Audacious in Chicago

This morning’s New York Times reports that Rahm Emmanuel will announce a 7.1 billion-with-a-b infrastructure improvement plan for Chicago. Improvements will be made to everything from the water system to the airport, from public transportation to parks. The improvements will be financed primarily through a public-private investment trust, details of which Mayor Emmanuel is supposed to announce later today.

I found this paragraph particularly interesting:

Some public-private partnership projects have been criticized as giveaways to the private businesses that take them over — including two prominent cases in Chicago itself, the privatized Chicago Skyway and the city’s parking meter system, which obligate the city to leases that span generations. Mr. Emanuel says that the city has learned an important lesson, and that “I am not leasing anything,” or selling off the city’s assets, he said in an interview. “I’m using private capital to improve a public entity that stays public.”

Great cities are places people want to live. As former Mayor Hudnut repeatedly reminded us, livable cities are first and foremost “cities that work.”

Most of us don’t want to live in housing that is unkempt and run-down, but we also understand that we aren’t improving our situation if we sell the stove to pay for new carpet.

In order to build a great city–especially in these days of fiscal hurt–its leaders need vision, and the audacity to insist that investment in the public square is both necessary and important. The audacity to refuse to sell off public goods to private profiteers.

The audacity to defend and maintain great urban spaces for the generations of citizens who will enjoy them.