Grassroots Collaborative – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 Violence prevention: Corporate charity or citizenship? http://www.newstips.org/2013/02/violence-prevention-corporate-charity-or-citizenship/ Thu, 21 Feb 2013 22:41:21 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6978 Last year, community groups called on Mayor Emanuel and the business community to match the fundraising they did for the NATO Summit to fund youth programs in the neighborhoods.

Now, under the glare of national publicity for Chicago’s ongoing epidemic of violence, Emanuel has decided to deploy his famous fundraising skills to gather $50 million in corporate donations for violence prevention programs over the next five years.

Certainly, every effort to bring resources to desperate communities is welcome.  (And it’s churlish to point out that these folks raised nearly $50 million for NATO in a few weeks.) But is charity a substitute for good citizenship?

The Grassroots Collaborative is pointing out that Emanuel’s choice to co-chair the campaign heads a company that is profiting from controversial interest rate swaps that cost the city and the schools tens of millions of dollars a year.

Jim Reynolds is CEO of Loop Capital, which according to GC, has made $100 million in five interest rate swap deals with the city and CPS since 2005.

Interest rate swaps — also called “toxic rate swaps” by critics — are one of the wonderfully innovative financial products developed in the run-up to the financial crash a few years ago.  They provide set interest rates to cover variable returns on public bond deals.

Cost Chicago $72 million a year

But since the crash, the Fed has kept interest rates near zero, while local governments are locked into interest rates of 3 to 6 percent.  That costs Chicago $72 million a year; CPS loses $35 million a year on the deals, according to GC. (CTU has protested this arrangement.)

While applauding their “charity work,” GC notes, “Chicago business leader must address their role in creating the lack of resources for youth and communities in the first place.  They must stop gouging taxpayers and renegotiate these toxic deals.”

“The solution doesn’t end with short-term donations,” notes GC.  It requires “renegotiating our local governments’ relationship with Wall Street, and getting our economy back on track.”

The toxic rate swaps are just the tip of the iceberg.  The millions of dollars of TIF subsidies going to the corporations that will be donating to the mayor’s fund should be considered too.

If Emanuel wants the business community to step up, he could reverse his phaseout of the head tax, which brought the city $40 million a year.  (It was called a “job killler,” but there’s no evidence for that — the $4 per employee per month amounted to about 25 cents an hour.  And it was one of the only revenue measures that captured a smidgeon of the estimated $30 billion earned in Chicago by residents of the suburbs each year.)

Corporate tax avoidance

Emanuel is expanding summer youth employment, though the number of jobs available will still be a fraction of what it was in previous decades.  He points out that federal funding has dropped precipitously, and the state has been unable to fund a summer youth jobs program established by the legislature.  Maybe the fact that half the state’s corporations don’t pay any income tax — and that Illinois leads the nation in a number of economically pointless business deductions — needs to be looked at.

Instead of paying the taxes they should, Emanuel’s corporate donors will most likely get a tax deduction.

There’s a steady shifting of public functions to the private sector taking place under Emanuel. Economic development is being outsourced to World Business Chicago, public finance to the Infrastructure Trust, public education to charter operators. Now the corporate sector has to step up to provide funding for youth services because the city can’t.

Behind the austerity agenda that Emanuel has enthusiastically embraced lies the contention that the city is broke, the state is broke.  But of course, the money is out there.  We’re in the middle of an economic recovery with soaring corporate profits and intractable unemployment. But with our regressive revenue system, we’re taxing the people at the bottom — the people who are losing ground — twice as heavily as those at the top.

It’s perfectly encapsulated in the story Ben Joravsky tells of the fireman who responds to Emanuel’s teasing about pension cuts by asking the mayor why he doesn’t support a financial transaction tax.   (In response, Emanuel sputters.)

