Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rationality and Experience to Guide Chicago Housing and Economic Development

Outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley is intent on leaving his imprint on city government even after he leaves office early next year. He is busy reorganizing the city’s administration in the way he thinks best, and appointing interim heads to new departments, leaving the next mayor to decide whether or not to keep them. Kudos to Daley for one interim appointment announced last week, which should keep economic and housing development moving in all Chicago neighborhoods during the inevitable transition confusion once a new mayor is elected.

Daley appointed 58 year old Andrew Mooney, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corp. Chicago, to be interim head of the newly created Department of Housing and Economic Development. The new department combines the responsibilities of the former Department of Community Development with the former Department of Zoning and Land Use, except for zoning inspections, which will now fall under authority of Chicago’s building department.

Mooney brings enviable experience in making community development work to his new position. Since it was started in 1980, his organization has invested $150 million in grant money in Chicago area neighborhoods, developing 27,000 housing units and 4.5 million square feet of retail, commercial, and community center space. Mooney’s able leadership has also attracted equity investment totaling $317 million to projects his organization supported, leveraging an estimated $3.7 billion in development throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Some examples of housing developments succeeding under Mooney’s leadership include the 86 unit Churchview Supportive Living Facility in southwest side Chicago Lawn, the 87 unit Harold Washington Unity Cooperative affordable housing development in West Humboldt Park, and Bronzeville’s 3,000 unit Oakwood Shores development, located just south of Ellis Park.

There are so many candidates for mayor running in the February election that it is impossible to predict the outcome, much less the appointments of department heads a newly elected mayor might make. We can only hope that whichever candidate ultimately replaces Daley has the good sense to keep Mooney’s knowledge, experience and motivation working for Chicago’s neighborhoods after he or she takes over the reins.
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