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When campaign promises crash into reality

Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019

* Mayor Lori Lightfoot had almost no staff during the campaign’s first round and the media did little to no vetting of her ideas, so these sorts of promises were quite common

[Lightfoot] campaigned on a promise to abolish the city sticker and replace the $128 million in annual revenue with dramatically higher fees on ride-hailing vehicles. She talked about imposing strict limits on the number of ride-hailing vehicles.

“There’s no rush hour anymore. It’s perpetual. … We have tens of thousands of new cars on the roads … because of ride-share. They’re … [driven by] people who don’t even live in Chicago,” Lightfoot told the Sun-Times in late February.

* But

During a typical morning rush, there are “only 1,400 Ubers on the road” in Chicago, he said; that’s “around three percent of miles driven,” [Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi] said.

* And she’s now coming to terms with reality

Mayor Lori Lightfoot today said she plans to roll out “modest recommendations” in the “short term” when it comes to Chicago’s traffic congestion, but alluded to a package of reforms that leans on a “comprehensive study of what is happening with congestion here in Chicago.”

“What are the drivers of it? I don’t think we have enough data yet to be able to make a comprehensive plan,” Lightfoot said at an event with Uber officials Monday, describing press accounts about the tax as “way ahead of where we are.”

* Meanwhile, these folks are free to suggest all sorts of things because they’re not actually in charge of much of anything, but it gets them media coverage

A coalition of progressive groups and a handful of aldermen are getting specific about increases to a bevy of taxes to fill Chicago’s budget hole, including restoring and increasing Chicago’s corporate head tax to $16 per month for large companies, instituting a 3.5 percent tax on office leases, a hike in the hotel tax from 4.5 percent to 7.5 percent, a vacancy tax on commercial properties vacant for more than 18 months and a local income tax on those earning above $100,000 a year. […]

Aside from progressive revenue proposals, the group is calling for a freeze in the Chicago Police Department’s budget, a moratorium on the city privatizing services, and a halt to TIF subsidies for developments aimed at wealthy neighborhoods. It wants $2 billion in additional city spending for affordable housing, reopening the city’s closed mental health clinics, an expansion of early childhood education, and a year-round youth jobs program. […]

The group conceded they had only 10 members signed on to push those proposals and were still in talks to get the entire 18-member Progressive Caucus on board.

Yeah, they can’t even convince the full Progressive Caucus to support them. That’ll go far.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

43 Comments »
  1. - Montrose - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:36 pm:

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the vacancy tax. Is the thinking that property owners are purposely leaving storefronts empty in neighborhoods that need economic activity, so this tax will push folks to fill those spaces? Maybe there are studies out there that show this tax is both a good revenue generator and good policy, but on the surface it is a headscratcher.


  2. - Boone's is Back - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:37 pm:

    I thought getting rid of Columbus Day was first on the priority list for the caucus?


  3. - F.R. - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:38 pm:

    So she’s not eliminating city vehicle stickers? Darn. Well, at least I don’t have to pay my water bill if I don’t feel like it.


  4. - Juvenal - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:39 pm:

    A hastily-made campaign promise is still a campaign promise.

    And Uber might only account for 3 percent of the vehicles, but they account for a significantly higher proportion of the congestion. Regular suburban commuters have figured out the quickest most efficient route to their daily destination. Ride share drivers are perpetually lost, perpetually in the wrong lane, perpetually holding up traffic.

    So too are city bus drivers.

    I will believe Lightfoot wants to reduce congestion when she starts taking the Red Line to and from work.


  5. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    - Montrose -

    There are property owners out there with several properties that sometimes use the vacancies as tax write offs against other properties.


  6. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    ===but alluded to a package of reforms that leans on a “comprehensive study of what is happening with congestion here in Chicago.”===

    As long as there’s a study…

    This is so on point;

    ===Mayor Lori Lightfoot had almost no staff during the campaign’s first round and the media did little to no vetting of her ideas, so these sorts of promises were quite common===

    It now specifically goes to how Lightfoot and her Crew, ineptly, go about trying to get Springfield and the Governor to react to ridiculousness.

    There is no clear plan to policy.

    There wasn’t a vetting of sorts to these policy “thingies”

    Lightfoot is a novice at understanding the how to, and what is possible, and her Crew seems as inept as she.

    Until Lightfoot, and her Crew, orchestrate a policy initiative from beginning to end, successfully, and most importantly get others who were not on board to be so to show a knack at building consensus, we will be reading more and more about half baked campaign sound bites no where near the policy stage of action.

    Learn process… to get progress… to the end game of policy.


  7. - City Zen - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:43 pm:

    ==A coalition of progressive groups==

    Someone else (repeat).


  8. - Langhorne - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:49 pm:

    Not ready for prime time.

    Reality. What a concept.


  9. - Lucky Pierre - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:53 pm:

    Ride share drivers are perpetually lost??

    Have you ever taken a ride in an UBER?

