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Tax Increment Financing
PI Original
Mon Mar 21, 2011

Teachers Demand TIF Accountability

Parents, teachers, and advocates marched through the streets of Chicago's poshest neighborhoods Saturday, pleading with the Daley administration to free up some of his beloved TIF funds for the city's schools.

Quick Hit
Sat Mar 19, 2011

CTU Protest Of TIFs Leads To Arrests

Jackson Potter, a Little Village High School of Social Justice teacher and member of the Chicago Teachers Union, and another woman identified as Amber Smock from ADAPT were both arrested after leading 150 to 200 people -- about half of them teachers -- to march and rush in to Lincoln Park's Grossinger City Cadillac dealership as part of a rally for tax increment financing (TIF) reform. The two were arrested for misdemeanor criminal trespassing and were taken to the Near North police district.

Read more »

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Tue Mar 15, 2011

TIF Reform Comes To Springfield

Tax increment financing seems ready to have a moment on the Springfield stage. "I think there are lots of questions about the TIF issue, whether they're used as slush funds, whether there's appropriate accounting for the way the dollars are spent," House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) told Progress Illinois. "This seems to be a good time to have a look." In addition to tax increment financing, Currie said legislators need to examine the impact of the more than 90 enterprise zones around Illinois.

A host of TIF bills have been introduced into the current General Assembly. One of the bills proposed would exempt Chicago Public Schools from the taxing bodies that lose property tax dollars because of the existence of TIF districts in the city. Another would send "surplus" TIF dollars back to the taxing bodies each year. 

Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action of Illinois, said his organization has been part of a group of stakeholders, which includes people with both favorable and skeptical positions on TIF districts and enterprise zones, that State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), chair of the House Revenue & Finance Committee, convened shortly after the current General Assembly session started. "So far in the process we have just been sharing information and thoughts on our respective positions on TIFs and Enterprise Zones," Palmer said. There have been two meetings so far. Palmer thought that negotiations about a TIF bill could last the entire General Assembly session, with legislation coming up possibly in May.

Palmer said Housing Action of Illinois is particularly interested in State Rep. Cynthia Soto's HB 1976, which would allow TIF dollars to go toward low-income housing, and HB 1575, offered by State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero). The latter bill would tighten the definition of blight in the state TIF statute, essentially place a cap on the total amount of a city's tax base that could be included in a TIF district, and allow taxing bodies to opt out of TIF zones.

Late last month, an investigation by ChicagoTalks.org found that between January 2000 and July 2010, the City of Chicago promised private companies, such as United Airlines, Quaker Oats, and others, about $600 million in TIF subsidies, nearly half of the total amount promised during that time period.

Bradley, whose committee is handling TIF bills in the House, could not be reached by the time this post went live. Progress Illinois will update the site if we hear back from him.

PI Original
by Aricka Flowers
Thu Mar 3, 2011

The Pawar Win: Against All Odds

In an upset that no one predicted, 30-year-old Ameya Pawar will be the new alderman of Chicago's 47th Ward. He beat the Schulter machine, built by an incumbent who has been in office years before Pawar was born.

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Fri Jan 7, 2011

TIFs, Economic Development, And Job Losses

When Daley administration officials promote their decision to grant tax increment financing (TIF) dollars to large, profitable companies based in the city's Loop, there's usually a line about the jobs that the TIF grant will help "retain" downtown.

Thing is, the mayor's TIF-centric economic strategy hasn't proven all that effective on the jobs front, especially for a pretty important constituency: residents of the city of Chicago. That's according to "Loopholes," a new investigation by the Chicago Reporter's Angela Caputo (a Progress Illinois alumna). Her analysis finds that the city's Loop shed nearly 13,000 jobs "during the better part of the past decade." And 94 percent of those cuts were borne by city dwellers, with the vast majority of the job losses hitting South and Southwest Siders. Meanwhile, downtown's two biggest TIF districts (in the Loop proper and on the Near South Side) siphoned off $1.2 billion in property tax dollars in the name of economic development from other taxing bodies that are now facing their own budget crises.

"The whole point of TIF is to spur development in blighted neighborhoods. But the Reporter has found that many of the areas needing economic development money the most aren’t getting much; their sales tax revenue is shrinking, and the number of Loop jobs they hold are dwindling," Caputo writes. "At the same time, elected officials have failed to force businesses to set local hiring or wage standards, though many of these businesses are benefitting from millions of local tax incentives to move to the Loop."

The problems with how the Daley administration used tax increment financing are legion, and the Reporter's new piece adds yet another chapter to the story.

