Crain’s Asks New Mayor To Reform TIFs

In the April 11 edition of Crain’s Chicago Business the Editors call on Mayor-Elect Emanuel to reform the much-abused TIF program. They remind us…


Known by the acronym TIF, this economic development mechanism originally conceived as a tool for reviving blighted neighborhoods has strayed far from its purpose. Outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley turned it into a piggybank from which to dispense tax breaks to favored real estate developers.

By the end of his two decades in power, it seemed that every building project of any size got TIF money. Many TIF districts are in neighborhoods that can’t be called blighted even by the longest stretch of the imagination. Swaths of the Loop, for example, are in one TIF district or another. Nearly $520 million in city property tax revenue was reserved for TIF districts in 2009, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr. That money is unavailable for broader needs like improving education or balancing the budget.

They don’t exactly rock the boat when they ask for the mildest and least controversial fixes possible.
Steps he could take are bringing more transparency to the TIF process and establishing clear standards for granting TIF status to a neighborhood.Such a law would curb the worst excesses of the TIF program and redirect aid to parts of the city that really need it.
It would be better than nothing. Mr. Mayor-Elect, I hope you subscribe to Crain’s!
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