Ward Room
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Opinion: Two Media Stories Open Windows On Rahm’s Chicago

Stories show how tax dollars are spent and detail spying on activists

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    NEWSLETTERS

    They haven’t got much media attention, but two outstanding pieces of investigative reporting this week go a long way in demonstrating exactly how Chicago runs under the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

    Both of them are heartbreaking in their own way. One involves the fact that as mayor, Emanuel unilaterally shut down much needed mental health centers across the city, even as the city sent spies into community protests over the move on the city’s South Side.
    The other involves the little matter of $1.7 billion dollars of taxpayer money held in reserve for corporate subsidies, even as the city cries poverty as justification for closing public schools, cutting employee pensions and, yes, shuttering mental health clinics.
    Let’s start with the ever-tireless Ben Joravsky, writing in the Chicago Reader about the disturbing spying episode.
    Two years after Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the mental health clinics, he's finally allowing his City Council allies to hold a hearing on them sometime this month.
     
    If it actually happens, I'm hoping someone asks about the curious tale of Mo and Gloves, because their story reveals a lot about the Emanuel administration's attitude toward mental health care in poor areas.
    Jarovsky goes on to detail the story of undercover agents Mo and Gloves who, despite posing as protesters and were arrested at rallies against the mental health center closures, were in fact “Chicago police officers assigned to the ‘intelligence unit in February 2012 for a 90-day public safety temporary duty assignment,’ according to court documents filed by the Cook County state's attorney's office.’ ”
    The pair went on to help convict the so-called “NATO Three,” activists charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism in response to their participation over Chicago hosting the 2012 NATO Summit by using their “street cred” gained from being arrested at the clinic protests to gain other protester’s trust.
    The other story doesn't even require undercover operations, unless you count the Emanuel adminstration’s refusal to admit exactly where your tax dollars are going.
    In the International Business Times, reporter David Sirota tells us the story of how “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Cuts Schools, Pensions While Preserving Fund For Corporate Subsidies”.
    Months after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said budget constraints forced him to push for pension cuts and mass school closures, an analysis of government documents reveals the city has $1.71 billion in special accounts often used to finance corporate subsidies. While the Emanuel administration has rejected open records requests for details of the subsidies, evidence suggests at least some of them have flowed to companies connected to Emanuel’s campaign donors.
     
    The report [by the TIF Illumination Project] shows $412 million was diverted last year alone into the TIF accounts and out of traditional property tax funding streams, many of which are dedicated to the city's schools. In 21 of those districts, the report says 90 percent or more of all property taxes were diverted into the TIF accounts. 
    So there you have it. The city, led by Rahm, is more than ready to shut down critical social services, gut vital education funding and slash public employee pensions, even as it holds billions back to help corporations and campaign donors' bottom lines.
    And, should anybody protest, they’ll just have to deal with the fact that their fellow upset neighbor could be a spy ready to help sell them out, put them in a jail cell or worse.
    That’s how this city is run under the watchful eye of Rahm Emanuel.
    That’s how your tax dollars are spent by a man who says he deserves another term as mayor.