Monday, November 23, 2009

Transparency, Chicago-Style

Leave it to Ben Joravsky and The Reader, and one of our astute readers, to show how hard our legislators are working to hide transparency and sunshine from the political process:

Transparency in Action: How a bill intended to expand the state Freedom of Information Act was bastardized to expand the mayor's shadow budget

- May 18: Senator Don Harmon gutted the bill, removing the language about the FOIA and adding an amendment that extended the life of the four Chicago TIF districts: Madden/Wells, Roosevelt/Racine, Stony Island/Burnside, and Englewood Mall.

- In 2006, Mayor Daley successfully thwarted an effort by former Cook County commissioner Mike Quigley to show the TIF take on tax bills. But this month Orr took a small but significant step toward TIF truth telling by adding a new search to his Web site.

- Predictably, Chicago's Democratic legislators voted for the extensions with the exception of north-side reps Harry Osterman and John Fritchey, who've apparently learned a lesson from recently elected Congressman Mike Quigley: it's not such a bad idea for a north-side politician to oppose a few TIFs if he wants to advance his career.

That last point is an excellent one. Wanna win, or keep, a seat in the IL legislature? Don't vote to support TIFs.

How did other north side legislators vote on this?

Yes /Harris (House vote)

No Vote /Steans (Senate vote)

- Harmon's legislation doesn't specify what the city can or should do with the 12 extra years of property tax dollars the TIFs will collect under this unusual extension. A spokeswoman for the city's Department of Community Development said she'd try to find out and get back to me. Four days later, she did, saying the additional years of TIF money will be used to finance CHA redevelopment on the near west side, help Finkl Steel move from Lincoln Park to the south side, and give the much delayed Englewood Mall project a jump-start.


  1. “Wanna win, or keep, a seat in the IL legislature? Don't vote to support TIFs.”

    Well, that’s not quite right. TIFs are the ultimate political pudding; I call it the new pot of patronage and that means if you want to keep or gain a seat in the legislature or in the city council, your job is to support TIFs.

    And to a man (and woman) they did. Although a handful of legislators did vote against the extension of city TIFs, their position on suburban TIFs tells a much different story. (Note: It's no surprise that those who voted "No" on the city extensions have their eyes on leaving Springfield and winning seats closer to home).

    Rep. Osterman voted “No” on the city extensions but he was all in for every suburban extension. Same with Sen. Steans. She did not vote either for or against the city extension; she chose instead not to vote at all (No Vote is different than Nay). Like Rep. Osterman, Sen. Steans has been a reliable “Yes” vote for every suburban TIF extension.

    Others northside legislators who voted to extend both city and suburban TIFs from 24 to 35 years include: Rep. Greg Harris, Rep. Julie Hamos, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, Rep. Barabara Flynn Currie, Rep. Karen May, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, Sen. Dan Kotowski, Sen. Iris Martinez, Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, Sen. Heather Steans.

  2. I'm annoyed that Steans couldn't even vote yes or no. At least the rest of the them say where they stand. She tries to hide with a no vote when its clear she is backing the political machine's agenda. I'm tired of these politicians and not caring about the voters.

    I don't know anything about this Jim madigan guy who is running against her, but as long as he is not related to mike madigan thats all I need to know.

  3. There may be a good reason why Sen. Steans voted "No Vote." It may or may not be a reason you or I agree with but it is worth asking for her reason.

    We are preparing a health care bill for January and will be meeting in the near so I plan to ask her about this vote. You should, too. Call her. To her credit, Sen. Steans is much more responsive than her predecessor.

    Regarding Jim Madigan, you should call him, too. No challenger is going to turn down a reactive vote but I'm quite sure he would prefer a chance to earn yours.

  4. Thanks Suzanne. I'll give them both a call. Do you know of any scheduled debates or forums where they both will be?

  5. Face it people, we live in the most corrupt state,city and county in the WORLD! There is nothing that can be done other than voting all incumbents out and God knows that will never happen as the average Cook County voter has the intelligence and attention span of a gnat. This TIF business is the tip of the iceberg. Just one more example of the corruption that exists here.
    I'm done worring about this. In a few months I will be able to retire. I am now beginning my search for a free and honest state,city,county etc. One where the politicians work for the people, not for themselves or their friends.I may not find it here in this once great country, I may have to look overseas, but I will find it.
    I've served this city for almost thirty years. I've shed blood for this city and it's residents. Taken bullets. I've served it well and have tried to do my absolute best every single day. I've tried to make a difference. I regret ever signing up. I had job offers all over the country. But I wanted to work here ever since I was a little kid. I wish I had taken those offers. When I do find my retirement place I hope I can forget that I ever lived here. I will never,ever tell anybody where I'm from as they might look upon me poorly. I'd rather tell them I was just released from a prison in Alaska than tell them I'm from Chicago.

  6. I am chagrined to follow Big Daddy's lament with a post on particulars but . . .

    Jim, it's not a debate or a forum, per se, but the IVI-IPO is holding its endorsement sessions for state and local candidates on December 5th from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Truman College. All of our events are open to the public.

    You can hear from both Heather and Jim and ask questions. You will also be able to examine their questionnaires. If you don't know, IVI-IPO administers one of the most valuable (and exhaustive) candidate questionnaires and has been doing so for more than 60 years.

    In addition to the 7th State Senate Democratic candidates, IVI-IPO members will vote on these races as well:
    --4th, 11th and 40th State Rep.
    --8th, 10th and 12th County Board
    --7th Congressional
    --7th State Central Committee seats
    --4th State Central Committeeman
    --5th Congressional Green & Republican

  7. I'm running for John Fritchey's open State House seat.

    I'll do everything he didn't/won't do to reform state government...even when it's not in my own political best interests.

    Now that's a novel idea, huh?

    Scott Tucker
    Candidate for 11th State House

  8. Scott, could you be a little more specific?

  9. Big Daddy,Thank you for your service.