Chicago - Apr. 3, 2020
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The [Tuesday] Papers

"Key to the massive $1.3 billion taxpayer subsidy for Sterling Bay's Lincoln Yards megadevelopment was a 36-page report declaring that the project met the requirements to get the money," the Tribune reports.

"As Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration promoted the record tax increment financing deal at a November 2018 public meeting inside a church, a planning official introduced the author of that report as 'the city's TIF consultant.'

"The consultant took the microphone and said the report was done 'on behalf of the city of Chicago.'

"What the administration and consultant didn't tell the crowd: Developer Sterling Bay had both picked the consultant and paid the firm. And that consultant also had been retained by a Sterling Bay subsidiary to lobby City Hall on the final terms of the Lincoln Yards agreement."

Sterling Bay: The Houston Astros of Chicago.

*

"The consultant for Lincoln Yards said she doesn't see a conflict. She said the arrangement did not diminish her objectivity, and noted that her firm's reputation and business were on the line.

"If we were rigging (the reports), and we didn't back them up, someone can sue or question the funding," said Ann Moroney, president of Johnson Research Group, which did the TIF study on Lincoln Yards. "It's a huge risk (for me) to take, not to do something that's fully documented, not to mention (for) the developer and the city. I wouldn't work again."

Ann Moroney, you are Today's Worst Person In Chicago. And an early frontrunner for Chicago's Worst Person Of The Year.

*

From Moroney's LinkedIn page:

"Urban planning and economic development consultant since 1996 with an interest in building the vitality and sustainability of communities in and around Chicago while maintaining local character, business and uniqueness.

"Specialties: Tax increment financing; tax incentives; real estate development analysis; bond feasibility studies; community development; government relations; strategic development planning; and project management."

Also: I don't have an ethical compass, so I'm perfect if you need to navigate City Hall!

*

From Moroney's company bio:

"Ann is committed to helping clients and communities overcome physical, environmental, market obstacles to development."

I'll say.

"Ann is an expert in the area of tax increment financing (TIF) having assisted in the establishment, amendment, and repeal of more than 35 TIFs in the City of Chicago and suburbs. From TIF creation to implementation, Ann has helped developer and non-profit clients in securing more than $99 million in TIF funding and leveraging nearly $213 million in building investments within the City of Chicago. Working with public agencies such as Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago and the Public Building Commission of Chicago, Ann has helped leverage TIF funds in excess of $865 million for capital improvements such as new schools, new libraries, school additions and parking garages, and much needed facility upgrades."

Every one of these should now be reviewed.

"Ann is fluent in the management of the TIF payment process and compliance monitoring from both the municipal and TIF recipient perspective. Ann works with the City of Chicago to manage the development a comprehensive and complex database and payment system that ensures responsible and timely payments for more than 400 redevelopment agreements. As part of this multi- year engagement, Ann has been involved in the preparation of Annual Reports for more than 170 TIF districts for the City of Chicago. Ann works with clients to ensure comprehensive compliance requirements are met and secure timely TIF payments."

The mayor should now ban her from ever doing business with the city again.

*

Moroney is in the suburbs, too.

*

"A Sterling Bay spokeswoman said the company did what the city asked."

Um, yeah. That's part of the problem.

"Sterling Bay followed - and continues to follow - the city's requirements throughout the approval process," Sarah Hamilton told the Tribune.

The Tribune oddly fails to mention that Hamilton's previous job was working for Mayor Rahm Emanuel as his director of communications. (Also, Hamilton doesn't work for Sterling Bay per se; she's a hired mouth who works for Kivvit.)

*

"Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was not yet in office when Lincoln Yards was approved, was concerned enough about such arrangements that her administration quickly took steps to create distance between TIF consultants and developers. Now only City Hall can hire such consultants 'without input or feedback from the developer,' according to a Planning Department memo the Tribune obtained."

Sadly, it appears Lightfoot has made a political decision to keep her public mouth shut about all the bullshit she's found since she became mayor.

