<>The nominating period for running for alderman or mayor of Chicago started Tuesday morning. Scott Waguespack (D-32 Ward) is collecting signatures for the city council despite criticizing Mayor Richard Daley and being on the short list of mayoral challengers. Daley’s troubles don’t end with a surging interest among contenders for his job either. Last Sunday IL Rep John Fritchey (D-DePaul West) held a news conference to announce a proposal that would return excess TIF to the taxing bodies. Supporting him were members of the teachers union and the parents coalition Raise Your Hands Coalition. Without going into greater detail about TIFs, there is an estimated $1.1 billion in TIF funds available to be released back to public bodies under the Fritchey proposal. Some of the surplus funds would be released back to schools, about $400 million going back to the Chicago Public Schools according to some estimates. That’s enough to fill next year’s CPS budget gap. Police, fire, Cook County and other government entities that rely on property tax revenue would also see some relief. It is possible the state, which assists some local entities, would be able to apply its revenues to other areas of the state in even greater need than the TIF districts, meaning a lower overall tax increase once the legislature returns to work. The city itself would receive enough funds to fill a sizable portion of its budget hole too. That sounds good, right? Not so fast, Daley has said. Well, no, actually what he said is:
“everybody wants to raid something,” Daley said. “I’m not going to listen to state government for financial advice. I’ll tell you one thing: The city of Chicago should not listen to the federal or state government for financial advice. We would be bankrupt today. We [should] not listen to them, your state senators or representatives. No way. Look what they’ve done with the state budget and now they’re telling us what to do with the city budget. No way.”That extended quote, courtesy of the Chicago News Cooperative, was made in conjunction with the ribbon cutting at our own Chase Park. The Chase used $300K in TIF funds, but much of the funding was from local sources and neighborhood efforts. Under Daley’s Chicago you are supposed to believe these tax revenues will be seized by the State of Illinois and not used for local projects. Daley’s words were aimed at Fritchey’s proposal. It’s hard to know if Daley was speaking tongue in cheek. After all, the city is in the hole for nearly $650 million, has used much of the hated parking meter lease proceeds for tax relief and is facing the perception of an out-of-control gang problem fed by too few police on the street. As Waguespack noted, Daley can hardly point at his stellar financial management of the city. The list of candidates wanting Daley’s job, which just a few months ago seemed limited to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, keeps growing. Fritchey, in making his proposal, asked the media to hold office holders who dismissed his idea accountable. How do they plan to fill the budget hole in the city, schools and county? Of the three wards covered by The Bulldog, it appears only 47th Ward Ald Eugene Schulter (D-North Center) faces opposition. Challenger Ameya Pawar (D-North Center) noted the Fritchey proposal calling for comprehensive TIF reform.
<>The UP North Line reconstruction got off to a rough start Monday, leading to more unwanted press for the project. According to the Chicago Tribune, trains got off to a late start, small trains proceeded larger trains, leading the smaller trains to fill and leaving the larger trains relatively empty. Plus, now the Center for Neighborhood Technology has entered the fray over the $185 million bridge reconstruction project, charging that UP is raising the height of bridges as a benefit to truck traffic. The CNT is also questioning the abandonment of a third set of rails on the line, according to the Tribune. Metra replied that it retains the capacity to recover the third set of rails, but would need to reconstruct retaining walls to do so. That would cost $80 million it told the Trib.
<>The Bulldog may be the only publication asking about the $1.4 million community garden planned for a vacant lot located near Lawrence and Western Ave, but at least Ameya Pawar is listening. In his blog he notes $1.4 million is a lot to spend on a community garden, what are the long-range plans here? To put this in perspective, if each ward in the city was losing the tax base for a similar piece of land and spending this much, the budget hole would be about $70 million smaller. That’s a lot of cops on the street, or firemen protecting our homes that we don’t have because we are funding a garden project. To put it another way, it’s about ten percent of the $655 million city budget hole. Provided the TIF monies used could be released back into the general budget that is (Yes, most would actually go to the schools. Spank us for generalizing. You get the drift.)
<>Real estate: it always seems as if realtors and real estate agents are pushing people to buy or sell NOW! Recent reports indicate more new home starts, falling sales figures, rising rates of mortgage delinquency and according to Eric Rojas, who specializes in the Chicago North Side, a 77 percent increase in multi-unit sales year to year. That of course leads to good value for buyers, according to Rojas. We often refer to Rojas, but this is making a silk purse of a sow’s ear. Yep, if you can find a mortgage there are values. But if you have the cash there may be even better places to invest than real estate.
<>The state budget townhall, hosted by IL Sen Heather Steans and IL Rep Greg Harris was “sobering” according to a well written report in Gay Chicago written by Gary Barlow. Barlow reviewed the presentation and interviewed a number of observers outside the meeting to present a detailed view of why the state seems unable to resolve its budget issues year after year, convicted governor after convicted governor.
<>What sort of Bears fan is IL Sen President John Cullerton? Well, he is considering helping the St. Louis Rams move to an Illinois facility according to KMOX. Suburban Journals gives the historical insight into the long failed history of locating St. Louis teams to Illinois sports facilities.
<>Rick Garcia, a gay activist, claims there are enough votes to pass a marriage equality bill when the legislature returns to work. However the leader of the marriage equality effort in the Statehouse, IL Rep Greg Harris (D-Uptown) is urging caution. “I would like to do this as soon as possible,” said Rep. Greg Harris. “But every member of the General Assembly has two priorities on their mind right now: jobs and the economy, and the terrible state the budget is in,” according to a press release from Statehouse News.
<>Should the Lane Tech Indians be renamed the Gators? For the second time in about a month a small alligator has been pulled from the Chicago River in the area of the school. The Chicago Tribune talks about what it is about stories like that about the Chicago River gator makes interesting. Meanwhile, WGN captured the alligator capture on video.