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Vote on Controversial TIFs Delayed Until at Least Wednesday

A vote on two controversial TIFs that could cost the city billions was temporarily delayed Monday due to calls from multiple entities to put the vote on hold. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, along with multiple newly elected aldermen and community activists all have made calls to put the vote on hold for TIF funding for Lincoln Yards, a mega development to be built in Lincoln Park, and the 78, another mega development to be built on the south side.

Chicago City Hall. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Emanuel made his call to delay the vote Monday morning after mayor-elect Lightfoot asked the Finance Committee on Sunday to hold a “subject matter meeting” on the project and delay the vote.

“In our first meeting, as well as in subsequent conversations, I made it very clear to the Mayor-elect that I would not move forward on these projects if she wanted to delay the process,” Emanuel said in a statement. “While I firmly believe in the value of these projects to the entire city, out of respect for her wishes and request, I will honor my commitment and delay the vote. I am hopeful that under the mayor-elect’s leadership of the new City Council these critical projects will move forward and bring the kind of investment and job creation that has been a hallmark of the past eight years.”

Lightfoot called the process leading up to the vote “deeply flawed” in her statement on Sunday. “For major development projects to drive equitable economic growth, they must be coupled with community input and a transparent, informed decision-making process,” she said.

A large swath of activists and community groups have opposed TIF financing for the projects, and have called on City Council and Emanuel for months to delay the vote until Lightfoot and newly elected aldermen are sworn in. Groups say the wealthy developers behind the projects don’t need tax money, and those dollars would be better spent on resources in struggling neighborhoods.

Several of those groups and newly elected aldermen held a press conference in City Hall Monday morning to call for delays to the vote.

“The subsidizing of luxury developments is not the right priority for Chicago,” said Amisha Patel, Executive Director of the group Grassroots Collaborative in a statement Monday afternoon. “The officials that should decide what the right priorities for Chicago will be sworn-in in May and no votes should be happening around these projects until that time.”

“My predecessor Danny Solis & Ed Burke, both under investigation, have their prints all over this. We need to cancel these votes until there is further scrutiny, “said Byron Sigcho-Lopez, newly elected alderman of the 25th Ward.

Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose ward includes the Lincoln Yards site, wants the vote to move forward.

“I don’t believe there’s a single alderman on the Finance Committee who’s undecided,” Hopkins said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “They’ve all made up their minds. They’ve had sufficient time and information to make up their minds. So let’s see where they’re at. Let’s have a vote.”

The full City Council meets Wednesday and may take up the vote then.

Community groups and activists opposed to voting before new leadership is sworn in say a 48-hour delay isn’t enough, and the City Council should wait.

“We appreciate the actions by Mayor-elect Lightfoot to delay this vote and Mayor Emanuel’s acquiescence to the will of Chicago voters,” Patel said in a statement. “But 48 hours is not a meaningful delay for projects that will impact the city for decades to come.”

United Working Families, a group that supported several aldermanic candidates who ousted incumbents during the recent election, also said the Council needs to wait.

“A two-day delay on the vote to create mega-TIFs for Lincoln Yards and the 78 signals the growing force of political progressives and grassroots community organizations in City Hall, but it is far from sufficient,” the group said in a statement. “We must end billion-dollar tax subsidies to the corporate profits of luxury real-estate developers. That money belongs to schoolchildren, social workers, and public libraries–not Sterling Bay.”

The Chicago Teachers Union plans to hold a press conference and protest against the projects at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon at 4:30.

“Educators and grassroots organizers want TIF funds to be spent instead in economically distressed neighborhoods as TIFs were originally designed, to alleviate Chicago’s critical shortage of affordable housing and adequately fund the city’s public school communities,” the union said in a statement. “The massive outlay of public funds would more than fully fund the CTU’s contract demands to ensure that each school community has smaller class sizes, wrap-around supports, special education services, adequate numbers of bilingual education teachers, a school library—with a librarian—and other critical frontline staff.”

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