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Brown proposes city lottery, naming rights sales to cover $1B pension spike

Mayoral candidate Dorothy Brown on Friday proposed a city lottery, the sale of naming rights to government buildings — including O’Hare and Midway Airports — and advertising on city vehicles to chip away at a $1 billion spike in pension payments.

“We have to look at creative ways of financing. Something that we haven’t really looked at. What about a city-sponsored lottery? We probably contribute the most to the [Il.] lottery. So why not have a city-sponsored lottery to bring those billions of dollars right here to help solve that pension crisis?” Brown told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I’m also looking at advertising revenue. We have not taken advantage of any kind of advertising revenue. Naming rights for City Hall. Naming rights for airports. Naming rights for other public buildings. We need to look at all kinds of creative ways.”

When former Mayor Richard M. Daley dared to propose selling the naming rights to Soldier Field to help defray stadium renovation costs, he was shouted down by veterans groups. He ultimately dropped the idea.

Brown was reminded of that history and the fact that O’Hare is named for war hero Butch O’Hare and Midway for the Battle of Midway. She refused to back off.

She also suggested selling advertising on city vehicles — with the exception of police cars — crowd-funding for sidewalk-paving and other small projects, and the sale of “mini-bonds” that would allow “regular everyday citizens” to purchase city bonds for the nominal investment of $1,000.

That would give Chicagoans a vested interest in their government, much the way Green Bay Packer fans can purchase shares in their favorite NFL team.

A former CTA auditor, Brown also suggested that the CTA switch to a system of distance-based fares to generate additional revenue to bolster bus service and defray at least some of the $2.1 billion cost of extending the Red Line South from the new 95th Street station all the way to 130th.

Brown also suggested that the CTA charge higher fares for the speedier bus service provided by express bus lanes.

“When you do express bus lanes, you take out an entire lane. We’ve taken out a lot of lanes in this city. Traffic congestion is just absolutely horrific,” she said.

“If you do express bus lanes then, in addition to the distance fare, there could possibly be a consideration for a different fare for express vs. local.”

As for the uneven playing field that has allowed ride-hailing to decimate Chicago’s taxicab industry, Brown said she would consider following New York City’s lead by slapping a ceiling on ride-hailing licenses.

That’s something Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose brother is an Uber investor, has strenuously resisted.

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas has outlined a five-year financial plan that would cap property-tax increases at five percent and rely heavily on revenue generated by an elusive Chicago casino and by demanding half the tax revenue when and if the Illinois General Assembly legalizes recreational pot and sports betting.

Mayoral candidate Gery Chico has called legalization of recreational marijuana “inevitable” and said he’s counting on those revenues and the jackpot from an elusive Chicago casino to satisfy the looming pension payment.

Chico has even talked about levying a “new home-run tax on top of what the state’s thinking about” to generate anywhere from $350 million to $700 million-a-year by legalizing recreational weed.

Brown’s proposals are even iffier. She is the first mayoral candidate to suggest a city-sponsored lottery.

As for the five-year-old federal investigation of alleged job and promotion selling in her Circuit Court clerk’s office, Brown said she is confident she will be cleared.

She scoffed at the claim made to federal investigators years ago by a former Brown employee that the “going rate” for a job in her office was about $10,000.

“I hired 2,000 people. That would have been $20 million. Don’t you think they would have found that money somewhere?” Brown said.

“They should have simply asked that person, `Where is the money? Show me the results of that?’ Where is it before they launch an investigation? Actually, that person specifically should be required to pay the federal government back for all the costs they have incurred investigating something that’s not true.”

Also during Friday’s wide-ranging interview, Brown portrayed mayoral candidate and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as “disingenuous” for campaigning on a promise to repeal Todd Stroger’s penny sales tax increase, only to reinstate it. Brown says Preckwinkle is vulnerable after choosing a regressive tax on sugary beverages, only to have it overturned by the County Board.

The Circuit Court clerk dodged questions about whether she would support closing South and West Side schools with huge numbers of empty seats.

But she proposed revamping a Chicago Public School curriculum that she claims has been “dumbed down” to the point where high school graduates still need remedial help before moving on to college.