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Fri Dec 17, 2010

CPS, The TIF Program, And The Mayoral Candidates

There wasn't much discussion of Chicago's tax increment financing (TIF) system during the city's last mayoral election. Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Mayor Richard Daley's primary challenger four years ago, critictized Daley's TIF policy once, in early February 2007, according a review of Sun-Times and Tribune TIF-related stories between autumn 2006 and the following February. To be sure, there were other pieces about TIF districts in both of the city's major dailies during that time period, many of them concerning tax increment financing in the suburbs. But the issue didn't gain traction in the municipal campaign.

How the times have changed.

At last night's Chicago Teachers Union mayoral forum, the candidates were asked to account for the TIF program's impact on Chicago Public Schools. As the largest recipient of property taxes in Chicago, CPS has the most to lose when the city's TIF districts siphon off money from the local property tax base. At the CTU event, everyone endorsed more transparency over the TIF program. Chico said he fought to get TIF dollars for CPS while he headed the Board of Education. Moseley Braun decried diverting money from schools. Miguel del Valle and James Meeks were the strongest in saying TIF districts should not be opened in non-blighted neighborhoods.

Watch four of the mayoral contenders take their best-one minute shot on TIF reform and schools:

It's heartening that the city's political climate is such that the mayoral candidates must now account for the massive TIF program Daley has grown during this more than 21-year tenure. You can largely thank a few progressive aldermen and two of the city's best reporters for that.

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Fri Dec 10, 2010


We noted the following contrast, saved here in a screengrab, on City Clerk Miguel del Valle's website this morning:

For more about the delay of the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance, check out our post from Wednesday. The agreement with the Merc will provide the trading exchange with up to $15 million in tax increment financing subsidies.

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Tue Dec 7, 2010

More Ideas, Pitches, Plans From The Mayoral Candidates

Chicago's mayoral contenders are releasing platforms and talking up their ideas for the city at a fairly regular pace at this point. (Though, to be sure, the would-be mayors' plans for the biggest-ticket items -- the city's budget and job creation come to mind -- are still largely under wraps.) We recently took a look at ethics pitches from some of the contenders and noted Rahm Emanuel's energy efficiency proposal. Three other mayoral platform-related news items are below:

City Clerk Miguel del Valle got into the education mix last week, promising to increase the number of "community learning centers" around the city by 50 percent during his first term as mayor. In announcing the plan, del Valle lauded the work of Communities in Schools Chicago, a group that connects schools with non-profits to provide academic support and programming focused on arts enrichment, health, and other topics; the group says it reached 63,000 students during the 2009-2010 school year.

In a recent speech on the Southwest Side, Gery Chico said he'd ensure all of Chicago's industrial corridors have high-speed internet access and actively recruit so-called green companies to the city. A Chico administration would also "strategically utilize the city's tax increment financing dollars to support large and small businesses," according to a press statement. That's likely music to the business community's ears. Outgoing Mayor Richard Daley's TIF grants to large, profitable Loop companies have come to symbolize the TIF program's excesses. Chico says his full jobs plan is coming soon.

State Sen. James Meeks, meanwhile says he'd create a "mobile City Hall" to allow residents to conduct city business in a different neighborhood each week. Meeks, by the way, is on board with the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance, and he discussed it -- and criticized Emanuel -- in Englewood yesterday*.

UPDATE: Sen. Meeks' event in Englewood occured on December 7.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Fri Dec 3, 2010

A Cubs TIF?

It's been a rough week for the Chicago Cubs. Last night, legendary third basemen and broadcaster Ron Santo passed away at 70 due to complications from bladder cancer. The team missed out on free agent Adam Dunn, a left-handed slugger who decided to bring his talents (.902 career OPS) to the South Side instead. And down in Springfield, a plan proposed by the team's ownership to fix up Wrigley Field using public dollars was met with stony silence from state legislators.

The initial deal devised by the Ricketts family was problematic, to say the least. The family essentially asked to use 35 years worth of growth in amusement tax revenue (that would otherwise flow into the coffers of the city and county budget offices) to finance a $200 to $300 million face lift for Wrigley Field. The optics were terrible; with local budgets bleeding badly, rich, anti-government conservatives asked for a handout just so they could save about $37 million in interest costs. Plus, the math underlying the legislation was questionable, at best.

Folks in the capitol say the plan could come back up for a vote when lawmakers reconvene in early January. At City Hall, officials are also considering several other alternatives to help out the Lovable Losers. One would involve extending the boundaries in which "downtown" restaurants charge a 1 percent tax on meals. (The current district stops eight blocks south of Wrigley.) Other sources tell the two daily papers that there's also talk of creating a new tax increment financing (TIF) district around the ballpark. Here's a map of Lakeview, layered with the city's existing TIF districts:

The neighborhood is practically devoid of any TIFs, which is relatively rare. Can one plausibly argue, though, that Wrigleyville is in danger of falling into blight without a handout? The odds of the Cubs winning the World Series next year are better.