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Rahm's "New Chicago" Plan Draws Skeptics

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    NEWSLETTERS

    That was a little closer than Mayor Rahm Emanuel would have liked it.

    The city council's finance committee voted 11-7 to send Emanuel's city infrastructure finance trust plan to the council floor.

    It took them almost an entire day to vote, and reports from within the committee chambers said aldermen battled over Emanuel's plan to draw on private funds to finance city works projects through a trust.

    The mayor's administration worked hard to keep their allies in the room.

    Emanuel wants to build a "new Chicago" using the account that will be funded by private donations and, because of its make up, won't be subject to public scrutiny. 

    Some local groups wonder what that means and where the money would come from.

    Finance committee members met Monday to discuss a proposal that would allow Emanuel to make partnerships in the private sector to fund his $7 billion infrastructure plan.

    The plan would improve city streets, water systems and schools, and spend big bucks to renovate Chicago Transit Authority stations. It also would add 20 playgrounds, 12 parks and 100 basketball courts.

    "We need to consider ambitious and transformative projects that will propel the city forward in the 21st century and beyond," Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott said in a written statement to NBC Chicago. "By addressing the urgent infrastructure needs of today, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust will have a profound impact on the City of Chicago for generations to come."

    Local organizers say a traditionally broke Chicago can't cover the work, and they worry about a repeat of the city's controversial parking meters deal.

    "Let's slow this down," said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, at a press conference before the city's Finance Committee meeting.

    The Infrastructure Trust ordinance is scheduled to go before Chicago's City Council for a full vote on Wednesday. The mayor said he wants to work with the Chicago Infrastructure Trust and investors to finance $200-$250 million worth of energy-efficiency projects in city buildings, which would create more than 2,000 jobs.

    Patel argued the ordinance gives Emanuel and his appointed board too much power and not enough oversight to the council.

    Ald. James Balcer said the Finance Committee is interviewing experts and doing research before a decision is made.