    It gives turn by turn directions to the driver through their smartphone.


  10. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    What an idiotic collection of ideas from that progressive group. Let’s take it one step further and drive all businesses and cars from downtown so we can create one giant pedestrian mall. Worked so well for Jane Byrne on State Street.


  11. - ChrisB - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:03 pm:

    Time the lights! One way to get cars off the road is to get people to their destination faster. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven down Western Avenue only to be stopped at every light. As one turns green, the next one turns yellow.


  12. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:04 pm:

    You can laugh all you want at Chicago’s Progressive Caucus but.. they have a voice in Chicago. They have a bigger voice than those who want to cut spending and taxes.


  13. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:09 pm:

    ===You can laugh all you want at Chicago’s Progressive Caucus but.. they have a voice…===

    Until something is policy, it’s noise.

    Process to Progress to Policy.

    A voice is noise until those steps occur.


  14. - proudstatetrooper - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    Consult Pat Quinn on how to spend +50M of taxpayer money on youth jobs and safe streets.


  15. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:13 pm:

    OW

    Can’t become policy unless you first make noise. The Progressive Caucus has a major seat at the table in Chicago.


  16. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:14 pm:

    ===Can’t become policy unless you first make noise. The Progressive Caucus has a major seat at the table in Chicago.===

    What is the policy agenda they are driving?

    How’s that going?


  17. - anon - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:16 pm:

    when you belly up with Chicago public employee unions it means higher taxes, unfunded employer mandates, excessive spending and no pension or education reforms. Great recipe for suburban job growth. Hope the Mayor and her comrades on the council enjoy defending “progressive” agenda at the next election, when by the way Chicago will show a population loss.


  18. - She shed - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:20 pm:

    I think the mayor also led voters to believe that she would roll back the red light camera and Denver boot programs.


  19. - Montrose - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    “What is the policy agenda they are driving?”

    Unlike Lightfoot, they have several very specific policy proposals that are part of their agenda. There are several that won’t see the light of day, but there is a strategy and they are at least consistent in their messaging/framing. The fact that what they are putting forward isn’t policy yet doesn’t mean they aren’t going to get some wins along the way.


  20. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:25 pm:

    ===It wants $2 billion in additional city spending for affordable housing,===

    This last one won’t be necessary if they get all of the others passed. There will be so many vacant buildings in Chicago that rents will plummet.

    They should push for a tax on stupid ideas. The Mayor could balance the budget with that extra cash.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:30 pm:

    ===they aren’t going to get some wins===

    I’ll wait and watch with anticipation.

    They are at least more organized than the Mayor’s Crew, but that’s a low bar these days.


  22. - Lurker - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:31 pm:

    To paraphrase a popular meme on this blog – mayors own.

    My take is that the Lightfoot administration genuinely disagrees. Traditional policy leadership and coalition building work reeks too much of “Chicago style” top down politics, and too often leaves under-represented Chicagoans away from the table. They would insist that there is a better way, that leads first with the voice of neighborhoods, equity, and families.

    To be honest, if we’re sitting around during office hours of Poli Sci 110, I’m inclined to agree with them. But actually pulling off effective “bottom up leadership” requires a level of organization, credibility, trust, and focus that this administration does not possess. And given the incredible size and diversity of the City of Chicago, I think there are very few leaders, if any, who do. Maybe (Maybe!) President Obama could pull this off. And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to.

    Instead, I fear we will be left with an administration that doesn’t own, and doesn’t see itself accountable for even setting goals, let alone meeting them. If you ask them, they won’t see it that way, but waiting for the “marketplace of ideas” to show them a path forward will be…disappointing.


  23. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:36 pm:

    OW
    The policy agenda is more government spending for Chicago. They might not get all they want but spending is going to go up. There’s no anti-spending coalition in Chicago.


  24. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:38 pm:

    ===The policy agenda is more government spending for Chicago. They might not get all they want but spending is going to go up. There’s no anti-spending coalition in Chicago.===

    What a terribly flimsy and sad choice for victory, lol

    “They spent more money, yea us”

    Ugh.


  25. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:46 pm:

    ===There’s no anti-spending coalition in Chicago.===

    Yes there is.

    It’s called the “$838 million budget hole”

    It’s a coalition of one… thing… but, it seems to have a lot of sway right now.


  26. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:51 pm:

    OW

    In one party political towns , that want big activist government, it’s pretty difficult to decrease budgets. That’s why there’s a lot of talk on how to increase taxes and fees.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:53 pm:

    ===That’s why there’s a lot of talk===

    Yep.

    Lots of talk. Lots and lots.

    Of talk.

    And yet, that pesky $838 million…


  28. - City Zen - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:54 pm:

    ==I’m trying to wrap my head around the vacancy tax.==

    There are cities that have instituted this type of tax, but often combined with incentives like reimbursing renovations. But I don’t think there are metrics indicating how effective vacancy taxes are.

