Chicago Mayor-Elect Steps Back in Battle Over Massive Real Estate Deals



Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Ohio lawmakers pick sides on how best to run sports gambling … Connecticut launches interactive campaign to cut red tape … Georgia to provide $1.5 million in free menstrual products.

Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot stepped back from a long-running battle over two major real estate developments that now remain on track to benefit from $2.4 billion in tax-increment financing from the city. During her history-making campaign last year, Lightfoot had expressed serious reservations about the two projects—The 78 in the downtown South Loop and the Lincoln Yards in tony north side Lincoln Park. Lightfoot sided with critics who said the major tax subsidies should deliver more direct public benefits, including significant numbers of public housing units, for example, and infrastructure development. Early this week, Lightfoot seemed ready to engage. She got current-mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city’s aldermen to hold off voting on the deal, the Chicago Tribune reported. But on Wednesday, Lightfoot said she decided to lift her opposition after winning a promise from the developers to spend an additional $80 million on contracts with minority- and women-owned firms. Upon learning that Lightfoot would no longer stand in the way, the City Council Finance Committee voted in favor of the deal, and the full City Council followed suit later in the day. “I am not yet the mayor, and I recognize that the current administration and City Council must decide whether to carry this vote forward according to the interests of the constituents they serve,” Lightfoot said. “Either way, upon swearing in, I will engage with the community and committed activists who have advocated forcefully for affordable housing, park space and the responsible use of tax increment financing dollars for many months.” [Chicago Tribune]

GAMBLING | Ohio lawmakers this week offered dueling proposals on how best to regulate the raring-to-go sports betting industry in the state. A House bill would see the state’s Lottery Commission run the system. A Senate bill proposes the job fall to the state’s Casino Control Commission. Supporters of the Senate bill say the Lottery Commission isn’t set up to properly oversee complex gambling. Supporters of the House bill say that current state law prohibits gambling, except games of chance run by the state’s Lottery Commission. All Lottery Commission revenue is earmarked for K-12 education and the state estimates sports betting will generate $30 million in tax revenue annually. Gov. Mike DeWine has yet to pick a team to throw in with at the Legislature. “This needs to play out a little bit,” he said. “This needs to be done right.” Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized sports betting across the country, ending Nevada’s near monopoly. [Columbus Dispatch]

WILDFIRES | The Northwest region of the country has seen wildfire season rage hotter and longer year to year over the last decade, filling the skies from San Francisco to Vancouver with acrid smoke, taking lives, burning up whole towns and stretching public resources beyond limits. Leaders in the Washington Senate have embraced a proposal pushed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources that would levy a tax on property and casualty insurance and dedicate the revenue generated to year-round fire-preventing forest maintenance and to doubling the state’s number of full-time firefighting staff. Insurance companies oppose the plan, arguing that the cost of maintaining public lands should be more fairly spread across the population. [Crosscut]

EFFICIENCY | Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont launched a public campaign this week to reduce government paperwork, asking state businesses and residents to offer suggestions on social media and through a new email account. Josh Geballe, the commissioner of administrative services, said that the online consolidation could eliminate more than 90,000 of the paper forms the state processes every year. “We’re still a Sears, Roebuck government, and we’re moving toward an Amazon government, where more is done online,” Lamont said at a press event held at a local paper-shredding business. [Hartford Courant]

VIOLENT CRIME | Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say “micro-target” patrolling is working to halt what has been a steady rise in violent crime in the city. The Impacting Crime in Our Neighborhood program, or ICON, sees authorities identify small areas in the city—sometimes just a couple of blocks—affected by high rates of violence and then beef up patrols who work the areas round the clock. The program is fueled by a $700,000 Justice Department grant, which also pays a university researcher to gauge the effectiveness of the program, including whether violence is being eliminated or merely dispersed. [KCTV]

ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION | South Dakota’s Secretary of State plans to buy new elections equipment with $3 million in federal grant money Congress approved last year as a response to the attacks launched against state election systems in the 2016 presidential election. A 2018 elections security report for the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress gave South Dakota a C grade, praising its use of a paper ballot system, but dinging it for failing to run post-election audits and tests to determine the security of its voter-registration system. [KELO, Center for American Progress]

PUBLIC HEALTH | Georgia lawmakers dedicated $1.5 million in next year’s $27.5 billion state budget to providing free menstrual pads and tampons to low-income residents through local schools and community centers. Republican House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones pushed the proposal, saying in part that it would prevent girls from missing school. Earlier this year, a bill to eliminate the state’s 4 percent sales tax on menstrual products failed to gain traction at the Capitol. [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Seattle.

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