CHICAGO — A fight over who gets to decide how to drive tax revenue toward Chicago’s shopping districts is set to be the latest flashpoint in the fight over aldermanic prerogative.
The City Council’s Committee on Economic Development is set on Tuesday to consider the approximately $300,000 budget for the Six Corners Special Service Area (O2019-7765), which is designed to breathe new life into Portage Park’s main shopping district. The Six Corners district was once the busiest outside the Loop but is now pockmarked with empty storefronts.
Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) has proposed changing the SSA’s bylaws to require commissioners to be business owners or property owners within the taxing district’s boundaries — a move that would unseat longtime member Anna Sobor, who lives in nearby Old Irving Park.
A spokesperson for Gardiner said in a statement that he “believes that those who are in decision-making positions on the SSA, have a stake in its operations and pay taxes in the SSA.”
Gardiner’s office denied that he threatened to hold up the budget’s approval until the SSA’s bylaws are changed.
Each Special Service Area across the city levies a special tax on property owners within specific boundaries for services that benefit all businesses, including holiday decorations, trash pickup, security and snow removal.
Sobor told city officials Gardiner’s proposal was designed to unseat her, since she has been a longtime supporter of former 45th Ward Ald. John Arena, whom Gardiner defeated in February.
“I am clearly being targeted,” Sobor said, noting that she would be the only commissioner impacted by the change.
Sobor has also accused Gardiner of attempting to intimidate her during a Nov. 21 meeting of the SSA’s commissioners when she objected to the change.
“At one point late in the meeting, he locked eyes with me and tried to stare me down, for several long minutes,” Sobor wrote to city officials. “This was intimidation. His aggressive behavior was intended to tell me that he didn’t like what I said and he had more power than me.”
However, Gardiner said that accusation was “patently false.”
Sobor said she has not gotten any response from city officials about her complaint.
The bylaws for the Six Corners SSA could be changed at its December meeting — but not before the district’s budget is set to be advanced to the full City Council.
Economic Development Committee Chair Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said Gardiner’s proposal was “interesting.”
Villegas, the mayor’s floor leader, said he urged Gardiner to introduce an ordinance that would change the bylaws for all Special Service Associations.
“I think it is an interesting idea,” Villegas said. “It does make sense because those folks that are actually within the SSA and are actually paying the extra levy actually have skin in the game.”
Villegas said he would ask members of his committee to approve the budget for the Six Corners SSA on Tuesday.
“What we don’t want to do is have politics in the SSAs,” Villegas said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s initial attempt to roll back aldermanic prerogative by executive order changed the way all city departments issued licenses and permits and scheduled items for City Council approval.
Those changes directed officials with the Department of Planning and Development to no longer require an alderman’s support to sign off on Special Service Area commissioner appointments and budgets, but to consult with them.
The budget for the Six Corners SSA is one of 23 budgets for the special taxing districts on the agenda of the Economic Development Committee’s agenda, along with 18 appointments to the various boards that spend those funds.
Aldermen will also weigh three commercial property tax breaks designed to spur development of long vacant, or underused, land and create, or keep, jobs at the Economic Development Committee at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Once the tax breaks are applied, the properties would be assessed at 10 percent of their market value for the first 10 years, 15 percent in the 11th year and 20 percent in the 12th year.
The proposals are:
- O2019-8545 — A Class 6(b) tax break to allow Gentner, LLC to open an art and design studio, a furniture maker and a fabrication business at 2847 W. 47th Place in the 14th Ward.
- O2019-8548 — A Class 6(b) tax break to allow Sangamon Industrial, LLC to renovate an approximately 178,000-square-foot industrial facility near Sangamon and 93rd streets in the 21st Ward that has been vacant for two years.
- O2019-8556 — A Class 6(b) tax break to allow Griffith Foods, Inc. to renovate 84,174-square-foot industrial facility at 4300 S. Morgan St. in the 11th Ward.
The City Council’s Committee on Budget and Government Operations is also set to meet at 10 a.m. Monday to consider a measure (O2019-9121) from Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) that would allow aldermen to use their aldermanic office budget to host document shredding and recycling events, as well as a change in the budget for the Committee on Contracting Oversight and Equity (O2019-9097) chaired by Ald. Carrie Austin (34th).