Greg Hinz On Politics

Wondering how 2020 will play out for Chicago? Watch these signs.

Keep an eye on these guideposts to see whether the city and the state are truly headed in a new and better direction—or not.

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79彩票注册网址More so than most years, 2020 augurs to be especially important to a city and state that are struggling to escape the economic and political doldrums. Here are some things to watch, guideposts to indicate whether we're truly headed in a new and better direction or remain in stasis (or worse).

At the top of my list are three big projects that definitely will move the economic needle if they come about and which—fingers crossed—seem well positioned.

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The first is the promised full opening of the big Rivian electric truck factory in the old Mitsubishi plant in downstate Normal—the one that just attracted an eye-popping $1.3 billion in private investment capital. Imagine: 1,000 or more well-paying industrial jobs in a sector that's actually expanding fast and which could spur all sorts of secondary benefits throughout the state. And all at the cost of just $45 million in potential state Edge payroll tax credits. Eat your heart out, Wisconsin, which offered billions for a Foxconn facility that could turn out to be just a shell of the Rivian prize.

Then there's the promised Discovery Partners Institute in the South Loop, the key to really cementing Chicago's rise as a tech center, and the budding Obama Presidential Center, which could do nearly as much for a big part of the South Side. We'll soon find out whether the University of Illinois really has raised the private capital needed to release $500 million in state funds for the DPI. And we'll find out whether the Obama center will pass required muster with a federal bureaucracy that reports to one Donald Trump. Showtime!

Speaking of shows, Gov. J.B. Pritzker put on quite a performance in 2019, getting his heart's desire and more out of the General Assembly. But now he's going to have to get 60 percent of voters to approve his graduated income tax amendment in the November general election. In roughly the same time frame, he'll have to show his cards as to whether he's a reformer or a faker on truly opening up the coming remap of legislative and congressional districts. The jury is out on both, but they will be at the center of this governor's legacy.

The jury also is out on Mayor Lori Lightfoot's plans to stabilize city finances. On the plus side, she got her first budget OK'd by aldermen, and insiders say she's finally going to get approval of a revamped Chicago casino and the hundreds of millions of dollars a year it would provide to pay pension debt. But much of that casino cash will be needed to replace one-time revenues Lightfoot balanced her last budget with. Beyond that, she's yet to cut a deal with affordable housing advocates to split the take from a higher real estate transfer tax. The real question: Can Lightfoot continue to avoid a big, damaging property tax hike?

79彩票注册网址Lightfoot also will be the lady in the bucket in selecting a new Chicago police chief to succeed the fired Eddie Johnson. After the post-Laquan McDonald explosion in the city's gun violence and murder rate, the crime statistics finally are coming back to earth. But they're still way, way, way too high compared to peer cities such as New York and Los Angeles. This challenge is too important to mess up.

79彩票注册网址Also too important to mess up is the upcoming official population count in the 2020 census. For a change, the city and state actually seem to be taking this issue seriously, given the huge amounts of federal aid and political influence that are at stake. The numbers aren't going to be good. But if our leaders do their jobs, they won't be abysmal, either.

Finally, though it's slipped out of the headlines during the holiday season, more is coming in the federal probe of Ed Burke, Mike Madigan, Commonwealth Edison, et al. I suspect there's enough shoes to yet fall out of the federal closet on this one that Imelda Marcos would blush. Buckle up—and hope that, this time, the message to felonious pols finally gets through.

Happy New Year, all!

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