Money for friends

The shift from the public sector, of course, involves a shift away from transparency and accountability.  When Emanuel was disbursing leftover NATO funds to neighborhood programs, trotting from press conference to press conference, “there wasn’t much transparency in how the programs were chosen,” said Eric Tellez of GC.  And it looked like a lot of the money was spent in ways that helped the mayor’s allies, including charter schools, he said.

The communities where Chicago’s young people are being shot down have been devastated by the loss of manufacturing jobs, devastated by foreclosures, devastated by “lock-em-up” policies that offer few avenues of hope for ex-offenders.  They’ve been devastated by racism and inequality.

As Salim Muwakkil says, what they need is nothing short of a Marshall Plan, the kind of massive investment program with which the U.S. revived Europe after World War II.

That’s hard to imagine in this day and age.  Politicians like Emanuel are products of the era of the “taxpayer revolt” and reflect all of its assumptions.

But there are signs that era is drawing to a close.  In California — which launched the era in 1978 with Proposition 13, capping sales taxes and requiring two-thirds legislative majorities to raise taxes — voters in November approved a measure hiking the sales tax and raising income taxes on the wealthy.  The alternative, quite simply, was fiscal disaster.  Tea Party-backed anti-tax measures went down to defeat in Florida and Michigan.

What Chicago and Illinois desperately need — what Chicago’s young people desperately need — is a turn back in the direction of fairness and broad-based, inclusive prosperity.

]]>
Public left out of Emanuel’s budget http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/public-left-out-of-emanuels-budget/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/public-left-out-of-emanuels-budget/#comments Fri, 05 Oct 2012 00:02:17 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6681 A Sun-Times headline from last August may be the crux of the matter:  “Rahm hears boos at budget chat.”

Rahm will hear no boos this year.

With virtually no notice from the media, Mayor Emanuel has sharply reduced public participation in the city’s budget process and completely eliminated public information about his budget proposal.

For over 30 years, the city has held open public hearings on the mayor’s proposed budget.  Emanuel has ended that, substituting closed sessions with specially-selected groups.

And while Mayor Daley always released his draft budget in August, Emanuel has released nothing – not even the standard update on expenses and revenues for the second quarter of the year.

On Wednesday, a delegation representing dozens of community and labor groups delivered an open letter to Emanuel calling on him to “release a proposed budget immediately and schedule public town hall meetings to ensure that our communities are involved in all steps of [the budgeting] process.”

“The Mayor’s shift away from community participation is not only a dramatic break with precedent, but also directly contradicts his campaign promise to create ‘the most open, accountable and transparent government that the city of Chicago has ever seen,'” said Elizabeth Parisian of Stand Up Chicago, one of the groups signing the letter.

“I didn’t think anybody could be more closed-door than Daley, but lo and behold, Rahm’s done it,” said Jerry Morrison of SEIU Local 1.  He believes Chicago is now “the only large city in America that has no public process for its budget.”

“Rahm is good on transparency in terms of putting things on the internet,” commented Dick Simpson, a former independent alderman now at UIC.  “He’s not so good on community participation and democracy.”

***

Mayor Harold Washington initiated town hall budget meetings with the 1984 city budget.  “It was very, very important to him,” recalls Alton Miller, Washington’s press secretary and author of “Harold Washington: The Mayor, The Man,” who’s now at Columbia College.  “He filled his administration with people who had spent many years working on issues from the outside, banging on the doors of City Hall, and he said, let’s do it right.

“It was important to him that when budgets were being decided, it wasn’t just an inside deal with a few people at the table but was genuinely informed by what people in the neighborhoods said they needed,” Miller said.  “And the best way to get that was with open town hall meetings where anybody could ask a question or raise an objection or take issue with any of the proposals.”

It was remarkable to witness: any resident could ask anything and get a concrete, substantive answer from the city’s top decision-makers.

And according to Miller, the feedback from the town halls “was funneled into the actual writing of the budgets.”

