Illinois Coalition to Protect the Public Commons

Statement Concerning Mayor Rahn Emanuel's Invetment Trust for Infrastructure Repairs

Beverley Walter
Member, Illinois Coalition to Protect the Public Commons
708 447 1547

Dr. Lora Chamberlain
Member, Illinois Coalition to Protect the Public Commons
773 856 0745

DATE:  March 17, 2012

Advocacy Coalition Opposes Chicago Infrastructure Trust, Insists on Transparency

The Illinois Coalition to Protect the Public Commons (ICPPC), a coalition of individuals and organizations opposed to privatization of public assets, announced today it is opposed to Mayor Emanuel's proposal for an Infrastructure Trust and that it is initiating a campaign to ensure that the city is not exploited again, as in the recent parking meter fiasco.

The Coalition opposes the Trust for the following reasons: 

ICPPC members point out that the city infrastructure has been allowed to decay.  In the past, for example, funds which were designated to maintain the water and sewer system were not used to maintain these systems.  Instead these funds were accumulated and quietly, without public knowledge, utilized for other purposes – allowing the water and sewer infrastructure to deteriorate.

An Infrastructure Trust would allow this process to continue because a trust is closed to the public and can operate in secret, and is not accountable to the public for its operations. An Infrastructure Trust fails to ensure that public funds will be used for the repair and improvement of the infrastructure.  It opens the gateway for quiet, secret use by those who control it.  Our experience in Chicago with the secret dealings in the millions of TIF funds teach us that the maximum, not the minimum, amount of transparency and public oversight is needed.   

In addition, some of the big financial institutions that Mayor Emanuel cites in his announcement as potential investors are the very same institutions that have contributed to the recent financial collapse, which raises serious concerns, the coalition maintains, about their involvement in the proposed Trust for Chicago. The Coalition is concerned with Mayor Emanuel’s connection to the financial industry from which he received a hefty amount of campaign contributions.

Alternative forms of funding should be explored, including tightening loopholes that have been allowed to accumulate and making sure that funds intended for infrastructure are not siphoned off into a slush fund.

Many other suggestion are being floated around by citizen advocacy groups, including a call for the Mayor and the City Council to hold public hearings about funding for our Infrastructure in order to listen to the suggestions and concerns of the Public around this issue.

Members of ICPPC put forth these demands: 

1.  that the mayor publish a detailed report on the details of his proposal, including proposed rates of return,
length of contract, etc. 

2.  that the mayor establish an open review process with public representation to study the entire city infrastructure needs and to come up with feasibility assessments and long term proposals that are fair to all citizens and that protect the public commons. 

3.  that the review process include public input into setting priorities for infrastructure projects.  Priorities include the water and sewer system; public transit infrastructure, including repair of all CTA slow zones, rail stations, bus turnaround facilities for drivers and passengers, the new Red Line Extension; repair of decaying schools, and street, bridge, viaduct, and overpass repairs.

4.  that the city retain control of the infrastructure projects.  The commons, the schools, parks, libraries, water system, streets, etc. have been created by taxpayers and citizens and should remain in public hands.

5.   that Chicago’s banks and corporations pay their fair share of ALL taxes, including real estate taxes, to the City of Chicago in order to fund not only capital improvements like infrastructure repairs but also the expansion of all public jobs, services and the Commons. The coalition calls on all existing tax loopholes to be closed by 2013.

The Coalition is requesting a meeting with the Mayor and a hearing to discuss these concerns and demands.

Posted by Citizens Taking Action for transit and trains
a member organization of ICPPC
Links to Additional Information Regarding PPPs
(public-private partnerships)