Updated 03/01/12 – 3:55 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined his old White House boss, former President Bill Clinton, on Thursday, in announcing a new program to spur private financing to make public buildings more energy efficient.
As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, the new “Chicago Infrastructure Trust” will be funded by five investment firms – Citibank N.A.; Citi Infrastructure Investors; J.P. Morgan Asset Management Infrastructure Investment Group; Ullico; and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, Inc.
The first project will be “Retrofit Chicago,” a $200-$225 million trust fund that will invest in energy-saving retrofits and other projects at public buildings. In many cases, the debt will be paid off through cost savings.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
The goal of the project is to shave $20 million off the city’s $170 million annual spending on energy consumption.
“The downtown Cultural Center will make a … $350,000 investment in energy retrofit, create jobs, and it will pay back $35,000 a year in energy savings,” Emanuel said.
Clinton joined Emanuel in making Thursday’s announcement. His namesake Clinton Foundation has worked with other cities on energy efficiency initiatives.
“What you are doing here is the first, in effect, infrastructure bank, using private capital, that any city in the United States has established,” Clinton said.
Emanuel was once a top advisor for Clinton. He served a second stint at the White House as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff before he returned to Chicago to run for mayor.
Clinton said Emanuel is doing the right thing by setting up private financing for projects that retrofit city buildings to save money and cut down on energy use.
“There’s all this discussion about, ‘Well, we can’t afford to think about these environmental energy problems now, we’ve got to put people back to work.’ That is the way to put people back to work.”
Officials estimated “Retrofit Chicago” would generate nearly 2,000 construction jobs and help the city reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions, equal to removing 30,000 cars from the road.
Clinton campaigned for Emanuel when he ran for Congress in the 1990s and again when Emanuel ran for mayor last year.
“I’ve been honored to work for two great presidents. He (Clinton) has got insights that, every day I’m shocked at the wealth of knowledge, et cetera,” Emanuel told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine in a one-on-one interview Thursday. “We bounce ideas off all the time.”
Asked how their relationship has changed in the 20 years since they worked together at the White House, Emanuel said, “For the first time in life, he’s actually listening to me.”
Though the way Clinton told it, he always listened to Emanuel.
“I liked him, because people said I was too young to run for President, and too ambitious; and Rahm made me look laid back, and passive,” Clinton said.
The way Clinton told it, they were a good match from the start; especially in the White House.
“He was the only person that rivaled me in the number of new ideas that he came up with, that we put into the system,” Clinton said. “He was always concerned about how you could take an idea that was new, like this thing we’re celebrating today, and actually make it work.”
“It’s good to have people thinking, and it’s good to have people talking; but in the end, it’s the doing that makes a big difference,” Clinton added. “Lots of people can think, and even more people can talk than think. Not everybody can do, The doing makes all the difference.”
Emanuel and Clinton were joined by half the City Council, and a host of business, financial and labor leaders involved in the unique partnership to retrofit city infrastructure and put people to work.
Future projects will focus on investments in public transportation, education and utilities.
Emanuel said energy efficiency projects will pay for themselves and other infrastructure projects must do the same.
“Look, there’s gonna be more needs than we can meet. They have to be economic. There cannot be bridges to nowhere. They have to be economic, they have to have a return,” Emanuel said. That could include a premium charge for super-fast broadband service or rapid bus transit routes.
So far, the five investors in the “Chicago Infrastructure Trust” have pledged an investment of more than $1 billion, depending on the specific terms of the individual projects, according to the mayor’s office.