Daley continued the town halls, though they were pro-forma: his draft budget was never significantly revised, and instead of getting an answer from the commissioners sitting up front, residents with questions or problems would get to confer with an aide off to the side.  Nonetheless, any taxpayer in the city could come and speak his or her mind to the administration, and many did.

“Say this for Daley – he took what came his way,” commented Ben Joravsky.

***

That all changed with Emanuel’s first budget.  The new mayor seemed to prefer a talk-show format.  He’s “going Oprah,” as Joravsky put it.  “It was the Rahm Emanuel Show,” said Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative.

It was tightly controlled, too.  At a town hall at Kennedy King College last August, Emanuel sat on a raised stage with City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, his commissioners filling the first rows of the studio audience.  Rahm did most of the talking.  Hyman read questions from cards that had been filled out by audience members, who were invited to stand while their question was asked and answered.

That’s where the problems started.  Some people weren’t satisfied with the mayoral talking points and tried to engage in a discussion.

“That’s when some of our members got to make some points,” said Patel.  “And that’s when Emanuel couldn’t control it.  And he can’t deal with that, so he’s not going to have any more hearings.”

“Rahm doesn’t like to be questioned,” said Morrison.  “Of course he’s smarter than anybody else.  And clearly he decided he’s not going to have any more of that.”

The small private meetings with friendly groups featured this year are an attempt to give the impression of a public process in a setting he controls, said Simpson.

Press notices for the meetings say “B-roll only,” which means no sound.  They’re essentially photo ops.

Patel said Grassroots Collaborative is encouraging aldermen to hold their own budget hearings.  One problem, of course, is that the budget hasn’t been released yet.

***

Daley released complete line-item draft budgets every August, and civic groups and unions representing city workers could go over them line by line, job by job, and ward by ward, said Don Wiener, a budget analyst who consults for labor groups.

By the time the City Council held budget hearings in October – a two-week process in which each department head submitted to extensive questioning – aldermen were well-versed in the concerns of their constituents.  “There was plenty of opportunity to ask question and suggest changes – and sometime Daley’s people would agree to make changes,” Wiener said.

This year Emanuel is presumably releasing his budget with his October 8 budget address, and the City Council is set to start hearings less than a week later.  It reminds Morrison of the notorious parking meter deal, when aldermen were barely given time to read the contract.

Morrison notes Emanuel has scheduled a special council session at the end of October, and fears he’ll try to ram his budget through then, when most attention — and activism — will be focused on the presidential election.

On top of that, Emanuel’s administration has yet to release budget numbers for the second quarter of this year, which ended three months ago.  “Rahm wants government to be run like the private sector,” said Wiener.  “Well, any publicly-traded corporation issues an earnings report within four or five weeks after the end of the quarter.”

Since Emanuel discussed increased revenues a week ago, “we know the city has the numbers,” said Wiener.  “We know the rating agencies are getting that information, and the financial institutions.”  It looks like the Inspector General, which has offered a menu of budget fixes, is in the loop.

“Everyone knows what Chicago’s budget is — except the citizens of Chicago.”

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/public-left-out-of-emanuels-budget/feed/ 2
Protest to target River Point, LaSalle Central TIF http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/protest-to-target-river-point-lasalle-central-tif/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/protest-to-target-river-point-lasalle-central-tif/#comments Mon, 06 Aug 2012 22:52:28 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6523 The news that the LaSalle Central TIF district took in no new revenue last year adds urgency to the demand of community groups that the TIF be shut down, said Eric Tellez of the Grassroots Collaborative.

On Tuesday, community activists will protest the newest LaSalle Central TIF subsidy, $30 million going to finance a plaza inside the planned River Point office development at Lake and Canal.

Starting at 11 a.m. (Tuesday, August 7), they’ll march from Merchandise Mart to the LaSalle Street district for a press conference and rally, and they’ll leaflet at a business owned by one of River Point’s developers.

