Mayor Rahm Emanuel reeled in the Black vote, assuring that he'd get a second term. We delivered. This next term this is what I think he should do for us--as I discuss in my Chicago Defender column.
The Mayor's to-do list for his second term
Thanks to Black Chicagoans voting against their our own interests, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with a double-digit lead, will have four more years to oversee who gets the wheat and who gets the chaff. In his first four years, the mayor put a lot of time and energy into taking care of the Loop and those who either did business or resided there.
Now that he’s got that tied down, I suggest the mayor slip outside the Loop and attend to the rest of Chicago. I’ll even try to give him some of those specifics that Emanuel’s attack ads and debate talking points demanded from challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
To be exact, I’d like to talk about Bronzeville.
Back when candidate Rahm Emanuel was one of many hopefuls during the mayoral debate sponsored by the Chicago Defender, I asked him if, as mayor, he would use Tax Increment Financing, or TIFs, as they were intended to be used--as a means to kick start economic development in neighborhoods that could use it the most--or if he’d use them as Mayor Richard M. Daley had used them--as his handy slush fund.
Candidate Emanuel gave the right answer, promising he’d use them for the good of all Chicago. Mayor Emanuel, like the mayor before him, uses TIFs to take care of those communities and businesses that hardly need a helping hand.
There’s the $500,000 TIF that’s been set aside to rescue that economically distressed neighborhood surrounding McCormick Place. Using funds that could have travelled a mile or so further south along the lakefront, the mayor could have spurred development Black businesses that would not only have provided Bronzeville with much-needed good and services but would have seeded Black entrepreneurship in the process.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the money is going to the economically-disadvantage Marriott Corporation so that it can build a 1,200-room hotel right next door to a DePaul University basketball stadium. This plan was hatched even as the mayor was closing down 50 public schools in Black and brown neighborhoods because, he assured us, the city couldn’t afford to keep them up. The scheme was so outrageous that even students on DePaul’s Lincoln Park canvas protested to no avail.
Other dollars directed by the mayor has been better targeted to Black communities where they can make a difference. Mount Sinai Hospital on the city’s West Side is getting $31 million in TIF money. Whole Foods, the grocery chain frequently referred to as Whole Paycheck because it costs more to have organic foods, is getting $10.7 million in TIFs to build a new store in Englewood. A. Finkl & Sons, a specialty metal producer which was formerly in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood before moving to a 44-acre site on 93rd street, received $22.5 million in TIFs to help finance the move.
In all three of these deals, Mayor Emanuel’s use of TIFs undoubtedly will result in more jobs for some in the Black community. But all three business enterprises are white-owned and operated, guaranteeing that when it comes to commerce in Chicago, while folks will still remain ahead.
There are ways that the mayor can pay back all the Black Chicagoans who so slavishly gave him their votes: Invest in the Bronzeville, assuring that Black entrepreneurs are seeded so that they can grow thriving Black businesses. Rather than spoon feed the Black community with penny-ante social services and welfare deals, Mayor Emanuel can use TIF funds and his one percent pals to develop business partnerships where Black businessmen can eventually take over.
Here’s one specific example for the mayor. Since he took office, Rahm has pushed tourism as a major source of business development for the city. Right at 35th Street, in the landmark Supreme Liberty Life Building that was the longtime headquarters of the first African-American owned and operated insurance company in the northern United States, sits The Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council.
For $500,000, a mere fraction of what he’s given to Whole Foods to move into Englewood, Mayor Emanuel can help fund an organization, which doesn’t need to move anywhere, in taking visitors on tours that teach them about the history of Bronzeville.
There are other investments I’ll pull the mayor’s coattails to in the future. Four years from now, should he decide he’d like to another term, he should know and Chicago’s Black voters should know, what he’s done for them and what he’s been doing to them.