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Harold Washington

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Quick Hit
by Op-Ed
12:52pm
Wed Mar 18, 2015

OP-ED: On February 24th, Chicago’s Working Families Said: 'Fool Us Once…'

The following is written by Keith Kelleher is president of SEIU* Healthcare Illinois Indiana.

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to knock on doors throughout Chicago for our mayoral and aldermanic candidates.  What stood out in almost every conversation I had was the length and breadth of disappointment with the policies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel from voters. 

Mostly, people felt they had been fooled by Rahm.

The dissatisfaction with the Mayor and his policies and those of his rubber-stamp aldermen was fully revealed on Election Day when Jesus "Chuy" Garcia defied all the polls and ended with 34% of the vote, almost double what most polls were predicting. The election forced the mayor into a runoff --  along with many aldermen previously assumed to be "safe" -- a ringing denunciation of both the mayor and his policies and of his aldermanic allies.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
10:52am
Thu Aug 21, 2014

CivicLab To Emanuel: 'Come Clean' About $1.7 Billion In Unspent TIF Funds

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."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:36pm
Fri Apr 11, 2014

Report: TIFs Play A Role In Chicago's Pension Crisis

With the media and public spotlight on Chicago's pension crisis, the non-partisan research center Good Jobs First is turning the attention to the city's controversial tax increment financing, or TIF, program.

In its recent "Putting Municipal Pension Costs Into Context: Chicago" report, the Washington, D.C.-based group asserts that the TIF program has played a part in the underfunding of pensions in the city.

"It's really hard to ignore the evidence that TIF has had some sort of impact on pensions," said Tommy Cafcas, research analyst at Good Jobs First, which works to promote corporate and government accountability.

"We know that TIF costs grew, and they started growing really quickly after 2000. We know that general fund revenues declined ... and we know that the city addressed its budget gap in part by making inadequate contributions to public pensions, so it seems reasonable that TIF plays a role in how the city thinks about addressing the pension issue."

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
4:40pm
Wed Jul 24, 2013

Aldermen Introduce TIF Surplus Ordinance, Wrigley Revamp Gets The OK At Bustling Council Meeting

Progress Illinois recaps some of the highlights from Wednesday's city council meeting.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:47pm
Thu Jun 6, 2013

TIF Program Angers Bridgeport, McKinley Park Residents

Residents of Chicago's 11th Ward were outraged upon learning that $57.4 million in property tax money was sitting in their tax increment financing (TIF) districts' collective bank accounts at the end of 2011, according to data unveiled by the CivicLab.

One resident suggested at least one way that money could have been put to use at the CivicLab's TIF Illumination Project meeting Wednesday night.

Maureen Sullivan with Bridgeport Alliance said she has been pushing the city to renovate the Ramova Theater at 35th and Halsted streets for years, to no avail.

The city currently owns the property, which has been closed since 1986, Sullivan said.

“It could be a thousand-seat performance space and the largest economic generator on Halsted Street, and it's sitting there empty," Sullivan said in remarks after the meeting, held at the McKinley Park library. "And I'm so angry, because when I talk to the city, they dangle (TIF) in front of you, like 'we may be able to get you some TIF funds for this.'”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:32pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Chicago's 4th Ward Residents Call For More TIF Transparency, Accountability At Town Hall Meeting

The 11 tax increment financing, or TIF, districts in the 4th Ward took $5.6 million in property taxes from those living within the boundaries in 2011, the CivicLab revealed at TIF town hall meeting Monday night.

Four of those districts fall nearly 100 percent inside of the ward and had extracted about $42 million from property taxpayers since the start of the TIF program back in 1986 through 2011, said Tom Tresser, co-founder of the CivicLab and leader of the of volunteer-based TIF Illumination Project.

Monday’s TIF town hall was the CivicLab’s eighth community meeting. Tresser and other “TIF illuminators” are holding meetings across the city in an effort to raise awareness about Chicago’s economic development program. The CivicLab's project sets out to find what wards are TIF "winners" or "losers."

Craig Coleman, a 10-year resident of the 4th Ward, said Monday night was the first time he heard exactly how much property tax dollars local residents had kicked into the program. He raised concerns about the TIF program’s lack of accountability and transparency.

“I think it’s money off the books that should be put back on the books,” Coleman said in remarks after the meeting, held at Room 43 in Kenwood. “How do you change it, and does your alderman control this or ... who controls the law to change this? When it’s time for the mayoral elections, does it get swept under the rug like everything else?”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:29pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Englewood Residents Question TIF Program, Call For More Community Mobilization At Town Hall Meeting

Property taxpayers in Englewood were furious upon learning at a town hall meeting Saturday that their tax dollars had contributed at least $44 million to the Englewood Neighborhood Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District since it rolled out in 2001. According to data from the CivicLab's TIF Illumination Project, some $44 million of taxpayer dollars had funneled to the TIF district between 2001 and 2011.

In 2011 alone, the TIF district siphoned $5 million from property taxpayers in the area, which would have normally gone to local units of government such as schools and parks, according to the CivicLab. 

“The original concept is that (TIFs are) designed to have an impact on blighted areas, and just looking out the window, we know that a blighted area is all around us,” CivicLab's Bill Drew said at the TIF discussion, held at the Chicago Public Library's Hiram Kelly Branch. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:40pm
Fri Apr 12, 2013

CivicLab Highlights Questionable TIF Projects In Uptown

The city’s tax increment financing, or TIF, program is an economic development tool, but it should really be called a Chicago bailout for private companies, some Uptown residents said at a town hall meeting Thursday night as part of the CivicLab’s TIF Illumination Project.

“Why don’t we call (TIF) Chicago welfare,” 46th Ward resident Ryne Poelker asked at the meeting held at the Peoples Church of Chicago. “Why don’t they call it a bailout?”

Property taxpayers in the 46th Ward paid out about $87.6 million for TIF projects in the area since the inception of the program under former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington through 2010, according to the CivicLab’s data analysis.

More than half of that money went to private developers for projects such as the Wilson Yard, a retail space at 4400 N. Broadway Ave., that houses a Target, Aldi grocery store and low-income housing units. The project received more than $50 million in TIF funds, according to the CivicLab.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:58pm
Tue Apr 2, 2013

Town Hall Meeting Illuminates TIF Use In Chicago's 7th Ward

Dozens of South Shore residents weren’t too happy upon learning that a portion of their property taxes have been used as part of the city’s tax increment financing, or TIF, program.

Tom Tresser, co-founder of the CivicLab, came to the 7th Ward, and is heading to others, as part of the volunteer-based TIF Illumination Project, which is intended to promote TIF transparency and provide Chicago residents with a snapshot of what the program is — or isn’t — doing for their communities.  

“I can’t believe that it’s so much money that’s out there that the community does not know about that’s not channeling back into our community, especially with all the schools closing,” Renita Jones, a South Shore resident of more than 14 years, said after Saturday's meeting.

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