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Stephanie Kim. Click “play” to hear the full conversation.
GUESTS: David Greising, president and CEO of the Better Government Association
Heather Cherone, managing editor and city hall reporter at the Daily Line
Dan Mihalopoulos, WBEZ politics reporter
LEARN MORE: Lincoln Yards approved 33-14 as aldermen get personal during debate (The Daily Line 3/13/19)
Emanuel pushes plan to spend $95M on new police, fire training academy through divided City Council (The Daily Line 3/13/19)