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

Posted by Alison True on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 2:02 PM

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?

Comments (3)

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Congrats to Ben for staying focussed. Can you do that for another 22 years?


Posted by John Powers on 10/26/2009 at 4:00 PM

History will not judge the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times kindly on this matter. Both papers are prone to devoted more headline print to the miseries of our local sports teams than the single largest (if taken as a whole) item in our City's budget.

If only Ben had given the bully pulpit that John Kass received after Royko passed.

Posted by Carter O'Brien on 10/27/2009 at 1:18 PM

"If only Ben had given the bully pulpit that John Kass received after Royko passed."

Ben's not a "phony ethnic" like Kass or Royko. I like some of pieces that Kass does on The Outfit (I really don't care if he runs around leaving cannoli on some guy's doorstep), but I'm still waiting for him to do a piece on the Greek-American Syndicate AKA GAS.

Posted by FGFM on 05/20/2010 at 4:29 PM
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