Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fix Wilson Yard Lawsuit Update

Mark your calendar! On Thursday, November 5, Fix Wilson Yard will host a progress update on its groundbreaking lawsuit against the City of Chicago and the Wilson Yard Developer at Holiday Club.
  • Hear a summary of the legal causes of action in Fix Wilson Yard's amended complaint and an update on the status of the case.

  • Get specifics on how YOUR tax dollars (over $50 million) are being spent behind closed doors with no public oversight.

  • Learn how you can join your neighbors in fighting this abuse!
Holiday Club will generously provide snacks and donate 50% of the bar tab to the Fix Wilson Yard Legal Fund. So bring plenty of your friends who like to have a Thursday Night cocktail!

Date: Thursday, November 5, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 7:45pm (Meeting); 7:45pm - ?? (Happy Hour)
Location: Holiday Club, 4000 N Sheridan Ave
Admission: Free


  1. I am a little confused. What exactly do you hope to accomplish with continuing this lawsuit and what progress is there to report? The building exterior is almost complete. Pretty much a done deal now. Seems like a waste of energy.

  2. If the goal is to stop construction, is that really wise? I would much rather have the building built and inhabited then sitting empty.....

  3. You guys! The goal isn't to STOP Wilson Yard, it's to make it an asset to Uptown rather than more of an aldermanic folly than it already is.

    Roll over and say "It can never happen" and keep paying for $450K-per-unit low-income rental housing, and fish farms that will employ two or three people at best.

    Keep on paying for public housing that will have no drug testing. Keep on paying for housing that may or may not be for people in Uptown (Peter and Helen say it is, the legal documents Holsten signed say it's for folks kicked out of CHA housing across the city).

    Keep on paying for promises that the Wilson El will be fixed, but then see that the money is going for a parking structure instead.

    If this sticks in your craw, as much as it does mine, particularly when I see understaffed cops and crime in Uptown, where I *wish* my money were going, then come to the Holiday Club on Thursday and see what Fix Wilson Yard is doing for ME and YOU.

    Because if you just roll over and play dead and say "nothing can be done about it," well, hey, you are Alderman Shiller's Favorite Boys Ever. Not fighting her plans for Wilson Yard is agreeing with her.

  4. Because the lawsuit is not about stopping the development or about Target coming.

    It's about how the City/Shiller went about abusing the TIF laws and also about spending 400k per unit for LOW/NO INCOME housing in a area when most condo's don't sell for 400K that are 2bed/2bath.

  5. Ok, great, so the goal isn't to stop the development, but rather to make the building/complex an asset to the neighborhood. Then my next question is HOW? I agree one shouldn't just roll over and play dead, but you also need a thought out goal. Specifically, what is going to be accomplished?

    Trust me, I have lived in the neighborhood since 2002, and understand where you're coming from, but when is a lost cause a lost cause?

    I didn't hear any of the naysayers in regards to Target not coming, say "we were wrong" once construction started, (rather many said, "it can't be for Target"), or even when the signage/logo started wrapping around the building.

    I am not a Schiller fan, (And would STRONGLY resent it if someone said I am.) and I agree that she needs to be challenged. However, is this still the best way to do it?

  6. Because it is important to shed light on every district of Daley's Shadow Budget.

  7. Craig,

    how much is Shiller paying you to comment here?

    I kid.

    Seriously, the current goals of the FWY lawsuit is likely to shed light on the darkness that is the TIF process and also to change the income limits in the building. Perhaps some of those teachers and fireman Shiller talked about living at Wilson Yard.

    FWY is likely not going to ask a judge to tear the buildings down even if the process is judged to have been illegal.

    There is a good case to be made that the law is actually on the side of FWY. How much the actual law matters in all this is up for debate.

    Oh, wait. I just looked at my tax bill. This is Cook County........forget the law.

  8. In the best of all possible worlds... the TIF as it currently exists would cease and the funds would be returned to the city, schools, parks, etc. While we're pretty much stuck with travesty of planning and design that's been built, we're not stuck (yet) with a travesty of community social impact. Peter-the-(not-so) Great would likely have to abandon his vision of reaping tax payer dollars in the form of rents while evading repaying tax payers through tax credits. Alas, I'm afraid the reality will fall short of the ideal. But I'll stop by Thursday with my check book anyway.

  9. Craig, why not show up at the Holiday Club - in person - and ask the Fix Wilson Yard folks - in person - your questions? They are the experts.

