TIFs & Chicago Politics – Reform Coming?

As reported in The Chicago Sun-Times, TIFs are on the new mayor’s agenda. He wants to reform the program and he’s pushing his weight around to see that his agenda is THE agenda.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and some newly-elected aldermen say they are prepared to overhaul and rein in the city’s Tax Increment Financing system, which they say has grown into a tax-gobbling menace over the last 25 years.

“Over the years, it’s kind of morphed from a tool for blighted economic communities into an all-purpose vehicle,” Emanuel told the Sun-Times. “We need to return it to its original purpose — it should not be used for high-rent areas.”

Emanuel is not prepared to abolish the program, as some of the aldermanic candidates who ran anti-TIF campaigns would like, but he pledged to appoint a commission to recommend reforms and say which TIFs should end.

And he is telling candidates they must support his plan to overhaul the TIF system if they want his support in next month’s run-off elections.

But the article notes that a few independent voices in the new City Council may have an agenda of their own:

“Seventy-five percent of all commercial and industrial areas in Chicago are in TIFs now,” said Ald. Scott Waugespack (32nd), who was re-elected with two-thirds of the vote.

“Why not freeze it and hold a referendum — let the voters decide?” said Ameya Pawar, who won his shocker victory in the 47th Ward in part by pledging to “blow up” the TIFs. “We need an audit of how we’ve spent those dollars for 20 years: Who’s gotten the contracts?”

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