CHICAGO – Secretary of State Jesse White promised his renowned tumbling foundation would raise $10 million to build an athletic facility in partnership with the Chicago Park District. By the time the ribbon was cut on the facility five years ago, White's part of the building cost shriveled down to little, and unbeknownst to taxpayers, their obligation exploded.
The Better Government Association's recent investigation into how the Jesse White Community Center and Fieldhouse located in White's own 27th Chicago Ward was paid for is stunning. They found while White's foundation ended up raising only $650,000, taxpayers in Chicago and Illinois covered the rest of the millions White failed to raise.
Records show the fieldhouse cost slightly more than $12 million, and state and city taxpayers ended up covering $11.5 million. The 29,000-square-foot facility at 410 W. Chicago Ave. opened in 2014 and serves as a state-of-the-art home for White’s iconic Jesse White Tumblers, headquarters for his Jesse White Foundation and a park district gymnasium.
BGA says their investigation shows the park district charges White’s foundation $1-a-year in rent and covers all utility, custodial and maintenance costs. At the same time, White’s groups get exclusive use of many of the facilities for several hours after school and on Sunday mornings, and his foundation controls most of the second floor.
And both Democrats and Republicans maneuvered the tax dollars to help White out of his financial jam.
In late 2010, then-Mayor Richard Daley won City Council approval to underwrite the project with $5 million in special tax increment financing funds diverted from property tax collections. Within months, the amount of TIF funding doubled to $10 million under an ordinance pushed by White’s political protege, Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th, who is also a volunteer Tumblers coach.
Even Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, after freezing all discretionary state grant spending on his first day in office in 2015, soon after made an exception and greenlighted a $1.5 million grant for the Chicago Park District. The grant agreement made no mention of White’s foundation, but the district repurposed the money to bail out the foundation for a construction loan it owed on the center, records show.
The investigation found no evidence the park district obtained state permission to use the money to defray the foundation’s loan costs.
Jesse White was just sworn into his sixth consecutive term as Illinois' secretary of state – the most patronage job-heavy office in Illinois. When he was sworn in Monday, he was 84 years old.
Read more of the Better Government Association's investigation HERE.
Corruption in Chitcago… say it ain’t so. I never have believe Jesse White was trustworthy. Only the state legislature can appropriate funds…. just how did Jesse White get our tax dollars for his own personal project?
Someone needs to go to prison over this!
They won’t. They will get promoted, elected to office or receive money.
It’s the Illinois WAY!