CHICAGO — When Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in September he would not run for another term, the clock started ticking on his agenda — and he has repeatedly vowed to resist becoming a lame duck for as long as possible by “running through the tape.”
As aldermen gather Wednesday for the first City Council meeting after the Feb. 26 election that ensured Chicago’s next mayor will be an African American woman, Emanuel is set to cross off several high-profile items on his final to-do list that will tie his successor’s hands.
Aldermen are set to approve the $6 billion Lincoln Yards development that promises to transform formerly industrial land along the North Branch of the Chicago River into a new neighborhood of 6,000 new apartments, condominiums, shops and offices.
The project relies on a $900 million subsidy, set to be generated by the 168-acre Cortland and Chicago River Redevelopment tax increment financing district (F2018-72).
That measure is set to be introduced to the full City Council Wednesday, setting up a vote on the subsidy in April at one of the last City Council meetings of the 2015-19 term — and Emanuel’s final chances to preside over the City Council chambers.
Both Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle have called on aldermen to delay the project until after a new mayor is sworn in — but Emanuel and his allies have rejected those demands. Instead, they have cast the project as critical to ensure Chicago’s economy remains robust as the city transitions from its industrial past into the future.
Lightfoot and Preckwinkle have also called for aldermen to block final approval of the Emanuel-backed plan to spend another $85 million to build a new training facility for Chicago police and fire departments.
The project has the endorsement of the Zoning and Budget committees, so Tuesday’s action by the Budget and Government Operations Committee means the land-use approval (O2019-374) as well as the contract (O2019-1154) for AECOM are set for final votes by the City Council on Wednesday.
Despite fierce protests from the No Cop Academy coalition, Emanuel has insisted that plans for the facility move forward to address concerns laid out by the U.S. Justice Department in its 2016 investigation of the Chicago Police Department. It found officers that graduate from the five-month academy were “unprepared to police lawfully and effectively.”
Building the training facility on the long vacant 30-acre site at 4301 W. Chicago Ave. will breathe new life and bring “jobs, additional resources and hope” to West Garfield Park, local Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said.
In addition to defending the project on its merits, Mitts was one of three aldermen to defend aldermanic privilege, which gives each alderman the final decision over projects in his or her ward, and insist her colleagues follow her lead.
“You take care of your business, and I’ll take care of mine,” Mitts said.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) made much the same argument during the contentious hearings over Lincoln Yards development. The proposed subsidy will build urgently needed new sidewalks, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
“We can’t wait any longer,” Hopkins said. “We need to act now.”
Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) called a plan (R2018-1394) to grant Hilco Development a 12-year, $19.7 million tax break to build a distribution center in Little Village on what was the Crawford coal-burning power plant “a local matter in the 22nd Ward where we’ve taken this debate at heart and decided that the investment and the repurposing of this vacant site to a site that will be creating these jobs is a much better use than just leaving it vacant” in the face of opposition from environmentalists.
But Emanuel was not able to run the table on his bucket list in the days leading up to Wednesday’s City Council meeting, as aldermen balked at the bulk of the mayor’s proposed ethics reform package introduced in the wake of a federal attempted extortion charge filed against Ald. Ed Burke (14th) in January. Part of the holdup was over how aldermen can control zoning matters in their own wards.
With two months left in his term, Emanuel still faces some big obstacles in his push to wipe the slate clean, including his push to lay the groundwork for the city to borrow $10 billion to start paying down the city’s pension debt. A $276 million bill will come due in 2020 for the city’s police and fire pensions, while the city is obligated to pay an additional $310 million into the city’s municipal and laborers pension funds in 2022.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) — an ally of the mayor — declared another of Emanuel’s pet projects dead — the effort to build an express train to the Loop from O’Hare Airport. That project is also opposed by Lightfoot and Preckwinkle.
But Beale said it was stopped in its tracks for another reason — Emanuel’s so far unsuccessful effort to extend the Red Line South to 130th Street.
“There will be no mass transit project city until that happens, I can assure you,” Beale said.
Aldermen will also take a final look at issuing up to $850 million in general obligation bonds next month to finance the city’s 2018 and 2019 Capital Improvement Program, aldermanic menu and equipment purchases.
In addition to helping pay for the new police and fire training academy, the city’s $780 million plans (O2019-1156) include dozens of Americans with Disability Act upgrades, $14 million for the riverwalk streetscape, $168 million for aldermanic menu spending in 2018 and 2019, and $171 million for the city’s SMART Lighting program.
