In June, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration selected Elon Musk’s The Boring Company to build a non-stop express train from downtown to O’Hare Airport. The development is yet another example of Emanuel’s plan to transform Chicago into a city for the wealthy few.
Emanuel has stated that Musk’s express train will be fully financed by private investors. But the city’s 2009 parking meter fiasco has taught us that working Chicagoans end up on the losing side of fast-tracked privatization schemes. Morgan Stanley Investment Partners (MSIP) paid the city over $1 billion to lease the city’s parking meter system. But in an information memorandum released in 2010, MSIP estimated that, by the end of the lease in 2084, the firm would rake in over $11 billion from parking meter users by charging higher fares.
As with the parking meter deal, Emanuel’s O’Hare express privatization scheme will first and foremost benefit the same set of corporate elites who have profited from years of cuts to public goods and services. Under Emanuel, Chicago has been on the forefront of both recruiting corporate headquarters and displacing African-Americans. Tax giveaways meant to entice corporate CEOs have coincided with school closings in poor neighborhoods of color and service cuts that have made life in Chicago untenable for many working families. As a result, the city faces extreme economic disparity, hosting a racial wealth divide far worse than the US average.
Soon after Emanuel closed 49 public schools in 2013 in part to reduce $100 million from the Chicago Public Schools budget, he authorized a $55 million taxpayer handout to support the development of the Wintrust/DePaul Stadium project and a Marriott Hotel near McCormick Place Convention Center. Since being opened, the stadium has fallen short of attendance predictions and, as studies have shown, such publicly…