Chicago Sun-Times

Why the Mayor Is Mad

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January 10, 2009

BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist

Mayor Daley is spitting mad. Furious over Chicago Sun-Times/NBC5 News reports on a clout-heavy deal to buy site of the venerable Chicago Christian Industrial League, relocate the charity's homeless shelter and replace it with pricey condos. As a tragic consequence, a century-old mission may now go bankrupt at a time when its services are needed most.

I'd argue that taxpayers should be raining down wrath on City Hall instead, but you be the judge.

"CHARITY BEGINS AT CITY HALL FOR MAYOR'S PAL" -- that was our Thursday headline that caused the mayor to explode at a news conference.

The story, reported by the Sun-Times' Tim Novak and previewed by yours truly on NBC5's newscast the night before, involved one of Rich Daley's best friends, Michael Marchese.

Marchese, along with partner and political power broker William Cellini (who's under federal indictment in the Blagojevich pay-to-play scandal), made a deal with the Christian Industrial League in 2000 to buy their property.

It looked like a win-win.

The decrepit building, located in Greektown was falling down.

The league, which for 100 years has fed the hungry, housed the homeless and trained the jobless, desperately needed a new home. And the developers needed prime real estate on which to put up a 212-unit condo development.

But as in the subprime mortgage mess, warning signs of big trouble were ignored.

Novak's investigation revealed internal memo after internal memo showing City Hall knew full well that the Christian Industrial League couldn't raise enough money to support the building it wanted to build in North Lawndale, a $25 million state-of-the-art shelter.

"There has been a persistent funding gap of $5 to $6 million," Planning Commissioner Alicia Mazur Berg wrote to the mayor in 2002.

"We are deeply concerned with the viability of this agency," Human Services Commissioner Carmelo Vargas wrote to the mayor in 2005.

Flags? There were flags everywhere that the league was teetering if the project proceeded. But proceed it did. The building went up in 2006. The city has kicked in more than $13 million.

Marchese and Cellini, meanwhile, appear to also have received city charity. They didn't have to worry about tearing down the old building. City tax increment financing funds paid the $1 million ticket for that.

Normally, in exchange for TIF money, developers have to set aside units as "affordable housing" or pay a hefty fee.

Not Marchese and Cellini.

That's because the TIF money was channeled through the Chicago Christian Industrial League even though Marchese and Cellini supervised the demolition.

What did that save the mayor's pal? An estimated $4.2 million.

The day before Novak's story broke, the mayor made a big announcement. Declaring the need for affordable housing "more important than ever," Daley rolled out a $2.1 billion commitment to help renters and homeowners.

D'ya suppose he knew the Marchese story was coming?

The following day, when Daley's fury at the Sun-Times was on full display, he cited the deep personal relationship he and his father before him had with the Christian Industrial League -- a fact no one would dispute -- and how unfair it was to tag the city with the mission's grave financial problems or to suggest that the Marchese deal played any role.

While the Chicago Christian Industrial League has its own profound management problems, the sad truth is that City Hall has known it was in trouble for years.

And yet the city, as our banker, effectively let the Christian Industrial League take out a mortgage it couldn't afford, putting it at risk of foreclosure.

As a result, a charity we need could go broke while clouted developers benefit from taxpayer charity they don't deserve.

The mayor's anger should be nothing compared with ours.

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8 Comments

just some points that you forgot to report...
that "212-unit condo development"from " clouted developers benefit from taxpayer charity they don't deserve. "
That building now pays millions in property taxes that CIL didn't pay a dime too. Quickly off setting that "charity" money.
That building empolyed and created jobs with some coming from past CIL visiters ( maybe why CIL is only half full :) )
Did CIL lie on the loan apts? It takes more than just the Mayor to approve all of this ( FEDS, state, city, and private donors )

If the mayor said no , he would have been worst off for not helping the poor.
Daley damned if he does, damned if he ....

Carol, I've always been a fan of yours and this is why. Please keep up the great work and I'll also keep doing my part to ensure that people read wonderful, necessary reporting like this.

Carol Marin is an IDIOT! Her stories are never about something that she has done; its always OTHER reporters stories who she steals;and then reports on them like its her's; like she has done all the work.

Remember, she cant get a job anymore that why she only works for the sun-times. No one will touch her with a ten foot pole because she left nbc saying that :Jerry Springer is "BAD" and she has morals??? Please carol, GET OUT OF TOWN!!!

Daley has been against affordable housing all along. Forcing poor and working families out of the city has been the the focus of the Daley administration since day one. Daley has tried to force the Olympics down our throats, not because he is a lover of sports, but because he knows it will change the complextion, literally, of the South side. It is the same with Renniassance 2010. Close schools in poor, or working class neighborhoods, and maybe the people will leave. As a life long resident of this city, I don't know how this guy keeps getting reelected!

I love you Carol Marin. True journalism. Keep up the good work (true investigative, exposing reporting). You and Ms. Zeckmann are awesome.

So, what if Daley's angry. Good for him. I'm angry that there is a "do nothing" city hall that rubber stamps his every whim. I'm angry that he would bulldoze Meigs Field in flagrant violation of a court order and then laugh about it on the news. I'm angry that he tried to get the Olympics on the backs of the poor people and working class in the city. I'm angry that he has his grubby hands on the Board of Education--and it's not for the best interest of the child. I'm angry that Millenium 2010 is a complete joke resulting in such overcrowding in some neighborhoods as areas gentrify and schools are shut down and revamped for more privileged kids, that as many of 65 special education kids are on the roster for ONE class (Corey H, anyone? Which limits special ed. classrooms to 12 students, 15 with an aide). I'm angry that kids are bused 2 hours each way across town on CTA because they are no longer allowed to go to the nearest school in their neighborhood, due to gentrification and mandated testing for enrollment (thanks, Millenium 2010!) I'm angry that Daley putting Arne Duncan in charge of running the Board of Education is criminal at best, and now Duncan gets to foul up the country (or at least sit quietly in a corner and collect a paycheck while letting the real educators handle things--although, ego will probably dictate more forced resignations like at the CDC). Yaay! Go Daley!

I'm angry that Daley hasn't been indicted. . . Yet.

The corruption in Chicago is so deep I don't beleive it can ever be overcome. Daley's Friends & Family plan, his staff in jail, his disregard for citizens, the poor in Chicago is shamless and his co conspirator is the media. You lead by example which is why Chicago neighborhoods are for sale.

Tony Rezco raised as much money for Daley and had a number of contracts with the city. What's the differnce between him and the Governor.Whites in Chicago still support him..What's the difference.

The culture of sleaze in Chicago continues because Dale's strong influence on campaign contributions for aldermen or challengers who pledge to rubber stamp anything he proposes. It gets worse when the unspoken rule for aldermen not running again is to quit during their term so that Daley can appoint another rubber stamper. He's appointed close to 20 of the 50 aldermen this way, and these appointees all march to Daley's step.

The culture of sleaze in Chicago will only be truly confronted when Daly is thrown out of office, and the Machine is left to die. People in Chicago think 'this is just he way it is,' when in reality they are being held hostage by the sleaze that Daly's gang has perpetuated since before most of us were born. Daly was born into a culture of sleaze, and since it rewarded him, he has left it alone. I do love a lot of what Daly has done, and have sympathy for people who are born into a bad situation, as he was with Chicago politics sleaze factor, but it is time to change. People first have to have the 'audacity to hope' that we can get beyond this seemingly intractable gang that controls politics in this town.

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This page contains a single entry by Carol Marin published on January 10, 2009 12:08 PM.

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