In addition, the city is spending $7.2 million for road engineering around another key Emanuel agenda item — the Obama Presidential Center. The city will not recoup those costs, but the state will cover future costs, budget spokesperson Kristen Cabanban said.
The ordinance provides the authority to issue debt not beyond 30 years.
Emanuel will stay true Wednesday to his oft-quoted mantra handed down by Daniel Burnham and continue making no little plans.
In return for $77 million earmarked for transportation improvements over nine years, Lyft would bank the revenues from the program up to $20 million, with the city getting 5 percent of anything over that level, according to the mayor’s office.
The mayor is set to introduce a measure that will give Lyft, Inc. authority to run the Divvy bike-sharing system. With the approval of the City Council, the system — now operated by Motivate International Inc., which is owned by Lyft — would expand to serve the entire city within three years with a $50 million investment in new bikes, stations and hardware.
Aldermen are also set to approve a number of items:
- O2019-626; O2019-1150 — A redevelopment agreement for the Uptown Theater as well as a Class L tax incentive for the $75 million project, which is set to get $3 million in Adopt-A-Landmark funds as well as $13 million from the Lawrence/Broadway Tax Increment Financing District.
- O2019-1050 — A redevelopment agreement for the Congress Theater, which includes $8.85 million in tax-increment financing funds.
- R2018-1151 — A measure from Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) that would require committee meetings be streamed starting Sept. 30.
- Three police misconduct settlements — $248,000 for a woman who said she was beaten by Chicago Police after the planned March 2016 Donald Trump rally at the UIC Pavilion; $275,000 for a man who alleged officers fabricated evidence against him during an August 2011 arrest by planting a gun and cocaine in the car he was in during a traffic stop; and $5.25 million to a man who said he was tortured by disgraced Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge
- O2019-476 — An agreement to use $1.84 million in TIF funds to renovate Foreman High School at 3235 N. LeClaire Ave.
- O2019-336 — A measure from Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) to crack down on advertising stickers plastered all over light poles, traffic signals, signs and bicycle racks as part of “guerilla-marketing” campaigns designed to go viral.
- O2018-9323 — A measure to require additional radiation monitoring during construction in Streeterville or at the former Michael Reese Hospital site in Bronzeville, where radioactive elements have been found under the surface.
- O2019-289 — A measure that would require private firms to get a city permit before removing graffiti by sandblasting, grinding or using a chemical wash.
- O2019-1151 — A Class C tax credit for Tennis Corporation of America and Columbia Equities LLC to redevelop once-polluted land at 2427 N. Elston Ave. and 2480 N. Elston Ave.
- O2018-9438 — A measure to align city and county ethics filing dates and to hold appointed city officials to the same sexual harassment standards as aldermen.
- O2019-286 — New rules for the city’s farmers markets that would require vendors to pay a new $15 permit per day per 10-foot by 10-foot space for booths at markets outside the Central Business District. [Our coverage]
- O2019-287 — New rules for the Maxwell Street Market at 800 S. Des Plaines St. [Our coverage]
- O2019-351 — The sale of 825 S. Kilpatrick Ave. to The Will Group, Inc. for $332,250. The developer plans to build an approximately 60,000 square foot, $5 million manufacturing facility. [Our coverage]
- O2019-1152 — An agreement with UST to lease a hangar at O’Hare Airport. [Our coverage]
- O2019-312, O2019-311, O2019-316, O2018-9334 — Measures to lift bans on packaged liquor sales in the 21st, 28th, 40th, and 47th Wards.
- O2019-9023; O2019-9025 — Two measures from Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) that would ban Airbnb or other home-sharing services from setting up shop in 44th and 47th precincts of his ward.
- O2019-292 — A measure to reimburse the Chicago Park District with $32,402 in Open Space Impact Fee Funds for purchasing land at 4658 N. Virginia Ave. for Jacob Park.
- O2019-923 — A measure to allow the Chicago Board of Education to use $100,000 in Open Space Impact Fee funds for playground, multi-sport and parking improvements at A.N. Pritzker School at 2009 W. Schiller St.
- A2019-6 — The appointment of Rich Guidice as the head of the Office of Emergency Management Communications. [Our coverage]
- A2019-5 — The appointment of Christopher Wheat as member of Community Development Commission.
- A2019-7, A2019-11, A2019-12, A2019-13 — The appointment of Christy George as chairwoman of Chicago Emergency Telephone System Board, and Susie Park, Jonathan H. Lewin, Annette Nance-Holt to serve on the board.
- A2019-15 — The appointment of Charles C. Brown to the Low Income Housing Trust Fund Board.