The [Friday] Papers
"A onetime top aide to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger was arrested Thursday on charges he pocketed nearly $35,000 in payoffs in return for steering county contracts to several acquaintances willing to make the kickbacks," the Tribune reports.
"The federal charges against Eugene Mullins, Stroger's childhood friend, come nearly two years after another high-ranking Stroger adviser was charged in Cook County in a similar scheme."
The Sun-Times captures Stroger's priceless initial reaction:
"When the Sun-Times informed Stroger that his best friend and long-time confidant had been indicted, the first thing he said was: 'That's too bad because he'll have to spend money on lawyers.'"
Back to the Trib:
"The four individuals who allegedly kicked back money to Mullins - including one executive producer to WVON radio's Cliff Kelley - were also charged in the 12-count indictment unsealed Thursday in federal court. Mullins allegedly steered contracts to two others as well, but both returned the checks after Mullins solicited kickbacks from them, authorities said. Neither was charged and could be key witnesses for the government.
"According to the charges, Mullins intentionally steered contracts worth a little less than $25,000 to the six, knowing that they wouldn't need the approval of the Cook County Board at that level."
"In October 2010, another former top Stroger aide, Carla Oglesby, was charged by Cook County prosecutors with stealing more than $300,000 in taxpayer funds by steering more than a dozen contracts to herself and others who did no work for the money."
To see what a piece of work is a woman named Carla Oglesby, see the item That's Carla!
See also the item Toddler Going Out With A Bang.
CT correspondent Paris Schutz reported that it's not at all a slam dunk that the Trust's first project will be Retrofit Chicago, in which the Trust would hire a private company to make city buildings and facilities more energy efficient and then take their profits from what the city saves in utility bills.
The Tribune reports that half of the $200 million that would be spent on the plan could go to converting city water pumping stations from steam power to electricity.
The real question, then, is this: Couldn't the city do the conversion itself and keep all of the savings?
The theoretical answer is that the city, being broke, would have to borrow the $200 million to fund the project. (Even if the city wasn't broke, it would almost certainly borrow the money in chunks over time instead of getting it all upfront like it would via the investors working through the Trust.) The question then becomes whether paying the money back with interest would come to more or less than the portion of savings the city would pay to a private investor in the form of its profits to do it instead. Without those profits, there is no incentive for a private investor.
For the investor, the revenue stream created by the project - in this case the savings the city would be prepared to hand over - would have to be enough above and beyond the outlay to make it worthwhile profit-wise. What I'm not clear is if the investor would be the contractor, or if an investor would hire the contractor, or if the investor is one of the financial institutions that has already seeded the Trust and the money for the contractor would be taken out of there, paid back at a low interest rate, presumably.
Now, not every project would have to be financed the same way. But that's the general gist of as near as I can tell. The most important aspect is that the only projects that will get funded through the Trust will be those that can generate a profitable revenue stream for the private concern. So the Trust will hardly be the grand solution to all the city's infrastructure ills, as the mayor likes to often intimate. Unless, for example, you start charging a toll on roads where a private company has fixed the potholes, pothole repair won't be part of the Trust. Only a narrow band of infrastructure projects will be able to generate profits. Bridge repair, for example, is likely to be another non-starter.
As far as Wrigley Field goes, the Trust is meant only for public assets. Wrigley Field is a private asset. Maybe the Trust could help finance surrounding neighborhood improvements, but in conjunction with a Wrigley rehab that might also include public money, that's likely to get complicated.
Schutz also spoke to the BGA's Emily Miller, who was at the meeting to monitor transparency and governance issues. Miller essentially said that the mayor's transparency promises are worth the paper they're written on. Which they aren't. Written on. Paper. Anywhere.
And then there's oversight.
"Emanuel aides sought to portray the fight over the inspector general's reach as a non-issue that was settled months ago," WBEZ reports.
"The Mayor has said from the start that he expects the Trust to act to the highest ethical standards and believes the IG already has oversight of Trust projects because of the City funding being used," said Kathleen Strand, an Emanuel spokesperson, in an e-mail. "He's glad to see the board implementing that vision."
That misses the point, which is whether the Trust itself will be subject to oversight from the inspector general. But nice try.
Rewrite: "Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the Emanuel administration, which has promised Trust trasparency but refused to put it in writing, refused to answer questions about inspector general oversight, instead sending a prepared statement via e-mail."
"In a lighter moment at the meeting, Bell explained that despite the commitment to deliberative decisions,'I did make an executive decision. We do have a logo,'" the Tribune report says.
"The logo is a triangle made of up three colored sections that represent all the trust's stakeholders," Bell said, "along with transparency, and is something that looks like a pyramid, which is foundational."
Because the Trib failed to include an image of the logo with its story, I'm going with this until further notice.
Bell then adjourned the meeting because he had to catch a flight to Bilderberg.
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Posted on August 3, 2012
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