“TIFs Need Scrutiny” – No Kidding!

ordan SimsJordan Sims writes on Chicago politics for the examiner.com, which bills itself as “the insider source for local.” Jordan turned his sights on Tax Increment Financing and he found them wanting,

Politically, a TIF rewards connected developers and construction firms that know the right people.  They may receive lucrative contracts to destroy dilapidated properties or create a development that the people neither want nor need.  Just look at all the Walsh and McHugh worksites across the city.

Incentive wise, a TIF is a powerful staying tool.  Constantly companies in Chicago complain that somewhat restrictive ordinances, a strong union culture, and a clout ridden political system make the city a difficult environment for business.  Yet, instead of reforming policy and having a substantive discussion on public-private cooperation, city hall gives another reason to stay, money.

TIF’s subsidize companies who are renovating offices or restoring historical spaces.  In the last decade, TIF’s have gone to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, United Airlines, The Willis (Sears) Tower, and MillerCoors for the sake of “improving” their office space within the LaSalle TIF district.  Unfortunately, these are not blighted areas but the supposed purpose of the TIF disbursement is to prevent the area from becoming shattered.

Laughable as this may be, the ultimate purpose of the TIF in these situations is to show the city’s willingness to do business with new or existing Chicago companies.  One can’t sell Chicago based on beauty, location, and cultural diversity, so as way to seal the deal one says, “What do I need to do to get your business?”  This is the spoils of politics at its best.

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