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Published on April 18, 2024
Chicago’s City Council Showdown Postpones Mayor Johnson’s $1.25 Billion Bond ProposalSource: X/Mayor Brandon Johnson

Mayor Brandon Johnson's ambitious plan has hit a snag as his $1.25 billion borrowing proposal, earmarked for funding affordable housing and other big-ticket economic initiatives, was postponed when his own allies pulled the brakes on a final City Council vote. Originally set for a decisive showdown on Wednesday, the measure now looks to Friday for potential redemption, with Chicago's power brokers playing a high-stakes game of political chess.

In a strategic move that reeks of backroom deals and strategic arm-twisting, the council's Finance Committee Chair Ald. Pat Dowell, evidently acting in concert with the mayoral bloc, pushed to delay the vote just hours after the committee itself greenlighted the mammoth bond measure with a 20-9 endorsement. According to the Chicago Tribune, dissenters within the chambers, led by Ald. Bill Conway of the 34th, had already expressed their desire to cap the funds at a more conservative $350 million, only to have their amendment struck down.

Friday is now the D-day for Johnson's plan, which could transform the city's affordable housing landscape over the next five years and propel job growth and cultural projects. This plan hinged on the expiry of several TIF districts, a known City Hall go-to for diverting property tax revenue into development projects. The CBS Chicago report notes it will cost the city an estimated $81 million a year to service the debt incurred by borrowing the proposed $250 million annually for the project.

Yet, it wasn't just the mega-bond throwing sparks in the City Council. Johnson's $70 million venture for migrant assistance also hit the brakes, further highlighting the divisive fault lines within city governance. With over 39,400 immigrants looking towards the Windy City for refuge since August 2022, this outlay, which the Johnson administration earlier shrugged off, has become an unavoidable pit stop as the initial $150 million earmarked in the 2024 budget appeared insufficient to go the distance, as Chicago Tribune elucidates.

As the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system also danced on the edge of the council's guillotine, the day wasn't bereft of movement. The council managed to greenlight several less contentious measures, such as legal settlements and key appointments. Despite the ruffled feathers and tug-of-war over legislative power, business, at least some of it, was conducted with the usual rhythms of bureaucracy humming in the background.