True TIF Reform

Chicago is overrun by TIFs tax increment finance districts which drain property taxes from essential services such as schools, parks and social services, often with the money subsidizing private developers. TIFs were originally designed to improve blighted areas by attracting construction and jobs, but they have turned into a slush fund for the Mayor.

TIFs exploded in the 1990s and 2000s to claim more than $6 billion from city property taxes. In 2014, Chicago had at least 151 TIFs covering one-third of the city that devour $500 million each year that should pay to educate our children and for the care of our most fragile citizens.

Our central business district is hardly blighted. Yet, the Loop, Near North Side, Near South Side and Near West Side have taken nearly $1.56 billion of the $2.45 billion in TIF dollars spent from 2004 to 2008. Only $4.8 million was spent collectively in Pullman, Riverdale, Roseland and West Pullman, far South Side communities where blight is prevalent and economic development scarce.

The TIF process is fundamentally broken, which is why Bob will call for an immediate moratorium on any new TIFs.

If we freeze the TIF program, it will allow us time to conduct a complete audit to find out exactly where our money has gone and what the benefits are. This audit should be done by a completely independent body and be made public, giving independent experts, media and the people of Chicago the ability to weigh in on the best uses of this money.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised his administration would be “more accountable, open, and transparent” than any other administration. The TIF Data Portal on the Citys website, while a beginning, falls far short of anything most people would call transparency. Independent research has shown millions in unaccounted for money, and the Department of Planning has not answered demands to account for these dollars. Bob will call for a complete overhaul of the system to ensure true transparency.

Meanwhile, estimates say the City may currently have $1.4 to $1.7 billion in unused TIF funds. Bob will declare a TIF surplus with the vast sum that is not committed to any specific projects or debt. That money could then be used to reopen our mental health clinics, shore up some of our school budgets, make a payment into our beleaguered pension fund,  turn some of the closed schools into community centers that drive economic development and begin meaningful neighborhood economic development programs.

Bob would support the use of TIF funds with local support to assist in creating development and jobs in our communities. Thoughtful development can put vacant properties and parcels back on the property tax rolls, simultaneously generating tax revenue, creating jobs and fostering safe streets and strong neighborhoods.

The first step in addressing our city’s financial crisis is to use TIF money for its original purpose: lifting our least-developed neighborhoods out of blight and poverty to create opportunities across all of our communities

The Better Government Association and Crain’s last week dropped a noteworthy examination by John Chase and Danny Ecker on how $55 million in impose increase financing—that was in principle proposed for the South Loop Marriott Marquis (itself a disputable choice)— was rather gone through, in a flash, to remodels at Navy Pier.

Why is it a major ordeal? All things considered, it’s basically moving cash from one Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority-controlled property, the lodging, starting with onto the next, the Pier itself, starting with one financially solid neighborhood then onto the next.

Pursue and Ecker find profound into that solution, yet the shy of it will be, it’s not how TIFs should work. Regardless of whether that piece of the South Loop should even now be a TIF area or not,