An Open Letter to the “Progressive Caucus” of the City Council of Chicago

Some of you were at the City Council Finance Committee meeting where a vote on one of the city’s most notorious TIF projects was taken — the funneling of $16 million in taxpayer money to subsidize two luxury hi-rise towers in the Uptown neighborhood.


Even by Chicago standards, the project is outlandish thievery of taxpayers:


** While the rich would have their housing subsidized, many dozens of people forced out of affordable housing would continue to live underneath Lake Shore Drive viaducts just yards away, as Uptown has lost over 1000 SRO units in recent years.


** The politically-connected developer gave $5000 to Mayor Emanuel’s reelection campaign, despite Emanuel’s pledge to stop such pay-to-play.


** The property is the last large piece of undeveloped lakefront property on the much-gentrified North Side — hardly a property that needs taxpayer help.


** The project pledges only 5% of its units will be affordable, even though the 2015 Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) will require that at least 20% of housing developments getting TIF taxpayer aid be affordable.


In a cynical move to beat the ARO that he opposed, Alderman James Cappleman is trying to rush through the ordinance for his luxury hi-rise development to beat the July 23rd implementation of the new 20% requirement.


This is where you come in, Progressive Caucus.


With our City Council stuffed to the gills with aldermen who have signed off on some of the very worst of Mayor 1%’s measures against working class, black and brown people in this city, we didn’t seriously expect to win yesterday’s vote in the Finance Committee. We don’t expect to win a vote in today’s City Council meeting either, if it comes to that.


However, we DO know that all it takes to delay a vote until after the July 23rd implementation of the more rigorous ARO ordinance — requiring 20% affordable housing, as opposed to just 5% — is a parliamentary procedure known as a request to “publish” the proposed ordinance. While we find the notion of taxpayer subsidies to luxury housing on any level to be offensive, 20% is a far cry better than 5%. And all it takes is just TWO alderman to request to publish for it to take effect.


So here’s the pitch:  If the term “progressive” is to have any meaning at all, are there at least TWO of your members who will live up to that term? Or are you going to confirm most Chicagoans’ deeply cynical view of politicians, and Chicago politicians in particular?


The choice is yours.


We don’t need any shadow-boxing “no” votes today that are only of symbolic value. What we need are at least two of you to step forward and show that the word “progressive” actually means something when said through the vocal chords of our representatives.


Don’t disappoint the many thousands of Chicagoans who overcame big money and big business to get you into office, or the next time you need their help for reelection, I and others will remind them of today.


Yours sincerely,


Andy Thayer, Uptown Tent City Organizers


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