Another Rahm Emanuel boondoggle proves to be useless (and expensive)
Another "bold idea" from Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proven to be a fiasco that not only has failed to achieve its stated objective, but has cost Chicago taxpayers millions of dollars. Tim Novak, of the Chicago Sun-Times Watchdog team, has examined the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which was launched in 2012 with much fanfare – including a visit and endorsement by Bill Clinton, who used to be President of the United States.
The trust was supposed to be a "bold idea" to the effect "that private financing could be found for much-needed, big-ticket improvements for the city, making it possible to get more of them done sooner and sparing taxpayers from having to foot the bills." But:
... the infrastructure trust has fallen short of the expectations the mayor laid out. It has yet to raise a dime in private financing for a single public works project, records show. At the same time, it has cost Chicago taxpayers more than $5.1 million to pay for its handful of employees, offices on Wacker Drive, consulting fees and other expenses.
That's a lot of pay and overhead for a handful (five) of employees. And the project supposed to launch the trust has foundered:
Since the J. Geils Band left the stage on Dec. 19, 1981, Chicago's fabled Uptown Theatre has remained dark, waiting for someone with deep pockets to pay for a massive renovation.
Jerry Mickelson, the legendary concert promoter who owns the theater, thought he'd found an angel: the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, a not-for-profit agency Mayor Rahm Emanuel created with great fanfare five years ago to find private investors willing to bankroll public improvement projects. ...
The Uptown Theatre could have been the signature achievement of the grand plans Emanuel announced five years ago, with former President Bill Clinton's endorsement, to persuade private investors to bankroll billions of dollars in public works projects across the city.
But the Uptown remains padlocked and dark, and if it ever gets rehabbed and reopened, it will be without help from the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. The State of Illinois, which was expected to come up with scratch for the projects has said it can't. Illinois is finally running out of other people's money, and is on the slippery slope of increased taxes driving away taxpaying families, causing higher deficits and still higher taxes.
But, as President Reagan quipped, the closest thing to immortality is a government program.
Rather than disband his taxpayer-funded not-for-profit after failing to attract the private investors Emanuel said it would, the mayor shifted course, changing its mission after the Uptown deal fell apart two years ago. He handed it procurement and management tasks – work that otherwise would be handled by city agencies or the Chicago Public Building Commission, which is headed by the mayor. Now, the trust has been cut in on specific city projects.
Thanks to this oh, so clever maneuver, taxpayers get to pay twice for the management of city projects. Once for the existing city departments that formerly handled them. And a second time for the staff occupying luxury office space on Wacker Drive.
(Except the remaining taxpayers who haven't yet fled Illinois.)
Hat tip: Peter von Buol