Last month, we saw news of a plan to develop the North Side of Chicago in the former industrial area located between Lincoln Park and Bucktown, projected to bring 23,000 jobs and 5,000 new homes to the area. The Tribune reported that infrastructure improvements are likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, even including a new Metra station. To quote the Tribune, “The developer said federal and local funds will be sought to offset much of the cost.”
The next day, a Tribune editorial was titled, “A bonanza for the North Side, but what about the South Side?” The editorial discussed the need for development of the previously industrial southeast side of Chicago.
I agree with the editorial that said, “Yes, market forces dictate the direction development takes. But the city’s vision for growth should be one that embraces every corner of the city, not just the ones that are immediately attractive.”
But my question is: What about development on the West Side?
Recently, Cook County Clerk David Orr reported that nearly a third of property taxes now collected by City Hall go into 143 special taxing districts controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen. The Tribune reports that Orr said a record-high $660 million poured into tax-increment financing funds last year, which was more than 31 percent of the $2.1 billion-plus that city government collected. Orr called the percentage “stunning.”
“This is a real pot of gold,” he said of the $660 million, noting that nearly half of it goes into TIF districts in more affluent city neighborhoods. “The fundamental question is: Are we spending it as wisely as we could, given that we really do have a tale of two cities here in Chicago, given massive wealth in some parts of the city and massive amounts of (poverty) in other parts?”
The Tribune reports that Orr has long questioned whether TIFs sometimes result in an unfair allocation of tax revenue and siphon money away from public schools and other needed community development.
Again, the question is: What about development on the West Side?
Social service agencies can help to keep us alive, but sustainable community development and jobs can help us to thrive. We need a moratorium on government-funded development in the Loop, and we need to begin development on the city’s West Side.
If development like the Riverwalk or other nonessential projects take place, they should be funded by private corporations and developers. Imagine the Riverwalk funded by United Airlines or Google.
The city of Chicago is seeing great change and redevelopment. The West Side of Chicago seems to always be left out of the discussion for redevelopment. To read more, go online.
The West Side of Chicago is very accessible via the Chicago Transit Authority’s many bus routes, the Chicago ‘L’ Blue and Green lines, Metra commuter rail lines, and the Eisenhower Expressway. The West Side currently has many opportunities for new development and is an untapped area with great potential. Supporting new development projects could help the West Side build up the community and bring more jobs.
Because we need to continue the fight for support for development on the West Side, especially in this election season when candidates are looking for votes and support, I am forming the West Side Development Task Force.
This Task Force aims to bring awareness to the ongoing development of the city and lack of attention to the West Side of Chicago. I have been meeting with business owners, homeowners, city, and state officials on the West Side to begin talks.
The Task Force will be used to propose new development projects for the West Side of Chicago in preparation for the 2019 state of Illinois capital bill. The Task Force will bring together the work of many West Side organizations’ development plans and begin to draft a West Side capital development bill in Springfield.
The next meeting of the Task Force will take place on Sept. 4, 6 p.m., at Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave.
State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th)