Good Reads on Chicago Politics

New TIFs proposed, including a venture-capital twist on the old fund; the making of an alderman; the head of The Woodlawn Organization; and much more.

Chicago City Hall

 

* Fascinating news from Crain’s: Mayor Emanuel wants to add a new twist to TIFs, using TIF funds as venture-capital money. It’s an example of Emanuel as the evolutionary Mayor Daley, adapting the city fund along the lines of his private-sector experience as an investment banker. It’s the second TIF deal proposed this week—the other would go to a logistics company’s expansion within the Green Exchange.

* The Reader’s cover story this week is a long piece by Mick Dumke on Walter Burnett Jr., alderman of my old ward, the 27th. It’s a great exploration of how Burnett obtained and uses political power, with a particular focus on the politics of TIFs:

Even as he’s become more comfortable speaking aloud, Burnett’s remained cautious about stepping on the toes of the powerful. He told me repeatedly that he thinks it’s more appropriate to fight with the mayor behind closed doors than to appear to grandstand on the council floor. And Burnett argues that he knows how to work the system to get what he wants out of it. Perhaps the best example is the tax increment financing program. While the program has been used as a mayoral slush fund, Burnett says he doesn’t have a problem with it, since he knows how to “raise a stink” and pressure the administration to spend TIF funds on things he wants. He doesn’t mention the fact that he’s also lucky: most wards don’t have TIF districts that collect tens of millions of dollars a year.

* The Reporter leads with two stories by Angela Caputo on Leon Finney—“Following Finney” and “Subsidized Money Pit”—the veteran head of The Woodlawn Organization and the difficulties of subsidized housing:

Preserving the subsidies, Hinsberger said, means striking a delicate balance between holding building owners and managers accountable in the short term without leaning so hard that they decide to opt out of the program and sell the properties on the private market. “We try and figure out how to save a project, but it’s hard,” he said. “We don’t own it. We don’t control it. We can’t decide who it will go to. That’s beyond our authority.”

* The Reporter teamed up with NBC5 for the investigation:

* Burnett grew up in Cabrini-Green, and supported its destruction and replacement with mixed-income development. Megan Cottrell looks at one of the side effects of the neighborhood’s redevelopment, the disappearance of child care that accepts government vouchers.

* John Kass writes about judicial candidate Daniel Degnan, son of Daley “political hammer” Tim Degnan, who is the son of Francis Degnan, whose long Chicago political career started in 1932 and ended in 1979—he was the commissioner of Streets and San during the Bilandic blizzard fiasco.

 

Photograph: dandeluca (CC by 2.0)

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