Monday, July 22, 2013

Blame It On Springfield

Let me start by making it clear that there's no love lost between me and the legislators in Springfield, IL.  The only thing worse than having an oligarchy in this state is the stunning realization that it can accomplish nothing. Well, at least, nothing of value.

They did manage to pass concealed carry legislation this term, but I fail to see how that bill took priority over the state's fiscal condition.  It reminds me of the smoke screen arguments in Washington, D.C. over abortion and gay marriage that hide the fact our national economy is in a downward spiral that will soon make all of us proud workers at part-time or freelance jobs.

However, I think it's unfair for every municipality in the state to blame its woes on the state capital as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has done in recent days.

First Emanuel blamed Springfield and its inability to pass pension reform legislation for cuts to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).  He repeated his scripted CPS crisis talking point this week while adding one new item to the blame list--Moody's recent downgrade of Chicago's bond rating.

Both talking points of the new Emanuel "blame Springfield" strategy came up during a press conference held at the Port of Chicago.  Our fearless leader, Il Duce Emanuel, is taking a page from King Richard II's playbook, leasing public assets for quick cash.  Kind of like the municipal equivalent of the Pawn Broker.

Perhaps the Mayor thought his blame strategy would hide the potential boondoggle that's in store for Chicago's port or maybe he was hoping against hope that residents would overlook that fact that our leader, quite frankly, has been missing in action.

As the city's school system implodes and credit ratings agencies have fun telling us how to run our city, the Mayor has been hiding in plain site--going to relatively non-controversial press conferences that make it look like he is doing something (think Divvy bikes).  In reality, he's been letting the crisis roll along waiting for someone or something to take charge.

His strategy of blame and inaction makes his comments about Springfield's "denial" of the pension crisis quite a hoot.  An instance of the pot calling the kettle black.

The one bright spot in this summer's political opera buffa comes from the Progressive Caucus in the Chicago Aldermanic Council, which issued a statement demanding that the Mayor release Tax Increment Financing or TIF money to help support Chicago's Public Schools.

Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), a member of the Progressive Caucus, reiterated this demand today asking why the Mayor sees a new basketball arena to be used by DePaul University and the Divvy Bikes program as more worthy of TIF funds than our city's schools.

I applaud Waguespack and the Progressive Caucus for making this demand of the Mayor.  It's a much better approach to our city's financial problems than blaming Springfield and waiting for them to take action to solve our problems.

But I would take this request to alter the TIF program one step further.  Abolish them entirely.  TIF money was originally meant as a way to encourage development in blighted communities.  Now it has simply become an unregulated slush fund for the Mayor and his developer pals.

Putting this money back into city revenue is one step towards solving Chicago's financial problems.  Sure CPS isn't known for using money well, but I'd rather they waste the city's TIF money than a developer who has a lot more cash to spare.

Let's have proactive leadership for a change instead of blame and recycled bad ideas.

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