  10. "I didn't hear any of the naysayers in regards to Target not coming, say "we were wrong" once construction started, (rather many said, "it can't be for Target"), or even when the signage/logo started wrapping around the building."

    No one was sure what was going there because Helen and Peter have refused to release the fabled Target Letter of Intent. Even though they say they have it. Their attitude has been "trust us" and "you don't need to know."

    Isn't it remarkable that a UU reader found out from Target itself, not the Alderman, that Target is going in? I'm surprised Ald. Shiller hasn't wrapped a red bullseye cape around herself and paraded up and down Broadway screaming "Nyah nyah, told you so."

    Actually, I'm not surprised -- too many bullets flying on that stretch to make wearing a target bullseye an attractive option.

    Here's a nice little surprise: I was speaking to someone in the know the other day, and he told me that Target ONLY DECIDED AFTER JANUARY 2009 to open a store at Wilson Yard. That's when the final decision was made. Economic reasons prevented them from making a final decision earlier.

    Now it's starting to make sense why we haven't seen that fabled Letter of Intent.

  11. Plus I am sure Peter and Helen gave them more money in January 2009.

  12. "Target ONLY DECIDED AFTER JANUARY 2009 to open a store at Wilson Yard."

    Let's assume this is true. What then would induce a major retailer to site in a somewhat controversial neighborhood in the middle (let's hope) of what is the worst fiscal calamity since the Depression?

    I wish we had a reliable and audited report to corroborate my instinct here, but dang, this possibility only reinforces my sense that the TIF dough is subsiding the commercial piece of this project and not the residential.

    Yo, loved your Robitussin attribution. Nice touch ;-)

  13. Suzanne-

    The TIF dough is, by definition, subsidizing the TIF. The residential portion is the majority of the TIF ( I could be wrong here, but as I recall, Peter sold Target somewhere between a quarter and a third of the parcel.) Of course the "commercial" aspect is being subsidized. By don't be fooled for a moment into thinking the $400K+ residential units aren't being subsidized at least as much.

  14. Actually, Bradley, the point is that none of the information you and others cite is reliable, which is why all sorts of foolery can happen without anyone knowing. And the problem with that is that it gives place to just about any interpretation one might choose to lay upon the Wilson Yard project.

    From what I’ve read on this blog, most decry the outrage of subsidized housing in excess of market rates and are convinced that’s what’s happening. Ok, but considering the counter point to that belief is not evidence of being fooled, Bradley. On the contrary. And it begs this question: If this turns out to be more high-finance footsy than low-income boondoggle, what does it say about those who chose to believe it was the latter?

  15. By don't be fooled for a moment into thinking the $400K+ residential units aren't being subsidized at least as much.

    One of the most annoying things is that the budget is a black box and there does not seem to be any scrutiny of the tax expenditures.

    We just keep shoveling in money every time Peter asks for it, without knowing the who, what, why, where and how details of those expenditures.

    The "Developer Overhead" and "Developer Profit" line items are disgusting. But besides those numbers, we really don't know anything about precisely why the TIF had to be amended twice and and the taxpayer burden exploded to $54,000,000.

    Is that where we're at now? $54,000,000? Or did I miss an additional handout or two?

    Throw in the Aldercreature menu money contributions on top of that, I guess.

    Can some explain to me again why we're paying Target to open a store? This is a company that made over $2,000,000,000 in profit over the past year.

    This is how Helen looks out for the little guy and those down on their luck?

    God help us all.

  16. we really don't know anything about precisely why the TIF had to be amended twice

    Just a point of clarification:

    There have been other modifications to the TIF; but it's only been amended once.

    In my mind, that's once to often; however, we do need to adhere to the very few facts that we have.

  17. Suzanne-

    There's a TIF at Broadway/Montrose. The TIF consists of residential units and commercial units. The TIF gets $50mm+ of direct subsidy plus all the menu money (do I need to remind you that's also tax payer money?) Helen chooses to give. Given that, through the 2008 annual report at least, the money's gone mostly to Peter and Peter's got the residential portion of the development, it would seem relatively obvious that the residential portion of TIF is benefitting from tax $.

  18. Dear Mr. Yo:

    For the full legislative history, including all amendments, please visit this very informative web site.

    It says there have been 3 amendments.

    There are 34 WYTIF documents, but it only displays the last 10. Whoever operates this site should fix that so we can see them all.

  19. Dear Ms. Suzanne Elder:

    I have never seen you not equivocate over any issue regarding Wilson Yard.

