Yesterday morning Chicago Women in Philanthropy and the Chicago Foundation for Women sponsored a breakfast for nonprofit executives with Alderman Danny Solis, president pro tem of the Chicago City Council, ostensibly to discuss opportunities for nonprofits to secure city support for their activities. On that score, the meeting was a disappointment: Ald. Solis mentioned a program under which businesses in a Tax Increment Financing district can secure up to 25% of their build-out costs from the city–but when asked about the applicability of this to nonprofits, who don’t pay property taxes, the most he would say is that nonprofits "could apply" for such subsidies if they’re included in a TIF.
Similarly, when asked his philosophy for dispensing the $1.2 million each year given each Alderman to underwrite infrastructure improvement in his/her ward–a program known as the "Aldermanic Menu"–Solis unhelpfully replied that he considers "need" as well as trying to balance different "communities" within the ward, by which he means organized blocs of ethnic voters. A similar program in New York offers members of the City Council the opportunity to benefit their favorite charities; and, though it’s far from clear that this is an appropriate way of allocating public money, from the standpoint of charities it beats the hell out of an equally random allocation designed to placate rowdy political opponents with street lights and school renovation.
Of course, as is ever the case in Chicago, it’s not clear to what extent Solis was describing the actual situation and to what extent he was merely parroting the civics-class version of what goes on. The only useful piece of information vouchsafed that morning was that voters can ask the Alderman for a copy of last year’s Aldermanic menu allocations which, like tea-leaves, can be perused for what they predict about future largesse. Ah, transparency!
But note: they can ask. As Ald. Solis said in opening the floor to the audience, "You should feel free to ask anything you like. It’s up to me whether I answer." Ah, democracy!
Tags: Real Estate