TIF Town Meetings



We’ve been to so many communities since we launched this work in 2013. But the major media here refuse to cover the work or attend any of these dozens of public forums. Local and national funders have turned down requests for support 15 times. It’s very discouraging.

We did a public meeting in Highland Park on May 4, 2016 sponsored by TomorrowsHP. We’ve done dozens and dozens of public meetings all over Chicagoland. But no civic body, funder or major media outlet seems to notice or care.Ben quote







The TIF Illumination Project is investigating and explaining the impacts (money out, money in) on a ward-by-ward basis in Chicago. In 2014 (the latest year we have data for)  there were 147 active TIF districts and they extracted $426 million in property taxes from the property owners of Chicago.

People all over the city are stepping to organize TIF Town Meetings in their areas. We are doing this a ward-by-ward basis. If you would like to become a TIF Illuminator or donate time or funds to this all volunteer effort, please donate here and use the contact form above to reach us.

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

Don’t miss out. Contact us if you want YOUR ward Illuminated!


It was standing room only for the 2nd Ward Illumination on 9/14/14.

It was standing room only for the 2nd Ward Illumination on 9/14/14. Read coverage.

All our presentations are available at the TIF Data Store. Just click on the category “TIF Illumination” below and you can select from the presentations done to date. Once you pay you will be able to download the selected file. Remember, that while the TIF Illumination Project is 100% volunteer powered we have expenses to cover at the CivicLab and we are raising money to place all our TIF data online in an easy-to-use format. You can PREVIEW these presentations on SlideShare but they will not have the ward-specific details and other useful data.

Now you can order our “Chicago TIF Atlas” which uses the new and maps shows the TIF districts, TIF funded projects, and much more!


Reverend Robert Moore was the co-host for the “Bob Shaw Program” on WVON on Sunday, January 11, 2015 when Tom was a guest. Listen to what he says about our work. Thanks, Rev!

Here’s what Asiaha Butler of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE) said about “TIF 101″ video “The Resident Association of Greater Englewood, also known as RAGE, has been work diligently to unwrap and understand the impact TIF districts has on our community, specifically the Englewood Neighborhood TIF. Although many of our members are knowledgeable, there is still a vast majority of residents who simply do not get it….Our thanks to the TIF Illumination Project who presented us with their analysis of the this TIF. We appreciate the “TIF 101” video, as well.The video is a great visual tool we can use to help educate residents in Englewood of how TIFs currently work and how it’s supposed to work. We hope to use this video as a learning tool as we launch our public awareness campaign around the Englewood Neighborhood TIF.

“Tom Tresser does the work the City Council won’t. He reports back to the taxpayers where our cash has been going — disappearing into the pockets of wealthy developers and business owners with no strings attached. Tom’s a treasure.” – Maureen Sullivan, candidate for Alderman, Chicago’s 11th Ward.

“Thank you Thomas Tresser (CivicLab) and Daniel Eugene Pugh-Barnett for the eye-opening experience regarding TIFs in the 11th Ward. Unbelievable and still in awe. ‪#‎11taxtricks‬ – From an attendee of the 11th Ward Illumination.

“You are the definition of a true Servant Leader for the city of Chicago. You shed light on the complex issue of TIFs and continue to push for more transparency to inform taxpayers where their tax dollars are being underutilized for those in most need is simply remarkable. Citizens of Chicago are fortunate to have people like you. Best wishes!” – From the organizer of the 23rd Ward Illumination.

“You have my profound thanks for all of your work on this project; some Alderman have served decades in the City Council managing to perform far less public service than you have in spearheading this project.” – From an organizer of the 49th Ward Illumination. [Thanks, it’s a team effort!]



“TIF 101” workshop. Tom Tresser lays it all out for you. Open enrollment. 90 minutes at the CivicLab. Check our EventBrite schedule of workshops for the next version of this class. Email us if you would like a TIF training or town meeting scheduled for your community.

