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To anyone wondering how Mayor Rahm Emanuel would respond to the latest evidence that the city’s chief economic development program has been used as a slush fund, here’s the answer:
After-school programs are important.
“First and foremost, as you know, I am a big supporter of after-school programs for children,” Emanuel said after the initial question from reporters Wednesday about the new tax increment financing report from Inspector General Joe Ferguson.
Ferguson’s office found that city officials under former Mayor Richard M. Daley leveraged companies that received TIF subsidies to turn over some of the money to—well, whatever he wanted, starting with After School Matters, a popular educational program founded by Daley’s wife, Maggie. The worth of after-school programming was not questioned in the IG's report.
At his press conference Wednesday, Emanuel couldn’t muster any outrage about the abuses to the TIF program. In fact, he didn’t actually mention anything about the IG’s report that troubled him.
But perhaps he read Ben Joravsky’s analysis of how, once again, kids got hosed on the deal, because Emanuel repeatedly declared that he would not let anyone turn this into a discussion of the value of after-school programs, thereby turning it into a discussion of the value of after-school programs.
“I support after-school activities, be they at public schools, be they at the Park District, be they at the libraries, or with community groups,” Emanuel said. “I am a strong advocate of after-school programs.”
A theme was developing by this point.
The mayor added that he is also a strong advocate of “corporate citizenship.” He also said that TIFs help the city create jobs. In case anyone was skeptical by this time, he said it again. Then he said it again.
However, a discussion of how the TIF program is a mess would have to come some other time.
“I will look at the reforms that are necessary, but I don’t want, in any way, people to think that we should not do after-school activities for children.”
So what you’re saying is—
“I’m going to look through what the reforms are that are necessary, OK? As it relates to TIFs. But I also want to be clear about separating and distinguishing after-school activities that are essential for our children’s safety and for their development.”
Alright, let's try this one last time: Mr. Mayor, was it really appropriate to force TIF recipients to kick in to After School Matters?
“When we look at all the reforms we’ll look at it. But again, what I don’t want to see happen, because of one report, that we shut down after-school activities that will affect everybody’s neighborhoods and their children.”