Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Let The Sun Shine In (On TIFs)

Chicagoist reports that Ald. Scott Waguespack, who's proposed a "TIF Transparency Ordinance," is working on getting other aldermen's signatures on the matter. So far, he's gotten 20, and hopes to get nine more in the upcoming weeks. If passed, the ordinance would require that all information related to every single one of the 160 TIFs in Chicago - "every specific agreement, amendment, attachment, order, audit, and record for every use of money" - be published on a user-friendly website.

Just think, we might actually get to see that oh-so-elusive "letter of intent" from Target that Ald. Shiller and Peter Holsten have said they've had in their possession for years now.

It's our money, folks, that's paying for the cranes, trucks and overtime. Seeing how it's being spent doesn't seem like an unfair thing to ask.

So far, City Council members who've signed are: Thomas Allen (38th), Willie Cochran (20th), Rey Colon (35th), Vi Daley (43rd), Sharon Denise Dixon (24th), Pat Dowell (3rd), Robert Fioretti (2nd), Manny Flores (1st), Toni Foulkes (15th), Joe Moore (49th), Richard Munoz (22nd), Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Ariel Reboyras (30th), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Eugene Schulter (47th), Ed Smith (28th), Bernard Stone (50th), Ray Suarez (31st), Thomas Tunney (44th), and Scott Waguespack (32nd).

We've noticed that there's a couple names missing under "S" and are waiting with bated breath to see if either of Uptown's aldermen become signers of this sure-to-piss-off-the-Mayor proposal.

Make your feelings known! You can contact Ald. Shiller's office at ward46@cityofchicago.org and Ald. Smith's office at info@masmith48.org.


  1. I could have sworn that I heard a brief story on channel 9 news this morning that there is a probe, or will be indictments of certain Aldermen in connection with bribes and paybacks to Developers. Hmmmm....

  2. Would be even better if there was a process to make it easier for the public to know more about campaign contributions made by developers, attorneys, etc who were connected to the TIF within the ward. Hey, at this point, I'll take anything we can get.

  3. larrynow,

    It was probably about Alderman Troutman, who accepted a $10,000 bribe (or 'campaign contribution' in some wards) in exchange for zoning changes.

  4. Didn't we have an alderman who accepted contributions for zoning changes...um...let me think...what was it?

  5. Former alderman Troutman, may be a crook but she is oh so wise. She said all aldermen are "Ho"s.

  6. From what I read, this Ordinance needs more objective language with specific tasks that must be laid out for TIFs to follow. Simply saying that "TIF deals be posted online in a comprehensive and usable fashion" is very subjective and may not give normal citizens what we need. Although as James said, guess we can take what we get; this would at least require TIFs to do a complete dump of all documents online to be sifted through.

  7. There are some states that forbid TIFs. I won't suggest forbidding them, but it's clear that more regulation is needed.

    I spoke with someone living in one of the buildings that was recently rehabbed using TIF funds, and was told it's expected the building will be in complete disrepair again because of poor management practices. If we're going to use TIF funds to rehab housing, there has to be a clear understanding of what the management practices will be in place to help maintain the building.

    Overall, the intent of TIFs is to increase the tax revenue of the TIF area, and it seems that we've lost sight of that focus. That's where the state legislators need to step in and place needed regulations to ensure the primary intent of TIFs is followed.

  8. I would agree James, I am constantly confused by the fact that TIF money is spent on tax-exempt entities. If we are not going to build more taxable entities with TIF money, then the money should be left to the schools, fire, police, etc that get capped with the creation of a TIF.

    TIFs are supposed to borrow on future tax money to build more of a tax base, without building that tax base it is not borrowing, it is just spending. BIG difference.

  9. the lines at our forthcoming wilson yard subway shop had better stretch to kansas (twice) if they expect to create enough tax revenue to repay the $52,000,000 in tif funds we've "loaned" to miss helen.

  10. In addition to transparency, I think there should also be accountability to projected ROI and report/measure actual ROI.

    As an example...

    Let's say projects A, B and C are being considered for TIF funding. Each will cost $10M to fund and each are expected to take 3 years to complete. Shouldn't they be evaluated for funding based on their expecting return and shouldn't it be tracked to see how close the projections come to hitting the mark? Maybe those who propose good projects that meet (or exceed - imagine!) expectations would be given priority for future projects?

    Is this even possible in today's democracies?

    What do you think?

  11. Think that is a really good idea Rocket Man, would give us a baseline of solid project types that should receive TIF funds.

    Problem with that, besides being too logical, is it does not factor in Aldermen's wants.....

    Chicago Aldermen do not like logic and success criteria getting in the way of spending money when they want, and how they want

  12. the link for alderman smith's e-mail didn't work for me.

  13. What a TIF really is...
    - TIFs skim off all property tax increases for 23 years
    - TIF money robs money from Chicago's general revenues, taking away money from schools, parks, infrastructure, etc.
    - TIF money goes into a bank account controlled by the mayor with a dash of aldman influence
    - TIF money is not reported on your tax bill
    - TIF money isn't transparent, so you, the taxpayer, have no idea where it's going
    - TIF money is basically a slush fund for the mayor and alderman to line developers' pockets
    - TIF districts now cover 40% of Chicago land
    - Over 3 billion $$$ have been collected since 1987--no one really knows where all this money has gone, or how much is in these bank accounts today

    Are you TIFed off?

  14. Meghan, not sure what to say about the email address. The 48th Ward website says the general email address is : info@masmith48.org. If that's not working, maybe you can call the office? Link is on the right-hand side of the main page of UU.

  15. pls post if you get a reply from Helen or MAS or their offices on this