The Alliance for Chicago Transformation ( ACT ) has called on the Chicago City Council to vet Daniel Widawsky, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's choice for the post of City Comptroller.
Widawsky has contributed nearly $10,000 to Emanuel's election fund while his employer, billionaire Ken Griffin of Citadel Finance, gave another $105,300 to the mayor's campaign.
Griffin has donated large sums to conservative Republican candidates and causes, but said in a March 2013 interview with the Chicago Tribune's Melissa Harris regarding his support for Emanuel, "Rahm has done a fantastic job of engaging the business community in Chicago. … [He] has been very solicitous for advice."
Byron Sigcho of ACT wonders what kind of advice Emanuel is getting.
"Widawsky is Citadel's in-house expert on the use of tax credits, especially the use of New Market Tax Credits, which enable developers and their investors to remediate heavily polluted sites known as brownfields, essentially without cost to them, and to use the cleaned up sites for profit.
"Chicago environmental organizations, especially The Environmental Law and Policy Center and The Pilsen Alliance, have struggled long and hard to close hazardous chemical-spewing plants, most notably coal-fired energy plants in Pilsen and Little Village. Are those efforts to be converted by the city from community-based victories to financial windfalls for companies with ties to the administration, and to the Office of Comptroller?"
Sigcho is especially concerned about relationships between Griffin's Citadel Limited Partnership LLC, and Dynegy Incorporated, a Texas energy corporation which has been involved in use of tax shelters in other contaminated sites throughout Illinois and the country. They are looking to acquire the Pilsen and Little Village sites.
"With at least $115,300 going to the Emanuel campaign fund from Citadel employees, followed by the Mayor's dissolution of the department responsible for oversight of environmental projects, now followed by the appointment of a Citadel employee to handle the city's money, we are calling on the Council and in particular aldermen Solis and Munoz of Pilsen and Little Village to make certain that there is no taint to this appointment," Sigcho said. "And we will be following up on this appointment as well as the fate of the sites in these Latino wards, as well as brownfield sites throughout the city."