Group calling for port district to be abolished

 
By Rob Olmstead
Daily Herald Staff
Published6/30/2008 12:25 AM

The Civic Federation will call for the abolition of the state's port district in a lengthy report today, arguing that the district's murky finances and diversion into the golf course business show it has lost its way.

A little-known governmental body created by the state legislature in 1951, the Illinois International Port District was given land in the Lake Calumet area and charged with conducting business that "may tend to or be useful toward development and improvement of harbors, sea ports, and port-related facilities … within the City of Chicago," according to the act that created it.

 

Instead, the Civic Federation alleges, these days the district spends much of its time running a golf course in the area that accounts for about half of the district's revenues.

Little to none of that money goes back into helping promote the economy and the shipping industry, the federation alleges in its report, to be released today.

Although the district does not levy taxes, it does have the power to raise money through fees and leases of its ports and dock facilities in the Lake Calumet area.

"The Illinois Port District has failed to adapt to or harness the changes in the economy of northeastern Illinois," said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation in a prepared statement. "Instead, the District has allowed the port's facilities to stagnate while it pursues a business wholly unrelated to shipping or the economic development of the Chicago Southland."

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A golf course, the federation alleges, is not a sufficient enough reason to run a tax-exempt body, and it urges the break-up of the organization, with the city taking over the port functions and the Cook County Forest Preserve and the Chicago Park District being given its recreational land.

Recently, the port district was sued in Cook County Circuit Court, accused of refusing to answer Freedom of Information Act requests for its financial information.

A message left with the port district Friday were not returned.

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