Ald. Reilly pushes civic groups to help neighborhoods outside downtown
BY DAVID ROEDER Staff Reporter October 7, 2013 3:41PM
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) | Sun-Times files
Updated: October 7, 2013 6:45PM
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) used a speech to a leading civic organization Monday to recite cases of economic growth in his ward while advocating an attack on problems that reach beyond the city’s healthy core.
Reilly issued a challenge to other civic groups, urging them to persuade employers to bring more jobs to the neighborhoods. Reilly publicly mentioned World Business Chicago, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Chicago Urban League as groups that should be involved.
In a speech to the City Club of Chicago, Reilly also urged fellow City Council members to vote on his proposal to provide additional police in high-crime areas. His ordinance would allow the police department to negotiate with the Fraternal Order of Police over extra hours for current officers, with their pay drawn from a charitable fund.
Asked later if his emphasis on citywide problems indicated an interest in higher office, Reilly said no.
“I thought I’d remind people that Chicago is doing better than some would have you believe,” he said. “I think the real trick, though, is getting that success downtown to translate further into the Chicago neighborhoods, so we get away from this notion of having two Chicagos.”
Reilly added, “It’s one thing for the heart of the city to do well but if the other neighborhoods aren’t, that disparity can mean lots of trouble down the road.”
As downtown’s alderman, Reilly spends much of his time dealing with businesses and builders. He said in his speech that he always urges them to look beyond downtown, but that it’s time for groups with power-packed boards to do the same.
The groups, he said, could stage “a regular summit of major and mid-sized employers to help jump-start efforts to extend that investment.”
World Business Chicago President Jeff Malehorn, in a statement responding to Reilly, said his group has ongoing initiatives for community jobs. “We are currently implementing initiatives including building business capacity, fostering broadband adoption and facilitating development opportunities within our neighborhoods,” he said.
Malehorn said his group helped such companies as Method Products Inc., Lagunitas Brewing Co. and Cinespace Chicago Film Studios find appropriate space in the neighborhoods.
Chris Johnson, spokesman for the chamber, called Reilly’s suggestion a “great concept” that the organization will consider as it settles on priorities for 2014. He said the chamber already has programs for small business and to train leaders of community development organizations.
A representative of the urban league could not be reached for comment.
Reilly’s police proposal could lead to officers moonlighting for the city instead of for a private interest such as a warehouse or store. He called for pay of $30 to $35 an hour with minimum six-hour shifts.
He said funds could come from contributions, not the cash-strapped city. “Think about a major philanthropist or corporation giving the gift of public safety to a neighborhood experiencing challenges,” Reilly said.
In an interview, Reilly expressed frustration over inaction on his plan. “The leadership of the police department supports the ordinance. The leadership of the FOP supports the ordinance. The mayor has indicated his support of the ordinance. Every paper in town has editorialized in support of this ordinance. So I don’t see why it hasn’t been heard yet,” he said.
Noting that 2013 has been a big year for ribbon-cuttings and business openings, Reilly said a revived economy has led to record performance of tourism, new plans for high-rise construction and renovation and the opening of many small businesses, including River North’s emerging emphasis on technology startups.