Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the Chicago City Council Finance Committee, deferred a full City Council vote today on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Infrastructure Trust public-private partnership plan, arguably the most consequential and controversial proposal of Emanuel’s brief time as mayor thus far. Burke delayed the vote amid speculation that Trust opponents might use a parliamentary maneuver to table the measure.
However, the City Council is anticipated to hold a special session next Tuesday, April 24 to vote on the measure, much to the chagrin of ordinance opponent Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).
“We just have a lot of concerns that may or may not be answered by the next meeting,” Waguespack says. “Frankly, I don’t think that they can be answered in time.”
Waguespack did see the delay itself as a temporary victory. “We’ll take it,” Waguespcak says. “I think it sent a message that there’s serious reservations.”
Reservations include whether the Trust, as a non-profit entity not legally bound to Freedom of Information Act rules, will nonetheless fulfill a pledge and adhere to FOIA laws, and what input the City Council will have over Trust projects.
Probably the greatest concern is what infrastructure projects, exactly, the Trust’s private investors would propose, and how the public might end up liable for the developments through taxes or user fees.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), another ordinance opponent, also viewed the delay as a victory that was tempered by the quick turnaround of next Tuesday’s meeting. “It would be a little different if we were given 30 days,” she added.
Hairston says that her problem with the Trust is not the concept itself – a non-profit entity using private money to finance public goods – but the city not properly addressing aldermanic concerns. Asked if the mayor or his staff have talked to her about those concerns, Hairston replied, “No, of course not – but I’m going to be calling them.”
Waguespack also said he hasn’t communicated with the Mayor’s office. “They were avoiding me at all costs,” he says.
Besides possible concerns about being upstaged by a parliamentary maneuver where two aldermen can work to delay a vote, it is not clear why Emanuel – and Trust supporter Burke – deferred the vote. A call and e-mail to the Mayor’s office this afternoon were not immediately returned.
At a news conference yesterday Emanuel said of the Trust that, “We’ve debated this long enough. And the question is, ‘Are we going to do something about it or not?’”