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Since so much is happening so quickly around here, we thought it made sense to add a new feature to Clout City: a daily roundup of important politics and policy news that you may have missed (and even if you haven’t, that we, in our humble estimation, think you should probably check out again). We have no intention of replacing the observations, reporting, and analysis that we’ve been doing—we just hope to add to it. As always, your respectful feedback is encouraged, especially when it has something even remotely to do with the topic.
So here goes:
The president-elect was supposedly trying to demonstrate his new, nonpartisan breed of politics in tapping Illinoisian Ray LaHood for Transportation secretary, since LaHood is a former Republican congressman with a reputation for reaching across the aisle. But he was also really good at the much-maligned earmark game—like every member of Congress whose district wants to see some kind of return on their taxes.
And as Ben Joravsky has noted before, Mayor Daley is counting on the president-elect himself to help bring more bacon to Chicago—though he seems to be envisioning the Olympics as more of a big, juicy pot roast. In the meantime, the mayor thinks Chicago can keep growing its tourism industry, even though his budgets continue to hike taxes on the parking and downtown "amusement" that tourists would presumably be drawn to.
Illinois continues to be slammed by foreclosures and property abandonment, and politicians are scrambling for ways to counter the devastating effects. Earlier this week Richard Mell asked fellow Chicago aldermen to consider an additional tax on mortgage companies that own foreclosed properties but do nothing to keep them from becoming neighborhood blights; today Mayor Daley announced that the city will receive $55 million from the federal government to aid some of Chicago’s hardest-hit areas. But that still might not be enough.
Chicago is also pockmarked by more than a thousand vacant, potentially polluted industrial sites. That's why the feds just awarded $200,000 to a Chicago nonprofit to train people from depressed neighborhoods to do environmental cleanup work. It sounds like a great start, but again it’s a small chunk of change given the resources needed: each brownfield costs an average of about half a million dollars to clean up, though studies have found that they produce economic benefits worth five to ten times the investment.
And one other thing—apparently we have two senators again.