First, the refinancing of the debt for the City’s acquisition of the Michael Reese Hospital site.
Back in 2009 when Richie Daley was Mayor and he had a dream of bringing Olympic gold to the developers of Chicago, we the taxpayers of Chicago doing business under the name City of Chicago BOUGHT the Michael Reese Hospital to be used for the 2016 Olympics.
The most we should have done in 2009 is bought an option to buy the property IF we got the 2016 games.
But Richie had to outright buy the site and enter into a multi-million dollar contract to demolish the buildings. No biggie, except the site was the only site in this architecturally proud city of buildings designed by Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus. I think one of his still exists but the rest are rubble. ARCHICIDE perpetrated by Daley.
From a press release on the Preservation Illinois website:
“The only hospital building scheduled to remain—at present—is the Singer Pavilion, a 1948 structure co-designed by influential architect Walter Gropius. Seven other Gropius buildings, along with a dozen other structures and landscapes were demolished by PBC (Blogger’s note: this is the Public Building Commission mentioned in my April 10 entry) in late-2009 and early-2010. This action prompted the National Trust for Historic Preservation to call it one of the “worst” preservation stories of 2009. In December 2009, the Illinois Sites Advisory Council (IHSAC) had voted unanimously to forward a National Register nomination for the hospital campus to the National Park Service (NPS). However, this did not prevent the city from undertaking demolition, since no federal funding was involved.”
This digression was just to set the stage for today’s political drama. The current aldermen being asked/told to approve the renegotiation of the debt. Some of them asked questions and they balked and the item was tabled for another meeting.
Too bad a majority of them didn’t balk back in 2009 when we could have avoided buying this site and destroying architecturally significant buildings.
But the REALLY BIG STORY of the day was the five hour long session devoted to the mayor’s ordinance to create an Infrastructure Trust to use private investment in some undisclosed ways to fix our public infrastructure.
Chicago is in bad financial shape. Richie Daley is in good financial shape. These two situations are connected.
The so-called “corruption tax” of the Daley era has been estimated to be in the range of $500 MILLION A YEAR. Well, if you multiple $500 MILLION A YEAR times the number of years in the Daley dynasty (even just the reign of Richie Daley) you have to hear the late Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.”
All those $500 MILLIONS didn’t get used to keep up Chicago’s infrastructure.
So now we are poor and the roof leaks. What to do? Find international financiers to “help” us on terms to be disclosed later, or maybe never, whichever comes first.
Well, some Alderman are asking smart questions about the mayor’s ordinance. And they don’t like the wishy-washy answers coming from the Mayor’s Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Scott.
Ms. Scott and her legal advisors were the only people who presented scheduled formal testimony at this committee meeting on a piece of legislation that would change how infrastructure could be funded.
I found this odd because this ordinance will affect all the sister agencies.
(Quick name them, like the Seven Dwarfs or Santa’s reindeer—Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Park District, City Colleges of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools)
And none of them were there to give testimony.
In my own brief testimony I noted the absence of the other agencies. And opined that there absence must means something.
Nine people provided testimony as members of the public. (I.e. not invited or scheduled by the committee to speak.)
Some of the Aldermen actually asked questions. They quizzed both Emily Miller, Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator for the Better Government Association, and Julie A. Roin, the Seymour Logan Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, about the application of the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act to the proposed ordinance. The answers Ms. Miller and Professor Roin gave conflicted with those of the Mayor’s CFO.
The committee did vote 11-7 to pass the ordinance but there was strong dissent:
Brendan Reilly 42nd;
Leslie Hairston 5th;
Pat Dowell, 3rd;
Lona Lane, 18th;
Willie Cochran, 20th;
Ricardo Munoz, 22nd;
Scott Waguespack, 32nd.
Dissent strong enough to seek to block the ordinance in the full City Council meeting.