Within the next few days, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he plans to issue a pair of executive orders calling for independent eyes on any project undertaken by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust.
One would require a financial adviser to assess the risks, costs and economic benefits a project would bring and prepare a report for the city council to review. Another "independent third party" would analyze the impact of the Trust overall and recommend ways it could be improved.
Word of the pending orders came after the Chicago City Council deferred until next Tuesday a vote on the Trust, a pricey plan to improve city streets, water systems, schools and Chicago Transit Authority stations, among other municipal projects.
Executive orders, however, don't require City Council approval and can be undone just as quickly as they're done; either by the stroke of Emanuel's own pen or by his successor.
Since the massive project was unveiled by Emanuel and former President Bill Clinton early last month, aldermen have rumbled the plan gives too much control of public works projects to private entities.
"The convoluted "smoke and mirrors" financial arguments deserve far more scrutiny than possible in the few days aldermen had for review. Too many questions remain open about the true public benefit, return rates, escape clauses, employment opportunities for residents (especially women and minorities), whether the city might do some of the projects more cost effectively on its own," Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) wrote in a Ward Room editorial.
The administration says the private money to fund "ambitious and transformative projects" will "propel the city in the 21st century and beyond."
"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," Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott told Ward Room earlier this week.
PDF (via WTTW): Ordinance Establishing the Chicago Infrastructure Trust