Chicago residents are on the frontlines of a dangerous new trend – the privatization of their shared resources orchestrated through “private/public partnerships” and the new mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Already Chicago has sold off the Skyway Bridge connecting Chicago to Indiana, and it has sold off downtown parking garages to private owners. It has sold off the management of parking meters to a private company, which has resulted in higher rates, worse service and public outrage. The City of Chicago has even attempted to sell Midway Airport, and it is now pushing privatization of schools and the water system.
Chicago educator, organizer and activist Tom Tresser is trying to mount a concerted citizen response. His new project, Public Assets, is trying to recruit people to step up and become “public defenders” of the commons. Tresser was the Green Party candidate for Cook County Board President in 2010. The year before, he was a co-leader of No Games Chicago, which successfully opposed the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.
Tresser got wind of the city's new ambitions to privatize even more city assets when he attended a June 2011 conference called “It’s Not Privatization: Implementing Partnerships in Illinois.” Organized by The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce with assistance from the Metropolitan Planning Council, the event revealed an emerging collusion among the city government, corporations, labor and mainstream citizen organizations to accelerate privatization and "re-brand” it because of its negative public image.