Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced a splashy plan to inject three billion dollars into seven Chicago neighborhoods in what the city touted in a Sunday press release as a new “Opportunity Planning” initiative.
(See the seven targeted "Opportunity Areas" and their proposed plans below.)
Though the city has stuffed the announcement with buzzwords like "holistic," "strategic vision" and "synergies," the Illinois Observer notes nothing in the mayor's plan is really new, save the curious emphasis on linking up with private entities to propel "opportunity" in the city.
Rather, the plan is a re-hashing of projects and public-private partnerships that were largely in the mayor's office's backlog or already in the works, as is the case with the urban agribusiness project slated for Englewood.
In addition to the Englewood urban farm hub, the plan includes what would be the longest protected bike lane in the country in Rogers Park and a newly designated music district in Uptown.
Emanuel has dubbed the neighborhoods "opportunity areas," or, spots ripe for economic development.
The mayor tells the Sun-Times the multi-billion-dollar price tag would be paid by private-sector and university projects, while the city would be on the hook for roughly $350 million via sources like federal, state, city land and transportation funds.
"Private-sector" investments or so-called "public-private partnerships" have long been interpreted as Emanuel's code for privatization, especially when hailed under the banner of cost-savings for the city.
"Chicago is reflective of the outsourcing that's been going on for years," Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform at the libertarian Reason Foundation said in a December Chicago Reader cover story on city privatization.
A proposed privatization disclosure act was buried in the City Council's Rules Committee where the Tribune says it won't get a full public hearing.
Curiously, after a "progressive caucus" of mayoral dissenters formed on the City Council — and announced privatization transparency as a key focus — a second caucus made up of Emanuel allies sprung up the following day.
Emanuel's plan, however, is likely to barrel ahead. Neighborhood blog Uptown Update hailed the news, while the mayor continued to talk up the plan in grandiose terms.
Speaking to the Sun-Times, Emanuel gushed, "In Bronzeville, we’re having the Gospel Fest that’s gonna be down there now on a regular basis. There’s a cultural element. We’re talking about marketing it as the ‘New Harlem.’”
Slideshow text via the City of Chicago