About Us

New_TIF-1The TIF Illumination Project is a project of The CivicLab, a space for civic innovation. Tom Tresser is the Lead Organizer for the TIF work and has been cooking up innovation in community organizing, civic engagement and strategic planning for over 30 years.

The project produce reports that explain the impact of Chicago’s massive Tax Increment Financing Program on a ward-by-ward basis.

We are started our ward-by-ward review of TIFs with the 27th Ward. We want to review and visit all 50 wards. As of November of 2017 we’ve Illuminated 141 TIFs across 35 wards in front of over 5,300 people. That amounts to a staggering 64 public meetings in total (including “TIF 101” forums). And YET – no major Chicago media outlet will cover this work or attend any of the meetings.

Our presentations on SlideShare have been viewed almost 186,000 times since we started this work. Too bad we didn’t charge the viewers one dollar per view. We could actually have funded this work!

Click here to learn about the TIF Illumination Project editorial team. CivicLab co-founder Tom Tresser has been researching TIFs and related civic issues since 2008. Here is a flier from a February 2008 seminar at DePaul University Feb_2008_GLPDFA_TIF_flerthat featured Chicago Reader reporter Ben Joravsky.


The TIF Illumination Project is a work of the CivicLab, innovating for democracy. We operated America’s only co-working space dedicated to collaboration, education and innovation for civic engagement.  The CivicLab space was founded by Benjamin Sugar and Tom Tresser and we operated in Chicago’s West Loop for two eventful years – closing on June 30, 2015.


Jefferson“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large…”

Extract from Thomas Jefferson’s “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,” December 1778
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