TIFs: Where It All Began and How Joravsky Sussed It From the Start

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Sound familiar?

"By the time the City Council's Finance Committee got around to officially approving the . . . deal—a $400 million Loop redevelopment project—almost all of the aldermen had gone home for the weekend. . . . Not that full aldermanic attendance would have changed the outcome. The project . . . had all the trappings of a done deal."

How about this one?

"At issue is whether it is in the city's interest to take a loss now, in hopes of a major payoff in the future. . . . Supporters predict that the immense tax revenues generated by such a complex will more than make up for the city's investment."

Perhaps you're reminded of the way the city's parking meters were privatized with so little oversight from the council. Or of the document that lays out the city's secret Shadow Budget, which allocates tax money to city services and projects, far from public scrutiny.

Or maybe you've been following Ben Joravsky's years-long series on what's wrong with the TIF program, in particular the pretense that the TIF program doesn't affect property taxes.

But these quotes are actually from Hopeful development: Do North Loop tax subsidies make any sense?," a piece Joravsky wrote in 1987 on the city's first TIF district, established under Mayor Washington to stimulate development at Block 37.

Here's what bothered Ben about TIFs, all the way back then:

"What if, for instance, development of block 37 is slowed by strikes, storms, or fluctuations in the money market? Then there would be no new revenue from the block, but the city would still have millions and millions of bonds to repay."

How's that going, Block 37?

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