They say “giving property tax dollars to wealthy developers to build in prosperous areas is not an effective strategy” for economic development – especially when basic services are being cut in the city’s neighborhoods.

In July, the annual TIF report from County Clerk David Orr revealed that annual TIF revenue in Cook County has declined 18 percent since the housing crash in 2007, and that LaSalle Central was among nine TIF districts with no revenue last year.

If that trend were to continue, the city could be forced to transfer funds from other TIF districts to pay for existing commitments downtown.  LaSalle Central TIF agreements involve multimillion-dollar subsidies to corporations including Miller-Coors, Ziegler Co., Accretive Health Inc., NAVTEQ, and United Airlines, which is collecting a $24 million handout.

Grassroots Collaborative is calling for shutting down the LaSalle Central TIF.  That would mean approving no new subsidies, and once current obligations were met, returning new property tax revenue to the city, schools, and other taxing bodies from which it is being diverted, Tellez said.

Earlier this year, the group successfully pressured CME to return $15 million to the LaSalle Central TIF and sponsored a budget amendment to capture TIF surplus that may have helped persuade Mayor Emanuel to declare a $60 million TIF surplus.

In July, Grassroots Collaborative delivered a letter to Emanuel asking him to withdraw the River Point subsidy and wind down the LaSalle Central TIF.

Emanuel has so far failed to implement the proposals of his TIF reform task force, Tellez said.  (Illinois PIRG recently reported that the city is still failing to track TIF-related job creation promises).  And, he adds, Emanuel has completely ignored his campaign pledge to stop spending TIF money in wealthy areas, Tellez said.

“These deals are not worth it,” he said. “On the one hand we are giving this money to corporations that don’t need it, and then we’re putting Chicago taxpayers on the hook for it” should TIF revenues continue to falter.

They’re hoping their protests will ultimately save taxpayers money by raising the political costs for corporations receiving TIF subsidies.

“We want to discourage corporations that don’t really need this help at all to not be greedy and not go after the money,” Tellez said.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/protest-to-target-river-point-lasalle-central-tif/feed/ 3
Not NATO’s kind of town http://www.newstips.org/2012/05/not-natos-kind-of-town/ Wed, 23 May 2012 00:17:25 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6242 Mayor Emanuel is congratulating himself for a successful NATO summit – successful mainly because no disasters occurred, though the only real threats seem to have been those manufactured by police.

No doubt the black bloc is also congratulating itself that day-after front pages carried pictures of scuffles with police, rather than veterans returning their medals with members of Afghans For Peace looking on, certainly the most moving and meaningful drama of the weekend.

What would a real accounting of the summit’s costs and benefits look like?

“Obama projects desired image,” the Sun-Times titles one story, but the summit itself had some signal failures.  Two major goals – getting commitments from member states to fund the next phase of the war in Afghanistan, and reopening supply routes through Pakistan – did not pan out.

The protests cast a long shadow over Obama’s attempt to play the summit as a withdrawal from Afghanistan for the domestic audience (while lining up support from other countries for continuing operations).

Unfortunately for Emanuel’s legacy, the “Chicago Accord” that he was boasting last week would be signed at the summit – an agreement on how to proceed on Afghanistan – wasn’t to be, Rick Rozoff of Stop NATO points out.

Even the summit’s biggest actual accomplishment – the announcement that NATO’s missile defense system is going online – comes with no noticeable benefit and at great cost: major tensions with Russia, whose cooperation is needed for the alternative supply route to Afghanistan, Rozoff says.

He points out that the announcement included new plans for satellite technology, which he calls a fulfillment of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars dreams, and a dangerous and costly step toward the militarization of space.

Largest anti-NATO protest ever

Meanwhile, NATO was subject to a great deal of negative attention – and Chicago hosted the largest anti-NATO demonstration in the entire history of the alliance, Rozoff said.

(Four city blocks – a half mile – of marchers filling four lanes of State Street probably amounts to two or three times the police/media estimate of 3,000 protestors.)

