CN April 11 2019

The Klonsky Brothers – Fred and Mike – pay a visit this week to discuss the Lincoln Yards dust-up, and whether Lori Lightfoot got “played” by Rahm Emanuel. At the last minute, it was reported that she acknowledged the vote would go forward – there were more than enough votes – after she extracted from the developers a few more minority/women set-asides.

“She and her team could have played it two different ways” Mike claims. “One is they could have just stayed out of it and then maybe taken ownership of the struggle to change it or tweak it. Everybody knew the votes were there in the council, or she could have tried to do what she did which was to intervene as best she could, try to get a delay on the vote and then when she saw that the vote was going to go their way try to tweak it as best she could, try to build in a better deal for blacks and Latinos and women, which she did you know. Of course the problem is nobody knows what’s in that deal. None of the aldermen who voted for it had even read it, and so what’s going to happen is after she takes office on May 20th, after her inauguration she will get a chance to rework it or renegotiate it as best she can.”

Fred and Mike are solid supporters of Lightfoot, and they’ve been fending off attacks from their left, claiming that Toni Preckwinkle was the more progressive candidate. They defend Lightfoot in this discussion.

They also discuss the nearly one billion-dollar pension hole that Mayor Lightfoot will have  to tackle. And Fred is adamant that the pension payments he and his colleagues receive aren’t the cause of the deficit. It’s the massive obligations to banks to pay off the loans the City had to take out to compensate for the years when the city skipped its payments.

“It’s one out of six dollars goes to the normal cost of the public employee pension,” Fred asserts. “In other words five dollars out of six goes to pay the interest on the debt from the unfunded liability. So the cost, this cost that people are all upset about that goes to public employees whether it’s 3% compounded or 3% simple, it’s a tiny fraction of the amount of money that taxpayers are paying not to retired public employees but to the banks and the institutions that are receiving the interest on the debt because the state didn’t meet their obligations.”

“Why are we wracking our brains about compound interest, asks Mike, “and scared to death to tax the billionaires and the corporate interest in this state?”

Although bills are advancing in Springfield to change Chicago’s school board to some kind of elected system, for most of Lightfoot’s first term the Mayoral control system, in which she appoints the Board, will remain. “What I would like to see in her … school board team and the CEO,” says Fred, “I hope there’s at least a good chunk of people who are educators who know something about education and not the kind of a board we’ve seen under Rahm Emanuel which are opportunist business people making a buck.”

“There should be a left flank in the city council to Lori Lightfoot, Fred demands. ” They should push things that she may not be comfortable in doing and there should be fights. That’s what legislation – that’s what a democratic body looks like.”

We ask the Klonsky’s whether they share the concern Bill Daley raised during his campaign that Chicago must work to rebuild its population back to the three million mark. If that is a priority, then wouldn’t mega-projects lie The 78 and Lincoln Yards help attract new residents? Fred’s response is adamant.

“The loss of population in this city is not white folks on the north side making $150,000 or more. In fact, over the last 20 years we have had an additional 300,000 white folks making $150,000 moving in to the north side and having no problem finding a place to live. You know what I mean? But during that same period of time we’ve lost 300,000, … since Harold Washington we have gone from 1.2-million African Americans in the city down to around 800,000 and we are expected to lose another 200,000 in the next ten years, so Daley is wrong. The problem of loss of population and Mayor Lightfoot has talked about this, that this is not good for the city to lose population but the loss of population is among working-class folks and particularly among African Americans.”


Watch the show by tapping the image above.

Listen to the audio here.

Read a full transcript of the show here: CN Transcript April 11 2019


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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