Monday, August 31, 2015

Mayor Emanuel Reorganizes Chicago Infrastructure Trust

Frustrated with the sluggish pace of progress by his showpiece Chicago Infrastructure Trust in pushing forward funding and completion of public private partnership investment projects in the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has shaken up the board and staff of the entity he touted on its creation as “the breakout strategy for the city” during the present era of declining federal funding and disappearing state resources. Executive Director Stephen Beitler, venture capitalist, is being replaced by Chicago Law Department attorney Leslie Darling. Former Boeing executive James Bell and former Sara Lee executive Diana
Ferguson have resigned from the Trust’s board, and former 10th Ward Alderman John Pope lost his seat after being defeated in April’s election. Their departures are joined by former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman, whose term expired at the end of 2014.

Thus far, the Trust has initiated work on only two projects – improving city owned building energy efficiency, and adding cell phone service in CTA subway tunnels. The energy efficiency upgrade project was slated to involve 104 city buildings at an investment of $115 million, but lack of investor participation cut back the scope to $13 million worth of work on only 62 buildings. The subway cell phone initiative for 4G wireless installation is expected to produce investment of $32 million.

Mayor Emanuel has expanded the Trust’s Board from five to seven members. New appointees include City Treasurer Kurt Summers, Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro, Northern Trust hedge fund officer Carl Lingenfeller, Ernst & Young Global investment head Kym Hubbard, Marquette & Associate Managing Partner Miguel Zarate, and 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea. The sole holdover from the earlier board is Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez.

The new, expanded board will be looking at potential private investments in proposed projects such as express L service from the loop to O’Hare Field, upgrading 400,000 Chicago street lamps to energy efficient LED lighting, and improving energy efficiency of 114 swimming pools in Chicago’s parks and schools, a proposal approved by the outgoing board, but which tanked as the CPS bond rating has plummeted.

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