And there’s renewed attention to the obscene amounts the U.S. and NATO nations spend on armaments.  This at a time when suffering from a lingering economic crisis continues to grow, when cities and states are mired in crisis and slashing public services – and while Obama’s defense secretary is opposing relatively minor spending cuts agreed to in last year’s budget deal.

The media tends to see the protestors as bearing a confusing mish-mash of causes.  But listen to them and you see that they are all connected on a fundamental level. At the Grant Park rally on Sunday, speaker after speaker tied issue after issue to the question of war and militarization.

N’Dana Carter of the Mental Health Movement pointed out that there are 30,000 Illinois National Guard members returning from war who have no access to VA care – and if Emanuel succeeds in closing mental health centers, “there will be no one to take care of them.”

“As long as there is war and poverty, there will be immigrants,” said Tania Unzueta of the Immigrant Youth Justice League.  “And long as there are deportations, there will be resistance,” she said, excoriating Obama for stepping up deportations to unprecedented levels.

“I’m angry because the people in power haven’t been listening to us,” said Angela Walker with ATU Local 998, representing Milwaukee bus drivers.  “We have been demanding an end to these wars for a decade and we’re still there.

“I stand in solidarity with the rights of Afghan women – their rights are not debatable,” she said.  “I am a union worker in Wisconsin – our rights are not debatable.”

Declared Walker: “I’m here because there should not be a single homeless veteran in this country.”

Protests target Emanuel too

Mayor Emanuel also came in for a lot of negative attention.  Many protestors’ signs targeted the mayor; one said “Donate Rahm to Afghanistan.”  Rocker Tom Morello taunted the mayor at the nurses’ rally Friday.  A huge, colorful, spirited crowd marched on his home Saturday, bringing more notice to his draconian mental health cuts, under the banner of “Health Care Not Warfare.”

The larger disparities and inequities in the city did not entirely escape attention, either.  Reporting on Grassroots Collaborative’s “Real Chicago” bus tour, the Guardian noted the irony of NATO promising “peace through security” in a city where, in minority neighborhoods, “neither exists.”  Murders are up in Chicago by 50 percent over last year (the city’s rate is nearly twice as high as New York’s), and insecurity correlates closely with race and poverty.  One third of African American residents live in poverty; black infant mortality is “on a par with the West Bank,” and black life expectancy in Chicago is lower than Egypt’s.

One wonders how Emanuel’s backers – the CEOs who donated millions from their corporate coffers to finance this extravanza – feel about the idea now.  Monday morning’s headlines did nothing to burnish the city’s reputation.  The $128 million that summit boosters said would be injected into the city’s economy turned out to be a figment of their imagination.  Downtown restaurants actually reported a “slump.”

And Monday, host committee donor Boeing was shut down by protestors highlighting its arms production and its tax evasion – a level of attention the corporation has avoided during its years in Chicago.  Might Boeing and others like it have been just as happy to have the summit somewhere else?

Expect the next NATO summit to be far, far away.  Perhaps, next time, at an undisclosed location.

]]>
What about the neighborhoods? http://www.newstips.org/2012/05/what-about-the-neighborhoods/ Wed, 16 May 2012 20:38:10 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6201 The Grassroots Collaborative is offering visiting journalists bus tours of working-class neighborhoods struggling with violence, foreclosures, and clinic closings — and they’re questioning the millions of dollars being spent on entertainment at the NATO summit.

Buses leave from the Hyatt Regency at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 17 and 18, and return by 11 a.m.  Information is at thegrassrootscollaborative.org.

Thursday’s tour will cover Little Village, one of the city’s largest Latino neighborhoods, where community groups are working to address youth violence; and Back of the Yards, where one of six mental health centers recently closed by the city is located.

