Tom’s Offer to Join TIF Reform Panel Spurned

Carole Brown, a senior managing director at the financial services firm of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co, LLC, is the chair of a new TIF Reform Panel named by Mayor Emanuel.

When I heard of this panel, I was excited that now – at last – we can get to the bottom of the program that, last time we looked, had over $1 billion in unspent TIF funds sitting in bank accounts somewhere in Chicago.

Last week I asked Ms. Brown if I could be appointed to this panel. This is what I said:

Ms. Brown –

I would like to place my credentials before you for a seat on the newly formed TIF Review Panel that you are leading. I’ve attached my resume but I can say, in summary, that I am a taxpayer advocate and champion of reform, government transparency and civic engagement. Over the past few years I have been involved in a number of good government efforts and grassroots organizing campaigns – focusing on protecting The Commons. I am tremendously skeptical about TIFs and how they have been used. I believe your firm does TIF-related work and so I think your panel needs at least one person who is not in government or big business and who can represent the Chicago taxpayer. I would like to be one such person. Would you be willing to meet to discuss this?

Thank you!
Tom Tresser

Today I heard from Ms. Brown. This is what she wrote, in part:

“Thank you for your interest in the TIF Review Panel. As you know, Mayor Emanuel is committed to
evaluating and reforming the City’s TIF program. As part of this evaluation, he appointed the panel of
economic development professionals, financial experts and community leaders who, over a 90-day
period, will evaluate every aspect of the City’s TIF program and develop recommendations for reform.
These recommendations will be incorporated into the 2012 budget.

Mayor Emanuel appointed the panel from a cross section of the community. Despite your belief that my
background as an investment banker may inhibit this, I believe strongly that we must complete a
thorough and objective review to address the following:

Establishment of City TIF Policy.
Evaluation of TIF Performance.
Establishing Transparency in TIF Reporting.
Maintaining Fiscal Responsibility.

As far as I know, the Mayor has no plans to expand the existing panel. However, there will be
opportunity for the panel to receive public input before we complete our work. Right now, the City’s
website includes a suggestion box for public comments. The panel will review all of these comments as
part of our deliberation process. I have attached two links:

1. The City’s TIF page which houses all the links to TIF data available online. There is a link to the
suggestion box on this page.
2. Direct link to the suggestion box”

Here’s the full letter, which also lists members of the panel. Download as a PDF.

I will follow the progress of this panel with great interest.

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