Chicago Reader Wishes Us Well!

TIF-angry-mobThe great Ben Joravsky, who has forgotten more about TIFs than most will recall, has written about the CivicLab and our TIF Illumination Project. He keeps talking about Tom Tresser, but the No Games Chicago campaign was a real team effort and the CivicLab already has over 20 volunteers working on different projects!

“In his previous crusade, north-side activist Tom Tresser went up against the political, cultural, media, and civic elite of Chicago as he fought against bringing the 2016 Olympic games to town.

Against all odds, Tresser won!

And decisively so. No only did the International Olympic Committee award the games to another city (thank you, Rio de Janeiro), but they also exposed just how deficient Chicago’s application was by bouncing it before the other finalists’.

Thank you, IOC. And thank you, Tom Tresser and No Games Chicago, for exposing that budget-busting land-grab fiasco.

For an encore, Tresser is trying to get city officials to tell the truth about how they spend your property taxes.

Good luck with this one, Tom, though it’s definitely worth fighting for.

“We believe the public should know how its public dollars are spent,” says Tresser. “It’s just fundamental to democracy.”

He is, of course, talking about the city’s tax increment financing scam. That’s the program intended to eliminate blight in the poorest neighborhoods. Instead, the city jacks up your property taxes and funnels the money into a slush fund available for virtually anything the mayor wants, generally in neighborhoods that are neither poor nor blighted. Such as—to pick just one of my favorite TIF deals—the recent $30 million handout to the developers of River Point, an upscale office complex on the banks of the Chicago River downtown, in the hottest real estate market in the city.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s closing schools because we’re broke. Good thing for him that hardly anyone’s paying attention.

That’s where Tresser comes in. Along with assorted academics, computer geeks, and other troublemakers, Tresser has started the CivicLab, which is breaking down the city’s TIF game to see who really wins and loses. They’re setting up a website ( that reveals what Mayor Rahm Emanuel most wants to conceal, just like Mayor Richard Daley before him: that the program intended to help the poorest of the poor largely benefits the well to do.

In addition, the CivicLab is organizing an online petition to force lawmakers to address the best part of the scam—the fact that your tax bill lies to you about it. “Getting the correct information on the tax bill is a big start,” says Tresser. “If you have property in TIF districts, the property tax must reveal the impact of what you pay. It’s so fundamental.”

Before you fall asleep, let me explain. You too can be a TIF geek!”

Thanks, Ben, for the shout out. We’re only trying to follow in the path of the TIF Master Illuminator!

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