*

"The Tribune has reported that Lincoln Yards barely met the eligibility requirements and would no longer have qualified for its 'blighted' status if the City Council vote had been delayed by just a matter of weeks. That narrow margin underscores the importance of who gets to conduct such studies."

Apparently it didn't occur to city council members to ask (though, to be fair, it apparently didn't appear to journalists either):

"That Sterling Bay hired the consultant came as a surprise to Ald. Michele Smith, a leading Lincoln Yards opponent who said she was unaware the consultant was paid by Sterling Bay.

"'It was represented to us that it was the city's study,' said Smith, whose 43rd Ward includes most of Lincoln Park. 'It's been referred to as the city's report. That seems misleading to me.'"

*

"Whether or not aldermen knew who paid for the TIF study, they approved Sterling Bay's TIF funding in April, a month or so before then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel's time in office was up.

"At the same April meeting, the City Council also approved up to $1.1 billion in TIF funding for The 78, a massive project at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street. The eligibility report was prepared by Laube Consulting Group, which was hired by developer Related Midwest. Michael Laube also registered as a lobbyist for the project. He did not respond to requests for comment."

Sources close to Google didn't tell me much about Laube this morning, but I did find he violated the city's ethics policy in 2017.

*

"Moroney said requiring the developer to pay for such studies saves taxpayers money.

"When the city is strapped for cash, footing that kind of dough would be unfeasible," said Moroney, who indicated TIF studies can cost as little as $10,000 and as much as $200,000.

Two hundred grand is hardly unfeasible for the City of Chicago, but more to the point: Isn't the cost whatever you decide it is, Ann? You don't have to soak taxpayers if you don't want to.

*

Post-script:

"Experts say such arrangements pose obvious conflicts, given that the consultants who certify such projects are being paid by the very developers who are seeking approval for hundreds of millions of dollars," the Tribune helpfully reports, apparently afraid of being accused of bias if it lets its reporting imply as such on its own.

"'I would argue that from a common-sense perspective, it is a conflict of interest,' said Maryam Judar, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center, which has long studied and monitored taxpayer subsidies provided through tax increment financing districts."

I wonder what the Tribune would have done if experts said, "No big deal. I don't see a conflict at all."

*

I'm trying to imagine that conversation, too.

"Hi, Maryam. Um, so Sterling Bay hired its own consultant and pretended they were the city's consultant and, um, well, do you think, I mean, oh fuck, can you just give me a quote?"

*

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Merge Dirge

+

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

It's Happening Here
"The Trump presidency has shown just how many ostensibly good people will do nothing, and how evil, when given a free rein at the top, trickles down."

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Nazi-Era Public Charge Is Back
"As someone who has studied European Jews' attempts to escape Nazi persecution and immigrate to the U.S., the administration's evocation of the public charge clause is chilling."

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We're Fucked, Mate
"Can we all at least concede that chopping down the most biodiverse areas on the planet for palm oil plantations so that we can enjoy essential products like face wash, instant noodles and twiglets is a bizarre way for a species to behave?"

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Chicago's Vanished Grocery Stores
Along with whole fryers for 39 cents.

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The Ex-Cub Factor
Featuring Tuffy Rhodes, the Hartford Yard Goats, Big Z and Tony Clifton.

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ChicagoReddit

Careless Whisper (Smooth Tuba Version) on the CTA from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Longwave at Schubas on Saturday night.

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BeachBook

An Afghan Killed Two Americans. The U.S. Government Issued The Gun.

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Iowa Minor League Teams Fight MLB To Save Their Clubs.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Lincoln Yards Line: Sterling.



Permalink

Posted on February 18, 2020


MUSIC - Chicago Drill vs. Brooklyn Drill vs. UK Drill.
TV - Jonathan Pie On Lockdown Pt 3.
POLITICS - Boeing vs. Public Broadcasting.
SPORTS - The Truth About Ed Farmer.

BOOKS - A First: Comics Industry Shut Down.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - NASA At Home.


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