Paul’s Plan for Economic Development
Lifting every community to lay the foundation for sustainability and growth
Paul Vallas believes that we must acknowledge that this great city’s institutions – private and public – have historically conducted themselves in ways that have negligently fostered the reinforcement of inequities in the communities across our city. No more so than in communities of color, where the government has generally failed to provide a safe public environment, nor supported the development of local economies prioritized, owned, sustained by those within the community itself. True 21st century community economic development must be forged in a prioritization of needs and wants determined by those who live and work and raise families there. It prioritizes contracts and partnership with business and organizational leaders located in and conducting their work for the benefit of those who live and work there. And it results in ownership and control with those who will continue on within and from the community as its legacy.
Neighborhood revival should not result in neighborhood displacement. This means devoting investments that reactivate and grow the community from within.
Paul’s vision is five-fold and centers on an asset-based community development approach that lays the foundation for sustainability and growth on our City’s South and West sides:
Creating an Independent Community Development Authority (CDA) composed of community-based contractors and organizations
It would operate freed from City Hall politics - the fifth floor and aldermanic privilege. The determinations of what must be done will not be driven by LaSalle Street and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), rather it will be grounded in a community-based process drawn from community leadership, rooted in asset-based community development process and objectives. The independent CDA along with community partners can renovate homes, finance small businesses, provide microfinance loans, develop industrial parks, finance locally owned and operated social services.
We will have to make sure that the mission objectives of CDA are not slowed or even obstructed by inevitable headwinds of the prevailing way of doing business. Doing so should involve:
Using the collective budget and purchasing power of City taxpayer money – $28 billion across the City and Sister Agencies
Directing all contracting city agencies to prioritize local business growth in procurement decisions. This prioritization should occur at the prime and subcontractor levels. And the city should leverage existing and more traditional contractor/vendor relationships to have them serve as partners and mentors to these neighborhood business enterprises and employees, especially those employing returning citizens, so that the opportunities generated by CDA projects are accessible to all and not just the traditional players.
AND by working closely with our partners in labor, whose unions will benefit from the jobs created by this expanded development enterprise to open their ranks to this new expanded population of community-based workers.
Establishing a Fair Share Investment Trust to hold and reinvest both public and private monies for second and third generation (re)investment
This starts by institutionalizing a “Fair Share” of City economic development resources by requiring that a dedicated portion of all new revenues from TIF's and all developer fees, future casino, sports betting and gaming revenues be dedicated to South and Westside investments. These are the very neighborhoods that have received little financial help and been on the receiving end of predatory lending practices going back decades. This road-tested financial vehicle has been touted in recent years by former alderman and now policy guru Ameya Pawar as a means to put our money where our mouth is on equity and community development. The municipal investment fund would hold the dedicated city revenue funds and extend commercial and mortgage loans.
CDA projects would be prioritized with an emphasis on businesses and family home owners. CDA funds would be held in a dedicated account in a citywide Municipal Bank - a concept advanced by former Alderman Ameya Pawar and endorsed by others in this election – that would extend community purpose loans at lower interest rates than the borrowers could secure from private sector banks.
Besides helping investment in the community, those loans would improve the city’s balance sheet because a municipal bank would capture the profit that private banks presently keep for themselves under the existing arrangement. The profits can then be available for new loans and community investment.
In what often feels like a zero-sum environment, this is a true win-win.
Implementing a strategy to reclaim and repurpose vacant & idle property across the city’s South and West Sides
The goal is to create a City Land Trust that goes beyond the purpose and operational capacities of the existing Chicago Housing Trust goal of addressing housing, to include acquiring control of other non-performing real asset’s like closed industrial sites, shuttered business corridors and vacant property, and support their development into locally owned performing assets.
TIF bond proceeds can also be used along with eminent domain to secure all vacant residential buildings and vacant lots to be turned over to local developers and community organizations for development.
The CDA would be empowered to award long term property tax abatements and provide other local and state incentives on this reclaimed property to improve the prospects for investment and development.
The city can provide financial support for rehab and new construction in the form of equity grants and loans.
The same approach can be taken to decaying retail corridors, long vacated industrial sites and vacant land. The proceeds from the TIF bonds could help finance the physical upgrade and the environmental cleanup needed to make the property suitable for development.
The emphasis is on the creation of local ownership and wealth accumulation in the city’s most neglected communities. The CLT could transfer ownership in return for an equity share which would enable the CLT to build the wealth needed for future investments.
Recognizing that economic development must be supported by an ecosystem of wellness and framework of well-being
Communities and community well-being are not defined simply by crime reduction and economic development. They are defined also by access to resources, mobility, green spaces and communal spaces. They are a reflection of the residents, organizations, cultures and history that make it unique.
Under my administration, any major community economic development must include an agreement that takes into account cumulative environmental impact and commits funds to social service infrastructure as part of the development itself.
A thriving community is a healthy community - one that is sustained by wrap-around social services. Opioid and addiction, crisis, mental health, reproductive health and family health services must exist, be accessible in each community area, and be owned and staffed by those from within the community.
It also requires that we address physical and structural barriers that prevent community members from attaining holistic wellbeing, like food desserts, inadequate safe neighborhood public spaces and degraded urban forest canopy and greenspaces.
Lastly, we must keep in mind that healthy communities are also clean communities, which means empowering ward sanitation superintendents with the resources they need to keep neighborhoods clean.
Regarding returning citizens as assets that reflect the larger historical disinvestment and neglect of marginalized communities
There is an abundance of adult education and occupational training and support service providers available to significantly expand quality services to the displaced adult population and provide education and occupational training alternatives to incarceration.
We documented those very programs and support services when we did our work for US Attorney General Sally Yates on education and occupational training reform in the prison system. The key is organizing them to make access easier, and to prevent redundancies.
An “Adult Education and Occupational Training Network” should be created to identify and coordinate community-based adult education and occupational training programs operating in Cook County. The Network would identify, mobilize, coordinate and expand services and supports, while building a data dashboard to increase access for those in need of the services. The focus can be on high school dropouts, the chronically unemployed and previously incarcerated.
This requires a holistic and integrated governmental infrastructure. And in a city with a strong union tradition and foundation, the path to the middle class for returning citizens must lead to and through our partners in labor.
John F. Kennedy said that a rising tide raises the level of all boats. What he did not say, and what this moment demands be said, is that this aspirational and uplifting concept only works if you have a boat or a place in a boat.
We must, here and now, acknowledge that too many of our fellow Chicagoans do not have, and never have had a place on that boat. And that for far too long, too little of government has been devoted to holistic and inclusive community development that brings the historically disadvantaged and neglected into the Ark.
“Alongside our key goals of reducing crime and improving public schools, our economic development plan will deliver more opportunity to our city and our residents, helping move Chicago out of the current crisis created by failed leadership and into a brighter future.”
- PAUL VALLAS