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Moving Chicago Forward A Look Back On Eight Years Of Progress

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Eight years ago, Mayor Emanuel campaigned on a promise to bring change to Chicago communities and to tackle the most pressing problems facing the city. When he took office, the City faced a financial crisis—with a $635 million structural budget deficit. Chicago’s students had one of the shortest school days in the nation and residents were facing record unemployment rates and a loss of confidence across the city.

From day one, Mayor Emanuel aligned his priorities to take on the hard work of securing Chicago’s future. Working with residents, business and community leaders, he worked to do what was necessary, instead of what was easy, to put Chicago in a better, stronger position and to ensure that Chicago remains a vibrant, sustainable and thriving city in which to live, work and raise a family.

Over the past eight years, these efforts have included:

  1. Bringing the City’s fiscal house in order, reducing the structural deficit and implementing balanced solutions to stabilize, strengthen and secure the city’s pension funds;
  2. Delivering on the promise to create a longer school day and school year, which will add up to four more years of class time for Chicago’s students;
  3. Accelerating investment in infrastructure with $35 billion for construction and renovation for schools, parks, transit and water/sewer main replacement, creating an estimated 150,000 jobs;
  4. Creating the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to leverage downtown growth to make direct investments in commercial corridors across the city’s South, West and Southwest side neighborhoods;

  5. Building a thriving tech sector from the ground up and across all industries, attracting 58 corporate headquarters relocations and nearly 200 major business expansions translating to the creation of more than 50,000 jobs; and

  6. Investing over $1 billion in capital throughout the city’s parks system, including building or refurbishing over 300 playgrounds, launching Night Out in the Parks to deliver cultural events to neighborhood parks across all community areas and adding 1,000 new acres of new park land.

Through this tremendous collective effort, Chicago has seen a transformation that no one would have anticipated in 2011. From the achievement of record academic gains for CPS students, to historic lows in unemployment rates and the highest level of jobs per-capita in the City in over five decades. The investments and initiatives of the past eight years have built momentum to ensure Chicago’s brightest days remain ahead.

Read more about this in the report, beginning on page 9.

2011 Transition to Today

Throughout the 10 weeks leading up to Mayor Emanuel’s inauguration, a transition committee of more than 100 leaders met with stakeholders in neighborhoods throughout the city, considering more than 1,800 ideas across four focus areas—government, communities, children and growth—that ultimately informed 55 initiatives to guide the administration in its early days.

In the spirit of hitting the ground running and continuing that momentum through his last days, Mayor Emanuel achieved substantial progress across all four focus areas in the first 100 days and made advancements on every initiative though eight years in office, including:

  1. Reforming TIF though the TIF Reform Panel which posed comprehensive recommendations implemented by the City, including promoting transparency and accountability by publishing TIF data and budgets online, reducing the number of TIF districts, and furthering innovative uses for TIF for transit. Since 2011:
    • Approximately 90% of TIF funds have been spent on neighborhood projects;
    • Roughly 80% of which was committed to public uses, including infrastructure schools, parks, public transit and affordable housing; and
    • $1.2 billion in surplus has been returned to respective taxing bodies.
  2. Eliminating the head tax, beginning with his first budget Mayor Emanuel began a two-year process to phase out the $4 dollar per employee head tax, removing a deterrent for businesses to start and grow in the City. The city has added over 160,000 private sector jobs since 2011.

  3. Improving and expanding Chicago’s transit system by investing more than $8 billion since 2011, including the $492 million Your New Blue program on the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line, the $425 million complete reconstruction of the Red Line South branch, new stations at Morgan, Cermak-McCormick Place and Damen, forthcoming, which fill significant gaps between existing stations.

  4. Developing a new cultural plan for Chicago, Mayor Emanuel and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events undertook a nine-month process to develop the first new plan for strengthening the city’s arts and cultural sector in more than 25 years.

View a Complete List of 2011 Transition Initiatives and Accomplishments in the report, beginning on page 19.

Looking forward, the work that has been done represents a beginning and not an end. In the years ahead, the City will complete the replacement and modernization of 270,000 streetlights, experience a citywide expansion of the Divvy bike sharing system, execute the largest capital improvement project CTA has ever undertaken to completely rebuild the Red and Purple lines north of Belmont and build a new Global Terminal at O’Hare Airport, the first of its kind in the country.