    There are many reasons a landlord might keep a property vacant, most of which are not dubious.


  29. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 2:57 pm:

    OW

    Someone has to pay for Chicago’s budgets. There will be no real aggregate cuts. Many taxpayers will be paying more , while they’re standard of living is diminished to pay for pensions they aren’t going to get. That’s Chicago.


  30. - Chicago Bars - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 3:10 pm:

    Vacancy Tax, spin properly (big if) might have some legs. Live on the north side and lot of neighbors are weary of empty stores (for years) in mixed use buildings and smart enough to google the listing, see the rental price and go “That landlord is high”. Look up a lot of Clark Street on Loopnet (real estate database) for examples.


  31. - Pick a Name - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 3:18 pm:

    Sure appears Chicago is in good hands. Would be like me managing a MLB team when I’ve watched some baseball games thru the years. Sigh


  32. - lincoln's beard - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 3:48 pm:

    = I will believe Lightfoot wants to reduce congestion when she starts taking the Red Line to and from work. =

    Uh, Lightfoot lives in Logan Square, which is on the Blue Line.


  33. - Benjamin - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 3:56 pm:

    ===Have you ever taken a ride in an UBER?===

    Pierre: I rarely do, for that reason. The last time I was in one, the driver mistook his phone’s instructions to take Lower Wacker Drive and ended up on Upper Wacker instead, which doubled the length of the trip and made it considerably slower than taking the bus.

    Anecdotally, I see a lot of Uber/Lyft drivers who don’t know where they’re going driving erratically because they over-rely on GPS. (E.g., the car will make a left turn from the right lane because the phone didn’t give them adequate warning that they needed to be in the left turn lane.) My experience is that professional cab drivers know the roads more intimately and drive more predictably.


  34. - Chicago 20 - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 3:58 pm:

    - “During a typical morning rush, there are “only 1,400 Ubers on the road” in Chicago, he said; that’s “around three percent of miles driven,”

    If Uber’s numbers are correct I would bet 1,300 of the Uber’s are in the central business district along with 1,300 Lyft vehicles.


  35. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 4:00 pm:

    ===because they over-rely on GPS===

    Yep. They don’t know the city. Also, jump in a cab and say “Take me to Gene and Giorgetti’s” and you’re off and running. Tell that to an Uber driver and you get a blank stare.


  36. - City Zen - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 4:12 pm:

    ==My experience is that professional cab drivers know the roads more intimately and drive more predictably.==

    If by predictable you mean consistently blowing through red lights and stop signs while making right hand turns, then I’d agree.


  37. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 4:28 pm:

    ==My experience is that professional cab drivers know the roads more intimately and drive more predictably.==
    On average, I’d agree. I’ve had horrible cab drivers, excellent Uber/Lyft drivers, and everything in between. Some rideshare drivers know the streets as well as any cabbie, but I’ve had some GPS-dependent dummies, too. Cabs are at their best if you need to make an instantaneous transportation decision, like “if I don’t get a ride now, I’ll miss my appointment.” I’d guess the ratio of cabs to Uber/Lyft is about 1:1 in peak travel times in the Loop, plenty of both. And they both get scarcer as you move way from the core. In the suburbs, I have waited in vain for a cab, and rideshare usually shows up within 10 minutes.


  38. - Cronish - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 5:16 pm:

    The proposals put forward by the “progressive caucus” are a terrible ideas. Are they looking to stop job job growth and return to the 70s and 80s?


  39. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 8:54 pm:

    ===Someone has to pay for Chicago’s budgets. There will be no real aggregate cuts. Many taxpayers will be paying more , while they’re standard of living is diminished to pay for pensions they aren’t going to get.===

    (Sigh)

    All are taxpayers.

    Not all are voters. You, for example, aren’t a voter.

    The mayor needs $838 million. Progressive caucus or progressive folks, the bottom line is… $838 million. Today.

    It’s not easy being a mayor. Running for mayor is hard, but not as hard as actually being… mayor.


  40. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 7:00 am:

    ==Vacancy Tax, spin properly (big if) might have some legs.==

    At least why not first eliminate the Vacancy Relief Provision. Why should billionaires like Trump and Pritzker get breaks on vacant properties? In the first case we are rewarding poor management and in the second case why are we subsidizing some billionaire’s hobby project?


  41. - Cornish - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 9:03 am:

    Big Bad Wolf, most commercial property owners have no desire to have vacant property. No tenant means no income. The problem is a lack of credit worthy tenants. You think Englewood will be helped by this? The likely result is more teardowns and less investment.


  42. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 9:18 am:

    @Cornish - There are bad apples out there. I live in a nice part of the city and the storefront below me has been vacant since 2014. Landlord doesn’t even bother to clean up the space or make improvements to at least make it look respectable.


  43. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 10:47 am:

    Cornish do you think the Vacancy Relief Provision should remain then, billionaire hobbiests included?


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