Six Chicago City Council aldermen will suggest a number of changes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed Infrastructure Trust public-private partnership at tomorrow’s city council meeting, where city lawmakers are expected to vote on the controversial Trust.
Driving the changes is the notion that Emanuel’s Infrastructure Trust – where the city uses private investors to fund public infrastructure projects – concentrates too much unchecked power in the hands of the mayor and a five-member Infrastructure Trust board.
“We are not opposed to the Trust in principle,” says Ald. John Arena (45th), one of the amendment authors. “We want clear, enforceable oversight built into the ordinance.”
"We are hoping that the mayor sees there is an alternative here," Arena says.
Written by Alds. Robert Fioretti (2nd), Leslie Hairston (5th), Toni Foulkes (15th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nick Sposato (39th), and Arena, with consultation from the Better Government Association, one amendment would make the city council sign off on every Infrastructure Trust project.
Under the current ordinance, the city council has power to sign off on projects that fall under the normal city budget process. So projects for “sister agencies”, like the Chicago Public Schools or Chicago Housing Authority, don’t need to be run past the council.
The amendments also allow the city Inspector General to review each project: The ordinance now does not give the Inspector General jurisdiction over sister agency projects.
Another key change: Making the Trust a subsidiary of the City of Chicago, instead of a free-floating non-profit.
That’s crucial to opponents of the current ordinance, like Waguespack, who fear the Trust is not legally answerable to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, thanks to its non-government status.
Arena said that the aldermen could offer all the changes in a package amendment or break them out into individual amendments. “We are trying to decide what the exact strategy is to be used,” Arena says.
The amendments come in response to a contentious Finance Committee meeting last week, where the city left many questions unanswered about the Trust – including issues of unchecked power and also what projects the Trust would fund. A scheduled city council vote was postponed last Wednesday, with Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and Emanuel instead opting to schedule tomorrow’s special session.