Rahm Promises to Build “New Chicago”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has good news for about 30,000 Chicagoans out of work right now.

Emanuel announced Thursday a "major new infrastructure program" to create tens of thousands of jobs across Chicago by "coordinating the revitalization of Chicago’s infrastructure."

The plan, which includes expanding O'Hare Airport by 2015, costs $7 billion. It focuses on improving city streets, water systems, schools, community colleges, parks and spending big bucks on renovating Chicago Transit Authority stations. It also would add 20 playgrounds, 12 parks and 100 basketball courts.

"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. "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 wants to fund the renewal projects with private funds through the Chicago Infrastructure Trust that he unveiled with former President Bill Clinton earlier this month.

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.

But Emanuel told The New York Times this next bigger goal is an “integrated, comprehensive approach” to building "a new Chicago."

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

But he promises not to increase Chicago property or sales taxes. Instead funding will come with help from the Chicago Infrastructure Trust and cost cutting measures within the city, as well as energy savings from retrofitted buildings.

Emanuel eliminated one financing possibility, though. He said he will not lease anything like the Skyway and parking meters were previously.

"Nothing is more crucial to our long-term competitiveness and job creation than infrastructure," Emanuel said in a written statement earlier this month.

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