Balance of Power
"Proposal A is now in the charter, and it's our obligation to live up to it."
From the December, 2018 issue
So says mayor Christopher Taylor. The charter amendment, which passed 53 percent to 47 percent, requires the city to maintain the "library lot" between Fifth and Division in public ownership--even though the attorney-mayor maintains that it's already been sold to a Chicago developer. The developer, Core Spaces, offered $10 million for the right to build a seventeen-story building there.
Councilmembers opposed to the development have challenged the legality of that sale in court. Now the developers may go to court, too. After the election, the company issued a brief statement: "Core Spaces will continue as planned in our project development process per the terms of our contract with the city."
"Whether [Proposal A] can withstand legal scrutiny," Taylor says, "only time will tell."
Whatever the courts decide, the vote was a repudiation of the pro-growth council faction Taylor leads. It has controlled council almost continuously for eighteen years but, after losing three seats this year, is now reduced to a four-vote minority on the eleven-member council.
But as mayor, Taylor doesn't just have a vote--he has the power to veto council actions. Though he's never done so before, he says he's not afraid to start now. "Veto is part of the job," he shrugs.
Because overturning a veto takes eight votes, "to get anything done will require collaboration," Taylor says. "Positive actions cannot be sustained in the face of a veto with only seven votes."
The Library Lot became a referendum on the city's ongoing redevelopment. But it was also atypical, because the site was already in public ownership. The only way to limit private redevelopment is to change zoning--and the new majority "can't, on their own, change zoning because they can't override a veto," Taylor says. He allows zoning could still change, but only "in a manner that reflects a consensus"--that is, a manner acceptable to the minority.
That could be seen as a threat--or as an invitation to negotiate.
[Originally published in December, 2018.]
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