(The two clinics primarily serving Latino communities were closed, as were four of six South Side clinics, and half the bilingual staff was laid off, all to save $3 million.  Having been repeatedly rebuffed in attempts to hold meetings with city officials – including a City Council hearing blocked by the mayor– the Mental Health Movement is planning to march on Mayor Emanuel’s home on Saturday morning.)

Friday morning’s tour will cover Englewood, a poor African-American community hard hit by foreclosures and violence, and Brighton Park, where low-income Latino residents are developing community schools.

Grassroots Collaborative, a citywide coalition of labor and community organizations, is questioning the priorities of spending millions of dollars to host the NATO summit while the city shuts down clinics and schools, said Eric Tellez.

On another level, he said, NATO spends billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars while poverty and unemployment “devastates communities across the country” and “the global poor fall deeper into poverty.”

Party fund

Last month the coalition called on World Business Chicago, which is raising money to host NATO, to donate comparable sums to establish a Neighborhood Jobs Trust.  In recent statements, the group is focusing on the $14 million being spent on parties for the summit.

“Spending $14 million on food and wine and music just seems evil and sinful when you have kids in this neighborhood who have no place to play, when you have parents keeping their children inside after school because they’re afraid of gun violence,” said Pastor Victor Rodriguez of La Villita Church in Little Village, a leader in Enlace Chicago.

To visiting journalists he says, “I would ask them to ask somebody if it’s fair to spend $14 million on parties when organizations are looking for $600 to buy new equipment so that 120 kids can stay off the streets for a year.”

Emanuel has “cut the head tax for the corporations and then the corporations turn back around in a deal and donate to support NATO coming here,” says Charles Brown, a 43-year resident of Englewood and a leader with Action Now.  “Well the people that are going to profit from NATO coming here…it’s going to be the corporations.

“Will you treat us the way that you’re treating NATO, spend $14 million on us and put forth a program to help the people that are struggling and suffering?  So that we won’t tear down any more homes, so that we’ll start preserving them, so that the banks will start paying their fair share and giving back to the 99 percent that made all of this possible?”

“Our elected officials time and time again take the podium and pound their fists and say it’s about the kids, it’s about the kids,” said Rodriguez.  “I think that about 10 percent of that $14 million would do so much good here in our community.”

 

 
Pastor Victor Rodriguez, Enlace Chicago, Little Village:

Charles Brown, Action Now, Englewood:

Sonovia Petty, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Austin:

]]>
Questions remain on infrastructure trust http://www.newstips.org/2012/04/questions-remain-on-infrastructure-trust/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/04/questions-remain-on-infrastructure-trust/#comments Sun, 15 Apr 2012 21:53:07 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6062 Illinois PIRG is calling on aldermen not to approve Mayor Emanuel’s infrastructure investment trust without more public safeguards, and the Grassroots Collaborative is urging a “no” vote on the proposal.

Leaders of community groups and union members in Grassroots Collaborative will hold a press conference Monday, April 16 at 9:30 a.m. on the 2nd floor of City Hall to call on aldermen to vote against the ordinance establishing the trust.

The council’s finance committee holds at hearing on the ordinance at 10 a.m. Monday.

Emanuel’s new tweaks to the ordinance go just partway to addressing the groups’ concerns.  “He’s dealing with the easy stuff,” said Celeste Meiffren of Illinois PIRG.

PIRG has called for far more stringent conflict-of-interest protections than Emanuel has offered: “Members of the board of directors should be free from conflicts of interest and instead should represent Chicagoans as primary stakeholders,” Meiffren writes in a blog post.

She calls for requiring board members to divest from any holdings in companies doing business with the city and in banks investing in the trust, and to agree not to work for them for a period after serving on the board.

As it stands the board looks to be comprised of CEOs and CFOs who will be “controlling taxpayer assets” and “accountable to nobody,” Meiffren said.

She doesn’t think putting an alderman on the board “solves the problem.”  She’d like to see watchdog groups represented on a board structured so that business leaders had a purely advisory role.

