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Tweeting Lincoln Yards

Here's how it unfolded today.

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Sort of, but that's not really how TIF dollars work. The city isn't writing the developers a check that could otherwise go to the schools. It is allowing the developer to capture future tax revenues produced by their project to subsidize infrastructure improvements they are paying for on the front-end as well as improvements going forward - for 23 years. Where the schools get stuck is that the developer's property tax rates will be frozen and the revenues directed into the TIF pot for those improvements instead of going to CPS.

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Those concessions increase the percentage of the project's work the developer is guaranteeing to minority- and women-led businesses. It shows there was more to get out of Sterling Bay, but it's also a relatively marginal change that doesn't address the objections to the project. It's not a great look for Lightfoot, though it looks to me like Lightfoot was given a dose of reality by the outgoing mayor and his city council allies that belied his deviously brilliant fake punt 24 hours earlier.

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Once in a lifetime? Hardly. Developers salivating over this land. Rahm's ego and the dollar signs in Hopkins' eyes got in the way of leveraging the city's position as owner of this land the way Sterling Bay would've leveraged its position had it been the seller. You have to think like developers if you want to negotiate with developers and not come out like chumps.

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This statement is hard to read in a tweet, so click through.

Now, let's read between the lines.

"From day one, I've stood with the grassroots movement to seek transparency and community input in Lincoln Yards and The 78. I've advance a set of priorities throughout this effort, including the need for clear and specific plans from the developers to boost inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses."

Here, Lightfoot tries to position herself as still standing by the grassroots movement opposing Lincoln Yards (let's set aside The 78 for today), as if they were merely fighting for transparency and community input when, in fact, they want to abolish Lincoln Yards altogether. That was probably never going to happen, regardless of who won the mayoral election. Mitigation was the real promise, though there would have always been the chance Sterling Bay would walk away if the new mayor demanded "too much."

Lightfoot then tries to claim victory by saying boosting the inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses in the project was one of her primary campaign promises regarding Lincoln Yards. And maybe it was! But she was a lot more vociferous about TIF abuse - the main point of contention among those opposing Lincoln Yards - than anything else, as she should've been. She elides that here.

Granted, Lightfoot may have been helpless here to do anything else, as she basically indicates.

"I am appreciative of Mayor Emanuel and Finance Committee Chairman O'Connor for agreeing to defer Monday's vote on Lincoln Yards and The 78 to allow my team additional time to seek clarity and address our concerns. Based on subsequent conversations with Mayor Emanuel, community stakeholders, and a number of aldermen, we expect that this deal is likely to pass tomorrow."

In other words, Emanuel could have kept what appeared to be his word and left the matter for the incoming mayor and council, but instead he gave me a short, sharp dose of reality and there's nothing I can do now to stop him or the rest of them.

"As a show of good faith, my team had productive meetings today with both developers. As a result of those conversations, I am pleased to report that both developers agreed to meaningfully strengthen their commitments to minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises . . . These changes represent a vital sign that my administration will be able to make progress toward an equitable and fair deal for our communities."

See, I'm not weakened at all! But in reality, a face-saving measure.

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"There remains much more work to do in this regard, and I am hopeful we'll be able to get there. Under the terms of both redevelopment agreements, we have confirmed that the City has additional controls over these projects, which I am confident will allow for us to further improve these deals and to bring community voices into the process going forward."

It's not over. Really.

"I am not yet the mayor, and I recognize that the current administration and City Council must decide whether to carry this vote forward according to the interests of the constituents they serve."

Even if those constituents voted out their aldermen, or those aldermen are under indictment, or those aldermen are still in thrall to the disgraced, outgoing mayor. It sucks, but I'm not mayor yet.

"Either way, upon swearing in, I will engage with the community and committed activists who have advocated forcefully for affordable housing, park space and the responsible use of tax increment financing dollars for many months."

Maybe this should've been first.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on April 10, 2019


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