Lightfoot launches lobbying campaign to win City Council approval for Red Line South TIF

The mayor pressured alderpersons to hurry and approve her plan to qualify for federal matching funds needed to build the 5.6-mile extension and four new stations.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot, discussing her proposal on how to bankroll $950 million of the $3.6 billion cost of extending the CTA’s Red Line, said, “What I’ve heard is, `We did this for the North Side without any hesitation. Without any concerns. Let’s do it for the South Side. Let’s do it for these communities that have been disconnected from rail service forever.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, discussing her proposal on bankrolling $950 million of the $3.6 billion cost of extending the CTA’s Red Line, said: “What I’ve heard is, ‘We did this for the North Side without any hesitation. Without any concerns. Let’s do it for the South Side.”

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday launched a frenzied lobbying campaign aimed at persuading a skeptical City Council to create a new transit tax increment financing district by Dec. 31 to bankroll $950 million of the $3.6 billion cost of extending the CTA’s Red Line from 95th Street to 130th Street.

After introducing the massive redevelopment plan at a City Council meeting, Lightfoot pressured alderpersons to hurry and approve her plan to qualify for federal matching funds needed to build the 5.6-mile extension and four new stations.

“What I’ve heard is, ‘We did this for the North Side without any hesitation. Without any concerns. Let’s do it for the South Side. Let’s do it for these communities that have been disconnected from rail service forever,” the mayor said.

“This is an incredibly important inflection point for rail transportation and … giving those communities the same kind of investment that other communities — particularly on the North Side — have enjoyed for decades. This opens up so much potential on the Far South Side. I’m excited that this is happening on my watch,” she said.

CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. noted that 40 percent of federal funding for new mass transit projects “must flow to disadvantaged communities.”

In order to “take full advantage of the historic levels” of federal funding, Lightfoot said, “We’ve got to demonstrate to the federal government that we’ve got skin in the game. That we are willing to use our dollars to say, `Yes, we will match what is necessary to get this done and get it rolling.’ ”

South Side real estate broker Michael LaFargue said it would be “scurrilous to the reputation of this city and a travesty“ if the Red Line South TIF were rejected by alderpersons concerned about violent crime on the CTA.

“Crime on the CTA must be reduced. But CTA is not the cause of crime. Crime is a symptom of the cost of segregation,” LaFargue said.

“Not authorizing the Red Line extension transit TIF as the City Council has approved the North Side transit TIF has hints to be a form of redlining, the illegal act of refusing money, mortgages, loans, insurance to someone because it is deemed that they might live in a poor financial risk area. Aldermen, do not redline and segregate Chicago by not approving the Red Line extension.”

The TIF district is controversial because it would cover a half-mile on either side of the Red Line, from Madison Street to Pershing Road, and use property tax growth over the next 35 years to bankroll $959 million of the $3.6 billion cost of extending the Red Line from 95th Street to 130th.

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has expressed “serious concerns about committing so much TIF revenue to shoulder a huge burden” of this project. He has noted that gas taxes are “supposed to pay for the bulk of our transit projects, and federal funds should pay for most, if not all, of this expensive infrastructure project.”

The Red Line South TIF wasn’t the only touchy topic to be aired at Wednesday’s post-Council news conference.

Under questioning, Lightfoot also disclosed that she does not plan to file her nominating petitions until Nov. 28, the final day to qualify for the mayoral ballot.

She denied the decision to buy another week of time by filing on deadline day is an indication that she’s having trouble rounding up the 12,500 signatures she needs to get on the ballot and three times that many to survive a petition challenge.

“When you come on Nov. 28, and you see the wheelbarrow or the hand truck that we pull in with all of our petitions, I think that will answer your questions,” she said.

“We did the same thing four years ago. Got on the ballot. No problem. And here I sit. So, this is something that you guys talk about. But there’s no issues here,” the mayor said.

Lightfoot was also asked about the furor over her failure to honor her campaign promise to raise the real estate transfer tax on high-end home sales to create a dedicated funding source to reduce homelessness and ease the affordable housing crisis.

It came to a head this week when a special City Council meeting aimed at getting a binding referendum on the issue fell one vote short of attracting a quorum.

“I’m willing to speak with anyone who understands and recognizes the complexity of the challenges that we’ve faced,” the mayor said.

“I’ve heard from a number of City Council colleagues; I’ve certainly heard from the Realtors and others that this is a very tough market for something like that to happen. So we’ve got to deal with the practical realities of where we are in this moment.”

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