As the March 15 primary election nears, the controversy surrounding the 2014 police shooting death of Laquan McDonald refuses to let up. On Tuesday, just a week before the primary election, lawsuits were filed against the Chicago Police Department, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), and the office of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who is facing a tough re-election bid, for more information on the case.
Specifically, the suit is calling on the police department, IPRA and Alvarez to release their respective records on the McDonald investigation. The lawsuit was filed by independent journalist Brandon Smith, who -- with the help of the Invisible Institute's Jamie Kalven -- pressed for what was the eventual public release of the police dash-cam video of the McDonald shooting.
Smith says the timing of the lawsuit serves a dual purpose in light of the upcoming election.
Residents of Chicago's 23rd Ward raised concerns about the city's tax increment financing (TIF) program after learning Wednesday evening that millions in economic development funds have yet to be spent in their community.
At the CivicLab's TIF town hall meeting at John F. Kennedy High School, Southwest Side community members learned that the six TIF districts located in the 23rd Ward had about $16.6 million sitting in their collective bank accounts at the end of 2013. Last year alone, the ward's TIF districts collected nearly $2.3 million in property tax revenue, according to the CivicLab's analysis.
Business owner and Southwest Side resident Martin Arteaga, who is running for alderman in the 23rd Ward, attended the meeting.
"There needs to be a lot more clarity and transparency as to where this TIF money is going," he told Progress Illinois. "Here in the 23rd Ward, particularly in the Midway Airport area along Cicero Avenue, you have a bunch of empty lots. We could use some of that money to redevelop that area and actually be able to expand our tax base, because we have thousands of people who pass through going to Midway Airport.
Volunteers with Chicago's CivicLab want a full accounting of the more than $1.7 billion that was sitting in the city’s collective tax increment financing (TIF) district bank accounts at the end of 2013.
Tom Tresser, co-founder of the CivicLab and leader of its volunteer-based TIF Illumination Project, said the group plans to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the city within the week to "demand the mayor to come clean" about how those unspent funds will be used. Tresser said the group is prepared to take legal action if the city denies the FOIA request.
"We asked for (similar information) last year, and they told us to go take a leap," Tresser said at a TIF discussion Wednesday evening at the CivicLab, 114 N. Aberdeen St. "This time, we're going to sue if we don't get it."