Over the past month, Mayor Daley’s tax increment financing (TIF) system has attracted some much-needed scrutiny. First came the news that the city is forking over $3.8 million to insurance giant Willis Group Holdings to refurbish their swank new Sears Tower headquarters (despite the fact that the company’s annual revenue exceeds $2 billion). Then we learned from the Sun-Times that condo owners in Chicago’s University Village had benefited from TIF subsidies, only to flip their “affordable housing” for a profit (essentially pocketing those taxpayer dollars). Cook County Clerk David Orr recently summed it up well: “We’re looking at massive abuse. …TIFs can be a good tool, but this has become a giant slush fund in the city of Chicago.”
While we could write on and on about the “massive abuse” of TIF, we’re going to shift the focus slightly today — to the hoarding of unspent TIF dollars.
During a City Council Finance Committee hearing last Monday, Chief Financial Officer Gene Saffold and Community Development Commissioner Christine Raguso found themselves on the hot seat as a handful of aldermen demanded some long-overdue answers about how the $500 million in annual TIF revenue — along with the proceeds of the city’s parking meter, Skyway, and parking garage leases — are being managed. Ald. Ed Smith (28th Ward) got right to the point, saying, “Show us all the money. Where we can see it. All of it.
In response, Raguso and Saffold distributed a document showing the TIF system with an aggregate cash balance of $1.4 billion as of the end of 2008, including $1 billion worth of unspecified “special revenue funds” sitting in the city’s 158 active TIF districts. (We first wrote about these surpluses back in January.) Take a look at the full document below (click the button in the upper-right hand corner to expand) or download it here.
Come on, neighbors. Isn’t it time to say “ENOUGH!” to these rip offs, self-dealing back room contracts and hoarding of our tax dollars that are then given to the Mayor’s cronies, stooges and relatives? Contact the Mayor using this form or via email at MayorDaley@CityofChicago.org or call him at 312-744-3300.