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The [Tuesday] Papers

Early warning: I'll be on "Hitting Left with Klonsky Brothers" this Friday at 11 a.m., along with Ra Joy of the Lightfoot transition team, among other things. Listen at 105.5 FM or stream it at Lumpen Radio.

Stinkin' Lincoln Yards
Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot told WBEZ this morning that she'll make an announcement today on the next step/s for Lincoln Yards, after a wild day at City Hall on Monday which saw a vote on the controversial project delayed.

If I finish this column before Lightfoot makes that announcement, I'm not planning to come back and update it today, so you'll have to check in tomorrow for my commentary. In the meantime, let's take a look at Monday's fairly rambunctious events.

We'll stick with WBEZ to start. They reported it this way:

A high-stakes, controversial vote on subsidies for two major real estate projects in Chicago was scrapped Monday after Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot urged a delay.

The powerful finance committee was slated to consider two TIFs that would fund mega-developments Lincoln Yards on the North Side and The 78 near the South Loop.

Finance committee chairman Ald. Patrick O'Connor, 40th Ward, said he was putting off action on the Lincoln Yards and The 78 proposals until Wednesday, an announcement that prompted cheers from the gallery. The committee had been scheduled to vote on nearly $2 billion in taxpayer subsidies for infrastructure improvements in the area around the megaprojects, including new bridges, widened roads and seawalls along the Chicago River.

Now, I and many others have complained for years that the city council ought to run itself like the independent legislative branch of government that it is supposed to be, instead of the Department of Aldermen that it has been. So while I was quite pleased to see this delay, I'm uncomfortable with it occurring at the behest of not only the mayor, but the mayor-elect.

At the same time, the council as presently constructed is set to approve the project(s) not because they've concluded their goodness for the city after a comprehensive, sober-minded review, but because the alderman (Brian Hopkins) in the ward where Lincoln Yards would be built wants it approved, and aldermanic prerogative - which Lightfoot wants to eliminate - means that he gets his way. (For now, let's dispense with "The 78," which sits in the 25th Ward of Ald.-Elect Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who favors delaying the vote.)

So delaying the whole shebang as we await the new mayor and new council to be seated seems apropos to me, even if it does follow the wishes of both Emanuel and Lightfoot.

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It's also not entirely clear - having lost the benefit of the doubt - that Emanuel is sincere in his desire to yield to Lightfoot. He is, after all, on an image-rehabilitating victory tour that the media is lapping up, despite going out as a loser, not a winner. As for O'Connor's motivations, maybe he just doesn't know any other way, which is a big part of why he was just voted out of office.

Now, to Hopkins, who "insisted his colleagues defy Lightfoot and Emanuel and vote anyway," according to the Sun-Times.

"My colleagues on the city council and on the finance committee who are convinced that this is the right thing to do for the City of Chicago remain convinced. They were yes votes last week. And they're yes votes today. And their votes have nothing to do with who happens to occupy the fifth floor of this building.

"There is no reason to delay this vote because the aldermen have made up their minds one way or another. There'll be yes votes and there'll be no votes. Let's count them . . . I don't consider it defying [Emanuel and Lightfoot]. I consider it acting as a legislative body."

He's right, of course, but he picked a lame-duck session just as he was re-elected to his second term to finally see the light and urge the council to assert themselves. And not exactly for the sake of the children, but the sake of the developers. So cry me a Chicago River of tears.

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Helpful reminder from the Sun-Times:

"Hopkins is not a member of the finance committee. That means that, even if he wanted to make a motion to call for the vote, he couldn't. Somebody else would have to do it for him."

That's funny because Hopkins sniped at Emanuel that he wasn't a member of the finance committee and thus should shut it.

So many layers.

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"[M]inutes later, finance committee chairman Pat O'Connor (40th) arrived in the City Council chambers to say that he intended to honor the wishes of both Emanuel and Lightfoot.

"We will, hopefully, not take any action today, after which we will recess the meeting until Wednesday morning, hoping that the 48 hours between now and then will allow representatives of both the mayor's office and the mayor-elect's office to determine if there's been enough information given to allow the projects to move forward at that time," O'Connor said.

So the delay is to allow the mayors to decide what to do, not the council.

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"The finance committee then proceeded to take testimony from Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman and Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. Both have already testified ad nauseum [sic] at countless community hearings on both projects."

