Mayor Rahm selects his infrastructure trust rubber stamp



David Hoffman
  • David Hoffman
It's been almost two months since the City Council overwhelmingly approved Mayor Emanuel's infrastructure trust, which means that most Chicagoans have forgotten all about it, if they knew anything about it at all.

So, folks, let me refresh your memories . . .

As far as I can tell, the infrastructure trust is Mayor Emanuel's scheme to get you—the clueless taxpayer—to pay more than it would ordinarily cost to borrow money to fund public works projects. The mayor can shower that extra money on his cronies—unions included—who will reward him with contributions and endorsements.

It's a scheme so diabolically clever that former governor Blago, out in Colorado, probably wishes he'd been smart enough to devise it.

To work, the trust needs an oversight board to approve the deals that the mayor wants done.

And so Mayor Emanuel has announced his five-member board of toadies, flunkies, and bootlickers.

Oh, wait, that's the mayor's school board.

Actually, that description pretty much applies to all oversight boards, whose members are carefully chosen to weed out any appointee who might ask a challenging question, much less cast a dissenting vote.

For the record, Mayor Emanuel's infrastructure trust board consists of the following:

James Bell, a retired executive from Boeing, one of the world's wealthiest producers of airplanes, but a company that nonetheless needed $24 million in public dollars to move its headquarters to Chicago. Speaking of public money that would have been better off spent on other things.

Diana Ferguson, who managed to spend several years as chief financial officer for the nearly bankrupt Chicago Public Schools without ever mentioning the $250 million a year in property taxes that flew out the door and into the mayor's TIF slush fund. Give her the Sergeant Schultz "I see nothing" award.

Alderman John Pope, who has voted against Mayor Emanuel all of—never! Not exactly Patrick Henry.

Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. As you might recall from the opus Mick and I wrote, one of the first investors who lined up to feed from the trust trough was Ullico, a financial service company owned and operated by several unions. Apparently, union leaders have decided that if the public's going to get fleeced, they might as well get some of the wool.

And, finally, David Hoffman, the city’s former inspector general. Once upon a time Hoffman criticized the parking meter deal—an act of insubordination so stunning that thousands of grateful Chicagoans begged him to run for the U.S. Senate.

He promptly lost that primary to Alexi Giannoulias, who was largely known as coming from a family of bankers who had horrendously mismanaged their family-owned bank.

Alexi was such an lousy candidate that the voters elected Republican Mark Kirk, and the Democrats lost President Obama's old seat—no easy feat, even with the tea party rebellion.

Proving once again that when it comes to shooting itself in the foot, you can't beat the Democratic Party.

A point that bears no relationship to the trust. Unless you think of Democratic mayors—such as the aforementioned Mayor Emanuel—as fiduciary guardians of the henhouse also known as the public's purse.

As opposed to agents for the foxes who are looking to raid said henhouse and eat all the eggs.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, David Hoffman . . .

Upon losing to Giannoulias, he apparently came to the conclusion that there was no percentage in being a reformer. And so he did what any smart lawyer would do—he took a job with Sidley & Austin, a downtown corporate law firm, where he'll make untold gazillions and live happily ever after.

I don't blame you one bit, David. I'm almost there myself—on my bad days.

As the so-called reformer on the trust, his job will be to use his reputation to provide cover for whatever crappy deal they approve. Much as he did last year when he gave a little credibility to candidate Emanuel's mayoral campaign by endorsing it.

As always, board members—I urge you to prove me wrong.

Till then—let the rubber-stamping begin!

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