Chamber chosen to manage Six Corners SSA
by BRIAN NADIG
The city Department of Planning and Development and Alderman James Gardiner (45th) reached an agreement that clears the way for a new sole service provider to manage the $240,000 budget for the Six Corners Special Service Area in 2021.
The City Council Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development at its Dec. 14 meeting unanimously approved an ordinance naming the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce as the sole service provider, replacing the Six Corners Association, which has held the role for 16 years.
The city department had been pushing for the association, while Gardiner wanted the chamber to take over. On two separate occasions the Six Corners SSA Commission unanimously voted for the chamber. The commission’s votes only serve as recommendations to the city.
"I support the recommendation of the SSA commissioners to change the service provider for Six Corners and look forward to working collaboratively as they implement their vision to grow and retain businesses in the Six Corners area," Gardiner said after the meeting.
Department deputy commissioner Mary O’Connor told the committee that the department had accepted a "conditional agreement" naming the chamber as the service provider, but details of any special conditions were not announced.
The association and the commission have been at odds with Gardiner at times, and earlier this year several members of the commission resigned, while the terms of other commissioners expired. Mayor Lori Lightfoot later appointed replacements for the seven-member commission.
The chamber was founded in 2017 and includes some business owners who had expressed concern about the commission’s decision in 2015 to increase its property tax levy from about $226,000 to $288,000.
At its Oct. 7 meeting, the commission accepted the chamber’s recommendation to reduce the annual budget from $300,000 to $240,000 in part because the service area is expected to have a larger than normal carryover in funds, as the pandemic has forced the cancellation of several commission-funded events.
The funds can be used for a variety of marketing, beautification and maintenance initiatives in the business district, including snow removal. About 75 percent of the service’s area’s properties are commercial, with nearly all of the remaining ones being condominiums in the upper floors of the Klee Plaza at 4015 N. Milwaukee Ave.
At the commission’s Dec. 9 meeting, department assistance commissioner Mark Roschen said that the department would assist with a transition if there were a new service provider.
Committee chairman Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th) said that the committee received 68 e-mails and an online petition with 300 digital signatures opposing the chamber’s selection.
No one on the committee voiced concerns about the selection, as the committee normally defers local matters to the alderman whose ward is most affected – a practice commonly referred to "aldermanic prerogative." Lightfoot has pledged to try to end the practice, but legislative matters, including the approval of SSA budgets, remain the purview of the council.