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What should city do with its $57 million windfall?

By Greg Hinz,

It’s a windfall—or, if you prefer, a rare dividend from city government working the way it’s supposed to.

Either way, City Hall suddenly has $57 million more than it was supposed to have under the budget, and the question now is, what to do with it.

The $57 million comes via the new city treasurer, Kurt Summers, who has been doing a better job than his predecessor of boosting returns on billions of dollars of spare cash and other assets managed by his office, mostly by extending the maturities of securities in which that money is invested.

Summers yesterday announced that, instead of the $68 million target he set at the beginning of 2016, the city actually netted $125 million.

The treasurer and his spokeswoman aren’t giving a lot of detail as to why returns went up. In August, he projected a total take of $102 million, in an interview with Bloomberg news. Spokeswoman Alexandra Trumbull says the office has gotten better with experience at maximizing the city’s take.


But Summers is very specific about what he wants to do with the money: put it all into the Fund 77 community investment pool to which he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel already have committed $100 million in city funds over three years.

“The violence plaguing Chicago neighborhoods is a symptom of a larger economic problem within this city,” Summers said. “After a year of more than 700 murders and 4,000 shootings, creating safe and stable communities should be our top priority. . . .We need to invest in all neighborhoods. We need to create more economic opportunities in our most challenged communities.”

I’m not going to dispute the gist of that. Crime and poverty are closely linked, and while putting more money into low-income neighborhoods surely will help Summers in possible future races for governor and/or mayor, it also will help those neighborhoods.

Summers appears to have Emanuel’s backing to kick up total city contributions to the investment fund from the planned $100 million to $157 million. While no final decision has been made, “We agree this is a huge priority,” says one insider.


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