When Mayor Daley first told us about his plan to put an Olympic Village at the Michael Reese Hospital site, he promised that it wouldn't cost the public any money. I suppose we should consider it a step toward truth-telling that he's now saying the reason it's not going to cost us any money is that it's coming out of a TIF.
Anyway, just so you know how it works, here's what's really going on, without any of the usual TIF mumbo jumbo.
In his infinite wisdom, Mayor Daley got the City Council (good work, guys) to commit $86 million to buy and demolish Michael Reese Hospital. All that land used to be on the tax rolls, but now that it's owned by the city it doesn't generate any taxes. So right there we're already losing several million bucks a year. But I digress.
Mayor Daley says the city will eventually sell the land to some developers who will build 7,300 or so units of housing—enough to house all the athletes who come to town for the 2016 games.
It will cost at least $100 million (wanna bet that amount goes up?) to put in sewers, sidewalks, etc. Originally Mayor Daley said the developers would pick up those costs. Now he's saying they won't—which means you will.
Here's where it gets tricky.
The developers, unlike the city, will have to pay property taxes on the land. But instead of paying their taxes to the schools, the county, the parks, and so forth like all the rest of us ordinary schmucks, they'll get to spend it on the sewers and sidewalks they need for developing their site. I guess you could say they'll be paying their property taxes to themselves. Not a bad deal, huh? And you wonder why developers love TIFs so much.
According to the logic of Mayor Daley and his Olympic pitchmen, this sweetheart property tax arrangement isn't really going to cost the public anything because—follow the logic here—those property taxes were never previously being paid. Or as Patrick Sandusky, of the Olympic 2016 Committee, told the Tribune: "There's no village there now. So there are no incremental taxes."
Well, folks, I say if it's good enough for Mayor Daley's unknown Olympic developers, it's good enough for you. I suggest you tell Mayor Daley: "You know, Mr. Mayor, my property taxes will be going up this year. But instead of paying them to the city, the schools, and the parks, I think I'll just keep the money and spend it to build myself a new patio. When it's finished, I'll invite you and the missus over for a barbecue."
I'm sure the mayor will go along with it.
Look, people, if you truly believe these games are worth the fortune they will obviously cost us, or if you don't care about the public cost but think your business might somehow or other get a crumb or two from the Olympic pie, than go ahead, join the mayor's parade.
But for your own self respect, please don't be dumb enough to believe the bull.