Maybe ad nauseam (that's the correct spelling) to Fran Spielman, but not to the significant portion of the city who oppose one or both of these projects. (I'm still waiting for someone to tell me why so many journos think Spielman is a great reporter when I've documented for 13 years - documented - how lousy she is.) And as I pointed out Monday, having a (legally-mandated) public process is not the same as actually listening to the public. The Chicago school board has public meetings twice a month and no one would ever accuse them of listening to the people who show up to offer their views.

To wit, from Monday:

(Also, Spielman doesn't have to live with the results; she lives in Highland Park.)

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To the testimony of Reifman, who Spielman is so sick of, we'll turn back to WBEZ:

And address them they did - for five hours - with aldermen asking questions and David Reifman, head of the Department of Planning and Development and a cheerleader for the project, answering.

Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward, questioned how the Lincoln Yards area, on prime real estate along the Chicago River and sandwiched between two of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city, could be considered "blighted," a prerequisite for consideration as a TIF district.

"Just because it's vacant does not make it 'blighted,'" said Hairston. "If you want to look at blight, I've got several areas in my ward."

Reifman responded by pointing out photos of the Lincoln Yards site. "As you can see, this is vacant, unutilized, infrastructure-less land," said Reifman. Hairston told him there's a big difference between a multimillion-dollar vacant lot and a $25 vacant lot. "There's no way that you can make me think that this is blighted," said Hairston, "and I don't think it goes with the intent of the TIF law."

You'd have to squint awfully hard to even begin to think Reifman was right in this exchange.

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"Reifman suggested at several points the city could lose the development altogether. "Capital can go anywhere. They don't have to come to Chicago. They can look at the decisions we make today and say, 'You know what? We can go anywhere in the world."

Capital wants to come to Chicago. They should be paying us for the privilege!

"He said Lincoln Yards developer Sterling Bay is investing $300 million in infrastructure improvements unreimbursed. He said the TIF-funded improvements, which the developer will complete and the city will reimburse later, likely by issuing 'TIF Notes,' will help the entire 'region.'"

Citing those unreimbursed infrastructure improvements is plain disingenuous. What Sterling Bay is saying is, hey, let us build this motherfucking megaproject and we'll even install the roads, lights and bushes just where we want them! And then you can reimburse us for the rest - the TIF stuff! Whatta deal.

"Ald. Brian Hopkins, whose 2nd Ward includes Lincoln Yards, said putting off the vote was the wrong thing to do. 'Just like when New York City walked away from Amazon and said No thank you, we don't want all those jobs. And there's a backlash to that today, there's an outcry when people realize what folly that is. I won't let that happen here.'"

First, there is no backlash - not among the residents and taxpayers of New York City. Second, taxpayers said they didn't want to pay for all of those Amazon jobs! Let Amazon, the third most valuable company in the world, run by the world's richest man, pay their employees themselves! Brian Hopkins, you are Today's Worst Person In Chicago.

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"Hopkins called opponents 'misguided and misinformed' and touted the 10,000 construction jobs and 23,000 permanent jobs the Lincoln Yards development is expected to generate."

I don't doubt the project will create jobs - duh - but at what cost? Also, these projections always fall well short of what we're told come approval time.

That said, I'm sure there is a lot of misinformation out there - much of it propagated by Reifman!

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"[O'Connor] said the final call is up to Lightfoot.

"If the mayor-elect continues to not want these things to be passed, they will not be brought up," O'Connor said.

Like I said, I don't exactly like it going down that way, but we're only here because of a single mayor and a single alderman anyway, so so be it.

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Meanwhile, see Curtis Black's Lincoln Yards investor Lone Star Funds Accused of Predatory Lending and prepare to be outraged all over again.

Unless, like with Spielman, it's just all ad nauseam to you.

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Players Win National Championship
Local angle: Wauconda's Matt Mooney.

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ChicagoReddit

I get that seeing an ODing homeless person is normal, but why does no one care? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Take Me Back To Chicago

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Trump Watch

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BeachBook

Olympic Cyclist Kelly Catlin Seemed Destined For Glory. Then She Killed Herself.

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Normalization: No One Talks About How Ridiculous Local TV News Is Anymore.

Also part of the problem is that no one covers local TV news, even though it's still the way most Americans get their, um, news. The few media critics around who do cover TV tend to focus on who the pretty new anchor is and what's up for sweeps week.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Back to back.



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Posted on April 9, 2019


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