CHICAGO (CBS) — Two massive re-development plans that will transform large sections of Chicago got the green light Wednesday in City Council.
CBS 2 political reporter Derrick Blakley said it happened, in part, because the old mayor and the new mayor cut a deal.
Hundreds packed the hallway outside City Council to protest big tax subsidies for Lincoln Yards and The 78, but Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot had already cut a deal.
“Her people and the mayor’s people have been discussing this thing now for a couple of weeks,” said Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) who is also Chair of the Finance Committee. “I think they’ve come to a point where there’s a tacit agreement, if not a full agreement.”
Lightfoot was in Springfield meeting with Illinois Governor JB Pritzker for the first time as Mayor-elect. But she’d already pressured the Lincoln Yards developers for concessions: 30% of contracts for minorities, 10% for women.
“This is not a goal, this is a mandate,” said 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins. “And there are mechanisms baked into this arrangement now to ensure these targets will be met.”
But opponents insist those guarantees lack teeth.
“I actually read through the document and it is not mandated,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th.) “And there are no penalties. And the few there are, it may be cheaper to just pay them off.”
Lincoln Yards will soak up as much as $900 million in TIF subsidies, creating 6,000 housing units over its 70 acres.
And The 78, a south of the Loop district along the Chicago River, could consume up to $700 million in TIF funds, while creating 13 million square feet of residential and commercial space.
But opponents claim Chicago’s finances are too shaky to give up precious revenues.
“We’re sitting here sequestering more tracts of the most lucrative property in the city of Chicago, in the middle of Lincoln Park, and we’re basically saying we can’t raise money out of that for our budget, that’s wrong-headed,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd.)
Both tax-supported redevelopments overwhelmingly passed, but Lightfoot said she had a stern message for the Lincoln Yards developers.
“Enjoy this moment in the sun because you are never going to get a deal like this again out of the city of Chicago as long as I’m mayor,” Lightfoot said.
It’s highly possible the two projects would have passed council even if Mayor-elect Lightfoot hadn’t signed off. But the agreement for higher participation by minorities and women allows Lightfoot to claim victory on an issue where she may have been flirting with defeat.