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City Council Defers Infrastructure Trust Vote

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A vote on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to finance projects to "build a new Chicago" will have to wait a few days. Aldermen on Wednesday deferred a vote so they can continue discussions on the legislation. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

    A City Council vote on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to "build a new Chicago" was deferred Wednesday.

    The council apparently had the required 26 yes votes to approve Emanuel's Infrastructure Trust, but many aldermen had concerns. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) wrote in a letter this week that the plan deserves "far more scrutiny than possible in the few days aldermen had for review."

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    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday a "major new infrastructure program" to create 30,000 jobs as part of a $7 billion revitalization of Chicago?s infrastructure.

    An approval would allow the mayor's plan, meant to improve the city's crumbling infrastructure, to be funded by private donations through partnerships made by Emanuel. The City Council would still get to vote on land and money projects, but it wouldn't necessarily get to review projects funded by the Infrastructure Trust.

    The $7 billion plan is intended to improve city streets, water systems and schools, and spend big bucks to renovate Chicago Transit Authority stations.

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    With promises that it'll allow Chicago to "control its own destiny," Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former President Bill Clinton on Thursday unveiled the Chicago Infrastructure Trust to finance "transformative" renewal projects in the city. Trust money would be used to finance major projects, initially putting construction workers into jobs. The buildings would see reduced energy costs and would initially use those savings to pay back the loans provided by the Trust. One the loans are repaid, the building would continue to reap the savings.

    Seven aldermen, including Hairston, voted this week against the ordinance, which ultimately passed through the Finance Committee.

    "Exactly who are these private 'partners' coming to our 'rescue?'" Hairston wrote in a public letter. "As with the parking meters I also voted against, I see too little transparency, accountability, oversight or evidence to justify a leap of faith."

    Emanuel estimates the large-scale makeover will create 30,000 jobs during the next three years.

    "We know that as long as our city rests on a 20th century foundation, we will not be able to compete in a 21st century economy," Emanuel said last month. "If we don't take action, Chicago will face another lost decade. That is something Chicagoans cannot afford, and I as your mayor, will not accept."

    Emanuel introduced the Infrastructure Trust with former President Bill Clinton in March. The mayor said during the March 1 announcement that he plans to work with the Trust and debt and equity investors to finance $200-$250 million worth of energy-efficiency projects in city buildings, which would create more than 2,000 jobs.

    He insisted he would not increase Chicago property or sales taxes or lease anything like the Skyway and parking meters were previously.