More bad backroom deals

Beyond that are larger concerns about the purpose of the trust.  “The ordinance is so vague that worst-case scenarios are really possible,” said Meiffren.

PIRG says the trust should be specifically committed to getting the best deal for the city and taxpayers rather than investors; and each deal should be subject to an independent evaluation to make sure that happens.

“There’s nothing in the ordinance that would prevent another bad backroom deal from happening,” Meiffren said.  “We have a history of bad deals, so we need to go above and beyond to ensure that taxpayers aren’t ripped off again.”

She cites the one project Emanuel has specified for the trust: a $225 million effort to retrofit city buildings for energy efficiency.  “Why can’t we do that with municipal bonds, which will get us a much better interest rate?” she asks.

“Instead of just going to private investors every time, we need a mechanism for determining what the best deal is – that evaluates every deal against other options,” she said.  “Nothing here does that.”

While the city does have a large debt load, its bond rating remains strong, and it continues to issue bonds:  last October Chicago issued over $400 million in general obligation bonds and $330 million in sales tax revenue bonds.

Who will pay?

Grassroots Collaborative is concerned that low- and middle-income communities will be shortchanged by the trust, said Eric Tellez.

“We’ve seen the TIF program focus resources downtown,” he said.  “With (infrastructure trust) investors’ goal to make money,” they could also concentrate on downtown and wealthy areas, he said.

And user fees to pay back private investors could hurt moderate-income residents.  “It injects a profit-making factor into public assets,” Tellez said.

“It could open the gate to [creating] revenue-generating streams for public services,” he said. “Will we have to pay to go to the park?  Will higher fares prevent people from getting to work?”

Such concerns are fed because “we haven’t been given any details,” he said.  “The actual proposal doesn’t have a lot of clarity.”

The trust could also “create a union-busting environment” if there’s pressure to cut labor costs in order to pay back investors, he said.

The Illinois Coalition to Protect the Public Commons has also come out against the deal. “It is too big, too vague, too secretive and too unaccountable,” said Lora Chamberlain of Illinois Citizens for Public Banking, a coalition member.

“We don’t put money into a farebox to make some guy rich,” said Charles Paidock of Citizens Taking Action, a group of public transit-dependent residents.

As the Emanuel administration stretches for the most creative and innovative solutions to the city’s financial situation, it’s worth noting that these often entail higher risk.  One innovative approach in recent years was the variable-rate bond issued by many municipal entities.  The costs of these deals have been much higher than anticipated.

Chamberlain cautions that the trust should offer investors revenue sharing rather than dedicated revenue streams, an approach that has gotten some European countries into deep trouble.

Her group offers a much more conservative approach: a public infrastructure bank.  It would leverage a portion of the city’s TIF surplus to fund infrastructure projects, but the rate of return would be kept relatively low and the city would retain control over public assets.

Their model is the Bank of North Dakota, the nation’s only state-owned bank, created during a populist upsurge in 1919.  BND holds the state’s deposits, lends to small banks in the state, and sends half its profits back to state coffers. It’s part of the reason North Dakota has no deficit.

On the other hand, there’s lots of money out there looking for public investments right now – especially as big financial firms back off trading under pressure from new regulations.

They’re looking for the safety of public investments and hoping for something approaching the high profit rates they got used to during the boom, said Tellez.  “They want to have their cake and eat it too,” he said.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/04/questions-remain-on-infrastructure-trust/feed/ 2
G8 summit funds for jobs? http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/g8-summit-funds-for-jobs/ Tue, 06 Mar 2012 01:55:39 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5979 World Business Chicago, recently tasked with raising $65 million to host the G8 summit, is off the hook for that – and 50 community leaders with Grassroots Collaborative will call on WBC leaders to realign their fundraising prowess to raise $100 million for local employment geared toward neighborhood safety, Tuesday, March 6, 10 a.m., at WBC’s offices, 177 N. State.

