Emanuel: No more changes to Infrastructure Trust
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com April 19, 2012 3:42PM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel (with Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. ) talked about street resurfacing at a project on the 5900 block of south Normal Blvd. Thursday, April 19, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he’s already made sixteen changes suggested by aldermen to strengthen oversight of his $1.7 billion Infrastructure Trust, and it’s time to stop talking and start rebuilding Chicago’s crumbling infrastructure.
“My whole goal is not to answer everybody’s questions to their satisfaction, but to answer enough so we can move forward on Building a New Chicago,” the mayor said, using the name he gave to his repackaged, $7.3 billion jobs plan.
Emanuel said he made three promises to Chicago voters: No more Council Wars. No more rubber stamp City Council. And no more standing still as a city.
“I have been true to that on the budget, on child safety zones and even on the Trust, where I’ve added sixteen separate items that [aldermen] recommended,” the mayor said.
Earlier this week, Emanuel put the brakes on his own plan to make a revolutionary change in the way Chicago funds its public works projects — but only for a few days.
The Infrastructure Trust that will pave the way for five financing giants to bankroll $1.7 billion in “transformative” projects was preemptively deferred by two mayoral allies.
Critics contended that at least two aldermen were prepared to exercise their right to put off the vote for at least one meeting. Instead of giving them a temporary victory, Emanuel pulled the plug himself.
After the meeting — and again on Thursday — Emanuel made it clear that the reprieve for opponents would be both short-lived and unproductive.
The City Council will meet again on Tuesday to consider the Trust when, all sides agree, the mayor will have the 26 votes he needs for passage.
And although Emanuel plans to issue a pair of executive orders to appease his critics — one requiring a mission statement on each Trust-funded project, the other an annual report by an outside consultant — he’s done making changes to the ordinance.
“Every month that we don’t start our [energy] retro-fit [of government buildings], $1 million in taxpayer money literally goes out the window in lost utility costs because these buildings are old and they weren’t retro-fitted correctly. Rather than having that $1 million go out the window, we could put 1,500 people to work fixing that,” the mayor said.
“I have agreed that we’re gonna take some time to answer more questions. We have these ideas that we’ve put into the executive order. And I think that will allow us to address concerns and move this city forward because I cannot allow the past to sabotage the future. ... We’re literally wasting taxpayer money when we could be putting people to work.”
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) was one of seven aldermen to vote against the Trust in the Finance Committee.
The relatively narrow, 11-to-7 vote stemmed from concerns that user fees may be needed to guarantee investment returns, that the inspector general is not empowered to investigate the Trust and that aldermanic control is limited to those Trust-funded projects that involve city money or city assets.
But, after joining Emanuel on the South Side Thursday to highlight the early start of residential street resurfacing, Cochran said he’s planning to change his vote from “no” to “yes.”
“Comparatively speaking, we are getting more in terms of information on these things and having more input on the way government is being run than we’ve ever had before as a Council,” Cochran said.
“Am I [totally] satisfied? No, I’m not. But, one step at a time. Let’s see how this works out. Let’s see what we have to amend. And let’s see how important it is to the mayor to listen to us as we move forward.”