Mayoral candidates take aim at city developments with desire to refocus funds

CHICAGO — The results of the mayoral election will likely reshape the city.

The campaign for Chicago mayor may highlight a debate over development.

Big projects could be put on hold under either Toni Preckwinkle or Lori Lightfoot as both say they want more community input in big developments and they want to re-focus how resources are used.

Both Cook County Board President Preckwinkle and former police board president Lightfoot have argued that Mayor Rahm Emanuel prioritized the Loop and the lakefront over the city’s struggling neighborhoods.

“There’s been a lot of focus on the downtown and tourists are coming from all over the world to see it,” Lightfoot said. “But our neighborhoods are starving, so we’ve got to focus like a laser beam on the violence, on our schools, on affordable housing so people feel like they have a stake and can stay in our city.”

“We can’t have a world class city with only a bright and gleaming downtown,” Preckwinkle said.  “We have to put money in our neighborhoods to be sure that we have good neighborhood schools, that we address the communities that are struggling and that we try to meet the public safety challenges that our communities face.”

Preckwinkle is calling for tax increment financing reform and said the tax breaks meant to spur development and urban renewal have essentially been given to wealthy developers and taken revenue from the city, which could otherwise fund infrastructure, education and public safety.

“Presently, 31 percent of our property tax revenue goes into TIF districts,” she said. “Tax increment financing districts. This was supposed to be an economic development tool to kickstart struggling neighborhoods, and yet, most of the Loop is in one TIF District or another, and some of the most valuable property in our city is in a TIF district, so that doesn`t make sense.”

Preckwinkle said the city should pump the breaks on two big developments at Lincoln Yards and The 78 and hold off on building a public safety police academy.

Lightfoot said her message of change encompasses not only sweeping away machine-style politics, but also spreading prosperity throughout the entire city.

“We need to win hearts and minds on a larger scale to be sure,” she said. “But I feel very confident that when people get to know me better and understand what I represent and the message of change that we are bringing, that they`re going to rally to our cause.”

Just one of many issues the Lightfoot and Preckwinke will try to highlight before voters go to the polls on April 2nd.

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