Emanuel Defends Diverting $55M in TIF Funds to Navy Pier Rehab

Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended Monday his use of $55 million in TIF funds to renovate Navy Pier after mounting criticism over the decision.

"We need teachers, we need books, not ferris wheels or city hall crooks," protesters chanted outside Navy Pier.

Not just children with homemade protest signs, but various community groups and alderman gathered outside Navy Pier to voice their dismay--after a published report revealed TIF funds were diverted to rebuild parts of the tourist attraction.

"About $55 million in TIF funds being laundered from McCormick Place to Navy Pier--let's be clear: TIF money should never have gone to McCormick Place to build a basketball stadium and a hotel in the first place," said Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative.

The TIF funds were originally approved for the new hotel connected to McCormick Place--but as Crain's Chicago business reporter Danny Ecker explains--he and the Better Government Association uncovered a series of emails that show $55 million instead went to improving Navy Pier.

"This is a classic case of a project funding being presented one way and there's actually a totally different plan behind the scenes that is happening," Ecker said.

Emanuel responded as aldermen called for hearings on what happened without their knowledge.

"I said it when I announced it in 2013, that we were gonna create thousands of construction jobs, and add jobs to the tourism and hospitality industry and the convention business--and that's exactly what's happened," he said.

But not everyone finds that answer acceptable.

"They perjured themselves to us about this money and then openly, in city emails, they discussed the laundering of the money from that project to this tourist trap--this is unconscionable," Ald. John Arena, 45th, said.

Ald. Pat Dowell says she will introduce a resolution at this week's City Council meeting calling for public hearings on the Navy Pier TIF funds.

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