]]>
Coalition questions G8 costs, calls for community investment http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/coalition-questions-g8-costs-calls-for-community-investment/ Thu, 01 Mar 2012 19:36:23 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5962 Costs for the G8/NATO summit in May could be much higher than current projections from the city, according to a labor-community coalition which is calling for a Chicago G8/NATO Community Fund.

“We think that $65 million is very, very, very low, and based on the experience of other host cities, the actual cost is going to be much higher,” said Elizabeth Parisian, a researcher with Stand Up Chicago.

She said the 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, ended up costing over $1 billion, the bulk of which went to security costs. Costs of housing, transportation and entertainment totaled about $180 million, she said.

Like the upcoming summit, the 2010 G8 was a joint summit (that year it was with the G20), and as expected for the upcoming summit, there were big protests.

Stand Up Chicago is working on developing a more detailed independent cost estimate, Parisian said, but getting information is difficult.

“There’s been no transparency from the city,” she said, adding that “we need to know how much it’s going cost and who’s contributing.”

Last week the Chicago Reader reported that a $55 million federal grant described by officials last year as funding planning for summit security training is actually a routine grant that supports the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Security cost estimates will not be released before the summit, OECM told the Reader.

Funding for community needs

In a letter to Mayor Emanuel last week, community, labor, and civil rights groups asked him to call on corporations contributing to the summit host committee to provide matching donations to a community fund “which can be used to keep libraries and mental health clinics open, as well as to provide direct investment in Chicago’s many struggling neighborhoods.”

Six mental health clinics are slated for closing in April for a cost savings of $2 million. Library hours were recently cut in order to save $1 million.

“At a time when our city is experiencing a serious budget deficit and facing record unemployment, record foreclosures, record poverty, and drastic cuts to services, it is negligent to direct such a large sum of money to a weekend-long event that benefits the 1 percent without also ensuring that a similar sum is invested in Chicago’s 99 percent — our communities,” according to the letter.

It calls on Emanuel to seek federal funds equivalent to federal summit spending to support community programs here.

A release from Stand Up Chicago includes statements from leaders of several groups that signed on to the letter:

Rev. Calvin S. Morris, Community Renewal Society: “The G8 Summit presents an opportunity for our mayor and business leaders to demonstrate that Chicago is a world-class city that, foremost, invests in its social infrastructures and the upward mobility of its residents, especially poor people.”

Amisha Patel, Grassroots Collaborative: “At the drop of a hat, Mayor Emanuel can raise $60 million for the global elite, and yet our neighborhoods suffer from unsafe vacant buildings, gun violence, and skyrocketing unemployment. Instead of throwing a party for the 1 percent, the mayor and corporate Chicago should be creating jobs for the 99 percent — jobs to clean up abandoned housing, jobs to keep school children safe, and summer jobs for youth.”

Beatriz Merlos, parent organizer, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council: “This money could go to renovating public spaces like Kelly Park, which has been in disrepair for years, and could fund more youth programs to keep our kids off the streets and out of gangs. And we could put more police in neighborhoods where shootings are reaching staggering levels.”

Rev. C.J. Hawking of Arise Chicago, the faith-based labor rights group: “The 99 percent have been struggling through harsh budget cuts while the city is doling out our tax dollars in corporate welfare to the CME and other World Business Chicago members. And now we’re going to invest millions in events for and by the 1 percent? We’re calling upon the city and World Business Chicago members to make at least an equal investment in the working families of the city.”

Margaret Sullivan, Southside Together Organizing for Power, a client at Beverly-Morgan Park Mental Health Clinic, which is slated for closing, said she broke down in tears thinking about “the comparison between the $2 million we need to save our clinics and the millions of dollars that will go to the insane and insatiable greed surrounding the NATO/G8 summits.”

Stand Up Chicago and other groups are planning protests that will raise these issues during the summit, a spokesperson said.

The city’s press office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

]]>