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Esther J. Cepeda

Esther J. Cepeda

Posted: March 27, 2009 03:33 PM

Eternal Sunshine of Chicago's Mind: TIFs Need to be Brought Into the Light

What's Your Reaction?

Crooked politicians have run Chicago since I was born. That is a fact.

Google Al Sanchez, "Hired Truck Scandal," Ed Vrdolyak, Jim Laski, "pay-to-play," I could go on and on but won't bother because we all know this. It's the stuff of legend. It's the Chicago Way!

But we're supposed to believe that no backroom wheeling and dealing occurs when fat cats get together to carve out Tax Increment Financing Districts that take property tax money and supposedly reinvest it in communities?

And I'm the queen of England, nice to meet you.

TIF districts make peoples eyes glaze over because they're difficult to understand, difficult to track, and it takes decades to see the results of bad governance-- perfect conditions for pulling the wool over residents' eyes about how these things come to pass in their own back yards.

So Ald. Manny Flores (1st) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) suggested bringing the whole process out into the klieg lights of this thing we call the internet so everyone who doesn't have time to hang out in council chambers can wrap their heads around what multi-million dollar deals might happen in their neighborhoods. And also where the money will go, since TIFs take that money out of local schools, parks, and libraries and put it ... somewhere else.

Slam dunk, right? Ha, not in Chicago it ain't.

Nope, all the king's men-- I'm sorry, I meant the majority of Chicago Aldermen and Women-- took a pass on more open, accessible, and accountable government.

I asked Manny Flores why you should care, given that there's the sticky business of your spouse's job, the car note, the price of milk, and the entire global economy to worry about.

"These are Chicago taxpayer dollars we're talking about," Flores told me over the phone Friday. "When is enough, enough?

"People are looking at AIG nationally but you don't have to look any farther than the Republic Window company fiasco here," Flores said. "They received $10 million dollars of TIF money, whether they ever really invested into the community as they agreed to is questionable and then when they ran into trouble, they closed their doors - under cover of night - to relocate, and refused to pay the workers their due."

So we should get mad as all hell and declare we're not going to take it anymore?

"We have an opportunity to very easily provide more transparency in our government by publishing what should be public information and letting people participate in making those decisions," Flores said, "the taxpayers need to have better control over how their money is spent."

Make it happen - find your alderman here and tell him or her that spring is here and it's time to let the sunshine in.

 

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