How the Progressive Caucus Passed a Bad TIF

June 23, 2016
By Ryne Poelker

On June 22, 2016 the full city council voted to approve the $16 million TIF towards luxury high-rises in the gentrifying Uptown neighborhood directly off of North Lakeshore Drive at Montrose and Clarendon while demolishing the historically significant Cuneo Hospital. Apartments in the development were to have a monthly rent of $1800 for studios, $2100 for one-bedrooms, $2700 for two-bedrooms and over $5000 for the town home units. Less than 5% units of one of the two high rises were on site affordable housing (The other 5% required is then suppose to be paid into the city housing trust fund). When taking into account both high-rises in the single development, the amount of affordable housing percentage in the total development is even less than that. Plenty has been written on the development by Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader as well as local journalists with DNAinfo. For literally years, community residents against displacement have been clamoring against the TIF handout to such a development. Ballot referendum have been voted on, thousands have signed petitions, countless pickets happened outside the ward’s aldermanic office and protests and marches occurred even on the mayor’s own home nearby in an effort to halt this project. All this was ultimately ignored by the city council’s most progressive aldermen.

As Ald. Burke introduced the development for a full council vote, he noted, “There is a particular urgency on this matter”. The politically connected alderman was right. There was an urgency to pass through the TIF development because within a matter of a few days the new ARO rules would come into effect disqualifying the development even more so for approval and requiring the developer to pay several times more affordable housing to be 20% of the total development. Community activists urged alderman who said they would vote no on the ordinance to defer the full council vote past this date deadline. The parliamentary move only required two aldermen to do so and would have stopped the development. Many aldermen were spoken to in person. Many were called. They all refused to make such a move.

In the city of Chicago, machine aldermen often follow a certain code of silence akin to that of the Chicago police. When a development is supported by the alderman of that ward, other aldermen are expected to support it as to get support for developments in their own ward. Well the esteemed alderman of the 46th Ward, Ald. James Cappleman, not surprisingly fully backed this TIF project with zeal. The fix was in and the development was expected to pass. Aldermen then figured that they could vote no on the matter for political cover without actually attempting to stop the project in a serious way.

The development passed the finance committee with only 2 “no” votes and with members of the supposed progressive caucus, like Toni Foulkes and John Arena, voting yes and Scott Waguespack and others not even showing up for the vote. The full council vote passed the TIF with 37 for it and only 13 voting against it. That time around Ald. Arena and Ald. Waguespack decided to vote no. While eloquent speeches on the council floor were made by Ald. Osterman and aldermen are taking pride in their no votes, it all is empty. The real chance to push back the TIF and stop it was squandered. None of those who voted “no” would step up and defer the ordinance. Many had hoped that even the two most progressive aldermen, Ald. Sue Sadlowski Garza and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, would defer the project but alas it did not happen. In front of the council’s finance committee, left-wing activist Andy Thayer proclaimed “If you want your vote to actually mean something then defer and publish this past the deadline for the new ARO to come into effect. Otherwise this all means nothing and we aren’t going to buy it”. After the finance committee vote, Thayer wrote an open letter to the progressive caucus that like so many other pleas was ignored.

Teachers, working people, those in the neighborhoods, the rank and file had sweat and worked hours to get these aldermen elected. They did so out of a real desire for political courage and fundamental change. They did so to stop tax breaks to luxury housing developers like this one. Aldermen of the progressive caucus paid insult to those desires by allowing this development to go through. Though it already happened, these aldermen need to feel the criticism, anger and disappointment. They need to do so because it could happen to another community again. They need to do so because the movements from below need to raise our standards out of candidates who call themselves progressive reformers. It is these movements that made the aldermanic careers of the progressive caucus possible and it these movements that should hold them accountable when poor and working-class people are so blatantly wronged. If there isn’t that kind of accountability in place then we are denied the leaders we so desperately wanted and need.

6/22/16 City Council Vote on the Maryville TIF:
Record #: SO2016-4370 Version: 1
Type: Ordinance
Title: Redevelopment agreement with Montrose Clarendon Partners LLC for construction of residential and grocery/retail space and parking facilities at 4400-4424 and 4401-4415 N Clarendon Ave
Mover: Burke, Edward M. Seconder: Beale, Anthony
Result: Pass
Agenda note:
Action: Passed
Action text:
Votes (37:13)
50 records
Person Name
Moreno, Proco Joe Nay
Hopkins, Brian Nay
Dowell, Pat Yea
King, Sophia Yea
Hairston, Leslie A. Yea
Sawyer, Roderick T. Yea
Mitchell, Gregory I. Yea
Harris, Michelle A. Yea
Beale, Anthony Yea
Sadlowski Garza, Susan Nay
Thompson, Patrick D. Yea
Cardenas, George A. Nay
Quinn, Marty Yea
Burke, Edward M. Yea
Lopez, Raymond A. Yea
Foulkes, Toni Yea
Moore, David H. Yea
Curtis, Derrick G. Yea
O’Shea, Matthew J. Yea
Cochran, Willie Yea
Brookins, Jr., Howard Yea
Munoz, Ricardo Nay
Zalewski, Michael R. Yea
Scott, Jr. Michael Yea
Solis, Daniel Yea
Maldonado, Roberto Yea
Burnett, Jr., Walter Yea
Ervin, Jason C. Yea
Taliaferro, Chris Yea
Reboyras, Ariel Yea
Santiago, Milagros S. Yea
Waguespack, Scott Nay
Mell, Deborah Nay
Austin, Carrie M. Yea
Ramirez-Rosa, Carlos Nay
Villegas, Gilbert Yea
Mitts, Emma Yea
Sposato, Nicholas Yea
Laurino, Margaret Yea
O’Connor, Patrick Yea
Napolitano, Anthony V. Yea
Reilly, Brendan Nay
Smith, Michele Nay
Tunney, Thomas Yea
Arena, John Nay
Cappleman, James Yea
Pawar, Ameya Nay
Osterman, Harry Nay
Moore, Joseph Yea
Silverstein, Debra L. Yea

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