CITY HALL — Demonstrators mixed protest with Halloween Tuesday in an attempt to revive progressive legislation said to be "buried" in the City Council's Rules Committee.
Dozens of protesters, some in costumes depicting Bank of America and DePaul University as vampires feeding off public funds, gathered at City Hall, primarily to support an ordinance calling on the city to redistribute Tax Increment Finance accounts to Chicago Public Schools.
Just this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's budget officials said the city was returning $25 million in TIF funds to CPS.
"But he's throwing us crumbs off the table," said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, a collection of neighborhood and union groups and the organizer of the protest.
She repeated figures that the city has $1.7 billion in TIF funds, $1.5 billion of which has been accounted for, adding, "and we have to just trust them, even though we don't know what those funds will be used for."
The protesters, holding "a vigil for buried ordinances," backed a measure sponsored by Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) to audit TIF funds and redistribute any surplus to agencies including CPS. But the proposal has been languishing in the Rules Committee since being proposed in July.
"There it's buried along with many other good ordinances," Patel said, citing other proposals calling for a moratorium on new charter schools, a referendum on an elected school board and transparency on any city privatization deals.
Patel said any surplus could have helped address CPS budget woes blamed for 50 school closings and 3,000 layoffs earlier this year.
"Rules Committee is where good legislation goes to die," Patel said. Protesters trying to revive the legislation delivered a letter to Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), chairman of the Rules Committee, asking for a hearing on the CPS TIF ordinance, which has been signed by 32 of the 50 aldermen. Patel accused Harris of obeying "the dictates of Mayor Emanuel and the corporate elite" in holding the proposal from any vote.
Patel said the group received no response from Harris, and the aldermen also did not respond to calls for comment.
Patel said protesters would be knocking on doors in Harris' 8th Ward this weekend to "keep up the pressure."