At a lunch meeting on Tuesday, the SEIU Illinois State Council (which sponsors this website) brought together representatives from 30 Chicago-based progressive organizations to start a discussion around the following question: Beyond taking advantage of efforts at the state ...
At a lunch meeting on Tuesday, the SEIU Illinois State Council (which sponsors this website) brought together representatives from 30 Chicago-based progressive organizations to start a discussion around the following question: Beyond taking advantage of efforts at the state and federal level, how should the city invest in an economic recovery?
The groups acknowledge that the first step is to convince the public and elected officials that the city actually has money to spend. Indeed, using in-depth research on the city budget compiled by consultants, SEIU estimates that Mayor Daley currently has $2 billion at his disposal.
One source: the tax increment financing (TIF) funds earmarked for "future redevelopment projects," which the union pegs at approximately $1.1 billion. As Jason Liechty, policy director for then-Cook Co. Commissioner Mike Quigley, told us in January, this is all just "money searching for projects."
Another major reserve is the pot of unobligated funds derived from the city's recent asset sales, including the lease of the skyway, parking garages, and parking meters. In a March 31 press release, the city explained that $400 million of the controversial, $1.2 billion parking meter deal will go into the city's rainy-day fund, which has now reached $900 million:
The City received nearly $1.2 billion in a one-time cash payment last month as part of this historic agreement that will help strengthen City finances and allow the City to protect taxpayers.
The benefits include adding $400 million to the city’s long-term reserves that will generate interest to replace existing meter revenue and bring the city's total long-term reserves to $900 million.
Having examined the numbers in detail on Tuesday, the groups plan to work together to ensure that some of this money goes towards a "bottom-up recovery for working families and communities," as State Council President Tom Balanoff put it.
In short: It's raining outside and it's time for Mayor Daley to use those funds.
A recent poll commissioned by the union will surely embolden those taking part in the effort. While the details are currently embargoed, the survey provides compelling evidence that an overwhelming majority of Chicagoans are fed up and want the City Council, and particularly progressive voices, to play a larger role in deciding how taxpayer dollars are allocated in the city.
Next week, this burgeoning coalition will hold a meeting with various aldermen to discuss both the poll findings and SEIU's separate research on the city budget. The following week, they plan to hold a press conference to unveil this information and lay out in more detail the types of spending they would like to see. As was repeatedly emphasized on Tuesday, with unemployment and foreclosure rates continuing to skyrocket, time is of the essence.
In the meantime, be sure to read Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky's exhaustive look at the parking meter deal in this week's issue of the Chicago Reader.