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PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
4:37pm
Wed Jun 25, 2014

Chicago City Council Roundup: Gun Shops, Phone Taxes & SROs

Progress Illinois provides some highlights from Wednesday's Chicago City Council meeting.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:58pm
Thu Jun 19, 2014

CivicLab: Chicago’s 48th Ward Had $22 Million In TIF Funds Last Year

Far North Side Chicago residents were shocked to learn that the five active tax increment financing (TIF) districts located in the 48th Ward had $22.3 million sitting in their collective bank accounts at the start of 2013, according to city data revealed by the CivicLab at a Wednesday night community meeting.

That money would have otherwise been dispersed among the local units of government that rely on property tax revenue, including the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district, were it not for the city’s controversial TIF program, which is intended to spur economic development in “blighted” areas.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:39pm
Tue Apr 22, 2014

Congresswoman Kelly Committed To Renewing Push For Federal Gun Control Legislation

Although gun-control legislation has stalled in Congress, “common-sense gun reform” remains one of U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly’s top priorities, the Democratic congresswoman said at a Monday night event in East Hazel Crest to review her first year in the House.

Kelly, a former state representative, was elected last April to fill the 2nd congressional district seat left vacant by disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. after he resigned in 2012. The district covers Chicago’s far Southeast Side and a large swath of the southern suburbs.

While in Congress, Kelly introduced gun-control legislation meant to place stricter safety standards on guns and keep “violent, dangerous people” from being able to purchase firearms. But supporters of gun curbs simply cannot get gun-control legislation to the House floor for a vote, Kelly said. 

“There is gun legislation dealing with background checks, and there is about 180 to 190 bipartisan signatures, Democrats and Republicans,” the congresswoman said. “But we cannot get it called to the floor, so what I tell people when people come and see me about the gun issue [is], ‘I’m your choir.’ So we need to call other people across the United States and call Speaker [John] Boehner [to] at least [bring] the bill to committee and to the floor and let it be voted up or down.” 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:36pm
Fri Apr 11, 2014

Report: TIFs Play A Role In Chicago’s Pension Crisis

With the media and public spotlight on Chicago’s pension crisis, the non-partisan research center Good Jobs First is turning the attention to the city’s controversial tax increment financing, or TIF, program.

In its recent “Putting Municipal Pension Costs Into Context: Chicago” report, the Washington, D.C.-based group asserts that the TIF program has played a part in the underfunding of pensions in the city.

“It’s really hard to ignore the evidence that TIF has had some sort of impact on pensions,” said Tommy Cafcas, research analyst at Good Jobs First, which works to promote corporate and government accountability.

“We know that TIF costs grew, and they started growing really quickly after 2000. We know that general fund revenues declined … and we know that the city addressed its budget gap in part by making inadequate contributions to public pensions, so it seems reasonable that TIF plays a role in how the city thinks about addressing the pension issue.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
7:13pm
Fri Mar 28, 2014

Foster Launches Local Initiative To Promote Job Creation, Economic Development

Illinois public and private sector leaders are joining U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL,11) in an effort to help boost jobs and economic development in Will County and the Chicago region.

Foster kicked off his “Project Growth” initiative at a panel discussion in Joliet on Friday. The endeavor is focused on four key issues: education, manufacturing, strengthening the middle-class and transportation.

“My goal in launching Project Growth is to do deep examinations of what’s working in our communities, what isn’t working, and what we can be doing to better support job creation and more economic development,” the congressman said at the launch of his new initiative.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
2:06pm
Fri Mar 21, 2014

Illinois Clean Energy Industry Stymied By Contradicting Policies, New Report Shows

More than 96,800 people work in Illinois' clean energy industry, which is on track to grow this year, according to the new "Clean Jobs Illinois" report. But that growth is being stymied by contradicting state and municipal policies. Progress Illinois takes a look at the report's findings.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:37pm
Thu Mar 20, 2014

Chicago’s Food Deserts Are A ‘Civil Rights Issue’, Experts Say

While the population of food deserts may have arguably decreased over recent years in Chicago, a number of obstacles still remain when it comes to expanding access to healthy foods in the city, according to panelists who discussed the topic Thursday afternoon.

The Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hosted the talk in Chicago to hear from public, private and non-profit leaders who work on food access issues. Back in 2011, the committee issued its own report about Chicago food deserts, a problem it says must be addressed as a civil rights issue.

Food deserts are communities that lack healthy, fresh food options. In Chicago, African-American and Latino communities tend to face the greatest food access challenges. The Emanuel administration has worked to expand food access by bringing in new grocery stores, additional farmers markets and more produce carts, among other efforts.

But panelists at the discussion, held at Kennedy-King College on Chicago’s South Side, noted that poverty and high prices for healthy foods are big barriers standing in the way of eliminating food deserts. 

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
2:18pm
Thu Mar 13, 2014

Chicagoans, Aldermen Clash On $55 Million TIF Subsidy For McCormick Place Hotel

The Chicago City Council last week agreed to allocate up to $55 million in tax increment financing (TIF) funds for the development of a new Marriott hotel adjacent to the McCormick Place convention center. Progress Illinois details some of what proponents and opponents have to say about the project.

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