    There are so many awful things happening within this particular TIF redevelopment and TIF in general, not to mention the ridiculous politics that surround WY, etc, etc.

    I understand you once ran for some sort of political office.


    Rather than continually say "we don't have enough information to know exactly what the story is" and give wishy washy, no committal opinions, pick a couple of issues and take a stand.

    Nobody follows an equivocator. People follow leaders.

    Pick am issue or two and lead.

  20. Refugee,

    Those were modifications to the TIF, not official "amendments" to it.

    I remember Helen and Lorraine chattering about the clarification of such prior to the WYTIF amendment meeting - and Lorraine having to eventually cede the point.

    Yes. It's hair splitting (and high-grade BS, granted); however, if you unsheath the concept of multiple amendments to the WYTIF during a debate, you're gonna' lose that point solely on how an "amendment" is defined *cough* legally.

  21. *cough*

    Damn cold.

    Then any time the schools, parks, county, and other taxing bodies need more money—and they always do, since their budgets continue to grow—they must raise their levies to compensate for their inability to generate more revenue out of these districts.

    Sooner or later all of this is going to crash, because the taxing bodies depend on taxes that citizens are having a harder and harder time figuring out how to pay. But if the mayor's lucky, that won't happen till he's out of office.

    This one should sound familiar, and be dead on appropriate to the conversation at hand:

    Part of the reason he gets away with this is that he keeps the TIF take a secret. It's not included in the budget that the City Council approves in November, and it's not itemized on property tax bills, which lie, even if you're in a TIF district, by telling you that TIFs get nothing at all.

    Wait, wait .. it gets ever-so-much better:

    On September 28, 2006, the day the county board was scheduled to vote on Quigley's proposal, Mayor Daley sent over aldermen Walter Burnett, Helen Shiller, and Patrick O'Connor as well as representatives from the schools, parks, and city to lobby against it. Presiding over the meeting was county board finance chair John Daley, the mayor's brother. Quigley's erstwhile reformer allies on the board deserted him: Larry Suffredin, the commissioner from Evanston, said too much information would only confuse voters. Forrest Claypool and Tony Peraica had been at the meeting, but they managed to be gone by the time the TIF vote came up.

    (good, girl .. now go sit down. You can have a cookie later)

    And ... to end with a flurrish:

    And what is our fearless leader Mayor Daley doing while home owners are begging and pleading with Madigan? Usually he's hiding under the table, pretending he doesn't know what's going on.

    But, read the whole thing re: Madigan's property-tax appeal practice.

    And yet, some people don't see the problem with TIFs that have some of us Uptowners up in arms.

    Of course, with the sort of political (Mayoral and aldermanic) support, who wants to give odds on FWY actually being able to do what needs to be done - especially when the judge on the case is beholden on Daley for her position?

    Short version TIF abuse needs to be fought from the top down.

    Greg Harris, Heather Steans ... you're up.

  22. I have resided in Uptown since 1986 and have seen a lot of bad and a lot of good go down here. I don't wear blinders or rose colored glasses. In terms of the job she has done as my Alderwoman, I would give Helen Shiller a grade of B-.I am not one of those that blindly thinks that everything and anything Shiller has attempted to do for the 46th ward is wrong! Some of her more strident critics remind me of those right wing ideologues and racists who can't believe that President Obama can doing anything right. I own the condo I reside in and I favor the building of low income housing in the 46th ward and anywhere else in Chicago as it is desperately needed in these tough times. I did want the movie complex to go into the Wilson Yard complex and was upset that it will not happen. But that has not been enough to cause me to pick up a pitchfork and join the "Anyone But Helen" crowd that has been so strident over the last few years. I am a strong supporter of diversiy in this ward in terms of income, race, age, and sexual identity. I strongly oppose those that would use legalize and politics to mask goals of economic and/or racial seperation and isolation.
    Uptown Max

  23. I strongly oppose those that would use legalize and politics to mask goals of economic and/or racial seperation and isolation.

    Who doesn't?!

    But yet, you give Helen a B-.

    For the 1,000,000th time, no one is seeking racial or economic separation.

    What people are looking for is broad-spectrum equality and a trust in the alderman that their voices are being heard AND that their concerns are being taken into consideration.

    That, and safe neighborhoods, healthy schools and some decent local business to patronize.

    Oh, and faith that public funds are being used appropriately, effectively, openly and honestly.

    Take a look around, this problem existed before the economy went south - and the way the city is managing the budget is .. highly curious. I'd love to give further detail, but the city clouds its budget, and the lone voice against such shenangigans is now on board with the political machine which generated this insanity.