WATCH “TIF 101” VIDEO ONLINE! – Got 20 minutes? Watch this video we made especially for you! It features University of Illinois Professor Rachel Weber and Cook County Clerk David Orr as they break it all down. Thanks to the 80 donors who made the production of this video possible!


*25th Ward TIF Illumination, January 29, 2015 at the Rudy Lozano Library.


Susan Garza starts meeting *10th Ward TIF Illumination, January 20, 2015 at Mann Park.

TIFs run amok*33rd Ward TIF Illumination, January 15, 2015 at Brisku’s Bar.

*11th Ward TIF Illumination, December 5, 2014 at the First Trinity Lutheran Church.
*27th Ward TIF Illumination, November 7, 2014 at VenueOne (our 25th!).
*21st Ward TIF Illumination, September 21, 2014 at the Carter Woodson Regional Library.
*2nd Ward TIF Illumination, September 15, 2014 at Hilton Convention Center.
*23rd Ward TIF Illumination, August 27, 2014 at Kennedy High School.
* 48th Ward TIF Illumination, June 18, 2014 at Emanuel Congregation.
* 4th Ward TIF Illumination at the Hyde Park Art Center, May 29, 2014.
*DePaul Stadium Forum at DePaul Student Activity Center, October 3. Students organized this forum and asked for an Illumination of the 17 TIFs in the 2nd Ward.
*Lakeside Development CBA Summit – The Alliance of the SouthEast called a town meeting to discuss how to influence the massive planned development for the site of the U.S. Steel plant on September 7.


* 39th Ward TIFs & School Budget Town Meeting – August 27 – Read coverage in Progress Illinois.
* TIF Town Meeting in Oak Park, August 25
* August 21, 2013 – The good folks of MoveOn Chicago came by to learn about TIFs.
* August 8, 2013 – The 33rd Ward & Albany Park

SRO-Aug_8Aldermen Deb Mell and Ray Colon attended the meeting. After community members testified to the devastating impacts of the announced school cuts the Aldermen were asked to sign a giant check made out the public schools, drawn on the city’s TIF account. They both pledged to return TIF funds to the schools and signed!





*August 7, 2013 – The TIFs of Little Village. A presentation made to the leadership of Latinos Progresando.
* August 6, 2013 – The 19th Ward – Read coverage from Progress Illinois.
*July 18, 2013 – Logan Square.

Audience+text* July 1, 2013 -49th WardOver 100 people packed the meeting space at Loyola Park!

Someone in the audience posted a series of short YouTube videos capturing most of the presentation.

* June 11, 2013 – West Rogers Park (50th Ward) – Coverage from Progress Illinois.


* June 5, 2013 – Bridgeport & McKinley Park (11th & 12th Wards) – Read coverage from Progress Illinois and DNAinfo Chicago.
* May 13, 2013 – Hyde Park (4th Ward) – Read coverage from Progress Illinois. This town meeting was also covered in the cover story for the July 22, 2013 issue of The Nation, “Chicago Rising!









* May 4, 2013 – Englewood Neighborhood TIF r

*April 20, 2013 – Talking TIFs Part 2

* April 11, 2013 – Uptown Community (46th Ward)

* April 6, 2013 – Avalon & Roseland Communities (8th, 9th Wards)

It was a two-for-one special at CSU when we exposed the 14 TIFs inside the 8th and 9th Wards.

* March 30, 2013 – South Shore (7th Ward)





* March 16, 2013 – Washington Park (20th Ward). Read the coverage of this meeting from Progress Illinois.

* March 9, 2013 – Englewood (6th Ward)








February 12, 2013 – TIF Town Meeting @ The Chopin Theatre

The Tax Integrity and Fairness Alliance held a TIF Town Meeting at The Chopin Theater on February 12, 2013. Over 220 people attended! Here is the media coverage and Tom Tresser’s presentation materials on the results of the research into the 12 TIFs inside the 27th Ward.

Thanks to the great folks at Chicago Public Access, CAN-TV, watch this video of the three presenters plus the Q&A session (1 hour, 22 minutes).

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