    It ain't just the movie theaters that sparked distrust with the current alderman (or the rest of city/county gov't), champ.

  24. Uptown Refugee: Perhaps it is strong ideology or an incomplete understanding of how money moves that has clouded your reading of my post here (and the earlier post on this subject). Critical inquiry is not the same thing as equivocation. There is a clear position expressed in everything I have said, written and, yes, ran for, which included tax reform, reforming TIFs and ending their rampant abuse. That I choose not to be fist-pounding reactive is leadership. That I chose not to swallow whole the common wisdom on the Wilson Yards is leadership. That I choose to express my ideas with more nuance and skill than contempt and name-calling allows, well, that’s just good manners.

    Speaking of leadership, I invite you to try it. It’s quite something, I think, to brittle and moan about what you think I am not when you can’t bother to be open about something as basic as who you are.

  25. That I choose to express my ideas with more nuance and skill than contempt and name-calling allows, well, that’s just good manners.

    Excellent point.

    Admittedly, I'm as guilty of shooting my mouth off as anyone else, either from frustration, or just for fun; however, I do think it high time we all raise the bar on the construct of our comments, and lower the intensity of the rhetoric.

    I've been considering the overall situation in the 46th from Helen's perspective for awhile and ... as much as I hate to admit it ... occasionally, she does have a point.

    There are times when we, collectively, come across as a pack of braying mules - with some of us jockeying for position of lead jackass (again, I do not absolve myself of any of that guilt).

    A lot of the points and views that many of us share are intensely valid, yet - they can be easily dismissed if they aren't presented properly.

    If we lose the perception battle; if we continue to fit into the stereotype that Helen & Co. use as defense, then we will continue to lose the war.

    So, as much as Suzanne and I may have locked ideological horns on some level in the past, I am going to stand by her on this point.

    It's time to be mindful of the fact that we are being judged more on the "how" of what we say than on the "what" is being said.

    (again - ain't the "what" it's the "how". That's applicable to everyone)

    We chastise the shortfalls of the lack of decent communication skills from Helen and her staff, but we willfully ignore our own shortcomings.

    It's been stated that whatever Helen is doing (on any given issue) isn't working - but, I'm not sure what we're doing is working, either.

    Let's all head to the high ground and see if Helen will follow.

  26. We take the moral high ground without any hopes or expectations that Helen will change. I'm from Missouri and I believe what I see and not what I hear or what I hope.

    The people who came up with the figures about the cost of the WY housing make a great deal of sense to me and they're basing it on actual WY documents. If that information is not correct, then Helen should be speaking up. She has remained silent about the cost of the housing as she has about crime and a host of other things. I don't want her to get a free ticket on not being challenged by the cost of the WY housing.

  27. She has remained silent about the cost of the housing as she has about crime and a host of other things.

    Again, that's part of the game she's playing.

    She's turned her back on a section of her constituency hoping that the inevitable shouts of protest include something which can be construed (fairly or not) racist, or classist so she can then turn around say, "See? Told ya' they're all just jerks"

    The issue isn't that we can't challenge her - or that she shouldn't be challenged, it's in the tactic taken to do so.

    Here are some rather (in)famous political tactics - any stand out?:

    * The judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.
    * In war the end justifies almost any means.
    * Judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.
    * Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.
    * The less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.
    * Generally, success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.
    * The morality of a means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.
    * Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.
    * You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.
    * Goals must be phrased in general terms like "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," "Of the Common Welfare," "Pursuit of Happiness," or "Bread and Peace."

  28. Dear Mr. Yo:

    The basic tactics you need are to have a well financed campaign with a message that things will be better if you're elected.

    The message needs to be hammered on persistently through web site, Facebook, Twitter, email - use 'em nonstop.

    But even more basic is the need for precinct captains that know the voters and the voter rolls personally, and make the commitment to drag every friendly voter to the polls.

    Voter registration drives help, too.

    It's all about turnout, and the effort has to be run like a machine.

    We need a David Axelrod.

  29. Refugee,

    When you say "you", I'm assuming that you mean "someone else" (cuz, everything you stated just smacks of effort. I'm deathly allergic to effort).

    As for Axelrod ...having met the man, I can say that I wasn't terribly impressed.

  30. I meant "you" in large, community sort of "you".

    Maybe it should have been "we".

    I regret the error.

    I also meant Axelrod in a figurative way, as in someone who could run a winning campaign. I could have said David Plouffe, but nobody would know who that is.