Shut Down Racist TIF Slush Funds!

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the City Council of Chicago

Our demand to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the City Council of Chicago

We demand that you shut down Chicago's out of control and racist Tax Increment Financing Program immediately. We are fed up with paying higher taxes, regressive fees, and being saddled with payday loan store debt. We are tired of our public dollars lining the pockets of wealthy and clouted developers - who then, in turn, shower you and the aldermen with campaign donations - all while our neediest communities suffer. Empty the TIF piggy bank now and send the funds in those accounts to the local units of government that should've received those funds in the first place.


The CivicLab launched the TIF Illumination Project (www.tifreports.com) in 2013. We conduct extensive research into the hyper-local impacts of Tax Increment Financing districts (TIFs) and have been called to present those findings at 77 public gatherings ("Illuminations") across the city. Over 6,500 people have attended these forums. That work led to the publication of "Chicago Is Not Broke. Funding the City We Deserve" (see www.wearenotbroke.org). The book has led to 66 public meetings in front of over 2,200 people. We have sold a total of 3,084 books (and given 472 copies to youth and civic organizations). In addition, over 208,000 people have viewed our online civic presentations.


Background:
TIFs are everywhere in the city of Chicago. About 30% of all properties here are in TIF districts. Since TIFs were started here in 1986 some 182 TIFs have been created. In 2018 there were 145 active TIFs in the city. In 2018 these 145 TIFs stole $674.7 million in property taxes from the people of Chicago. In 2018 they spent a total of $419 million. At the end of 2018 Chicago's TIF accounts had a total of $1.5 billion in property tax dollars. For full details, see our 2018 TIF Illumination.

The CivicLab now declares the following:

Tax Increment Financing districts are:

  • Secretive - TIF deals are done quickly, debated in mock public meetings, the entire process is opaque and inaccessible. This is unacceptable because TIFs dispense property tax dollars and a few wealthy and politically connected developers benefit greatly from receiving those precious public dollars. Even when TIF dollars are spent on public works, the process remains a mystery and no public planning process is followed.  
  • Corrupting - The CivicLab's research has revealed multiple instances where developers receiving millions of public dollars through the TIF program have given mayor and alderman large campaign donations. This is an outrageous breach of the public trust and completely corrupts the TIF program. Chicago is the most corrupt city in America and TIFs remain a huge corrupting influence. TIFs further corrupt our civics because they co-opt hard-working and under-funded civic organizations who are desperate for public funding of worthy community-based projects and who will support the overall TIF program in exchange for crumbs from the massive TIF table.
  • Starving public schools and essential public services - TIFs grab property tax dollars and place them in a slush fund controlled by the mayor with the acquiescence of the City Council. If a dollar of property tax goes missing there are consequences. Local units of government rely on property taxes for operation. The major consumer of our property taxes are our public schools (in itself a regressive and unjust situation). About 56 cents of every property tax dollar is SUPPOSED to go to the Board of Education. Is it any wonder that since 1990 Chicago has closed 249 public schools. Most of these have been in communities of color.
    All across America we see local school boards SUING their mayors over corrupt and ill-conceived TIF projects that are draining funds from their budgets. This is extremely wasteful as the local taxpayers are footing the bills for the prosecution AND defense of such law suits. That will never happen here as the mayor controls the Chicago Board of Education. The draining of property taxes also harms our public parks and public libraries.  
  • Showering wealthy, connected developers with public dollars while the heavily TIF'd West Side rots. Since TIFs came to Chicago they have stolen over $8 BILLION in property taxes and showered most of those funds on wealthy and connected developers. Development projects in the 42nd Ward (including Chicago's Loop and LaSalle Street business district) have received a staggering $841 million in public subsidies via the TIF program. When those towers are sold the developer walks away with his profits PLUS our property tax dollars. The 24th Ward - West Lawndale - is our most TIF'd community, at one point being almost 100% inside one TIF or another. We say TIFs have been a major factor in keeping that mostly Black community in disrepair and under resourced. In the last days of the Emanuel Administration two super TIFs were rushed through City Council despite protests and push back from community members, neighborhood groups, and seven newly elected aldermen. The TIF for the Lincoln Yards Project will steal $1.4 billion for a monstrously bloated development along the Chicago River in Lincoln Park. It includes $400 million in finance fees. The TIF for the so-called Project 78 along the river at Roosevelt Avenue will steal $1.1 billion and also includes $400 million in finance fees. These two TIFs are acts of economic warfare on Black and Brown communities and working class Chicagoans. Mayor Lightfoot has blessed these two criminal TIFs.  
  • Perverting the process of economic development - Research shows TIFs have nothing to do with economic development. Thy encourage poorly thought out and weak projects. When developers use clout to subsidize their projects they place properties on the market that cost less to build than they should and make risk taking easier to bear. The results are projects that enter an over-crowded or declining market. TIFs have very little or NOTHING to do with sound community planning and economic development. The academic research says that TIFs are a wash, at best, in the economic health of a city, and often are a negative. TIFs are really hidden debt and hidden governance. They do NOT and CAN NOT develop poor communities. Right now nine TIFs in the Loop/West Loop/South Loop area contain $$598 million in public dollars that will NEVER go to a Black or Brown community. Furthermore, TIFs stand as a major accelerator of privatization efforts in Chicago where public assets and resources have been transferred to private ownership, thereby enriching a handful of wealthy political insiders and financial technocrats to the detriment of the many. Overall, Chicago's Tax Increment Financing program dwarfs the much loathed privatization scam whereby Mayor Daley sold our parking meters to Morgan-Stanley for $1.1 billion in 2008 (for 75 years) and that investment bank will make back that investment in 2020.  
  • Unfair and anti-distributive - This is a key element of our civil rights and human rights complaints around TIFs. The law says that TIFs are supposed to spend public dollars INSIDE the TIF where they have been collected. TIFs handcuff public dollars and when they are placed in hot and booming areas, the property taxes they amass can NOT be distributed or used far away in poor and afflicted communities. TIFs hoard public dollars in wealthy communities where TIFs exist. Redistribution is a fundamental aspect of progressive, restorative practice and is required for any Reparations plan to work. But even if you don't address Reparations on a national scale - redistribution is a basic element of fairness and equity inside the body politic. TIFs', by their nature, are anti-distributive and prevent city-wide planning and resource allocation.

Therefore, we assert that TIFs are racist. The plague of TIFs follow in a long line of majority-imposed policies on Black and Brown communities that are designed to keep them down, bleed them, fleece them, and make advancement impossible in America and in Chicago. We make this connection: Slavery-> Jim Crow-> Red Lining-> Segregation-> Disinvestment-> Urban Renewal-> Contract Buying-> Predatory Lending/Credit Deserts-> TIFs/Privatization. Chicago's communities of color bear witness to the harms of these policies (persistent poverty, homicide, unemployment, health outcomes and life expectancy, school closings, militarization of their communities, racial profiling, lack of affordable housing). These are some of the reasons for massive Black flight where over 500,000 African Americans have left Chicago since 1970. This massive forced displacement and out migration has been designed and abetted by local government officials and powered by TIFs.

Conclusion: TIFs must be abolished, they can't be reformed. It's time to put Chicago's youth and families first. Chicago needs a new vision and a new set of resources to spread opportunity and justice throughout the city. We can NEVER have the city we deserve with TIFs running riot.

The $1.5 billion sitting in TIF funds should sent to the units of government that would have gotten those monies in the first place:

If we cancel TIFs and flush the $1.5 billion sitting in the Chicago TIF accounts now, we would get a one-time cash infusion including:

Chicago Board of Education: 55.3% = $829,500,000
City of Chicago: (22.7%) = $340,500,000
Cook County: (6.83%) = $102,450,000

In addition, with TIFs off our collective backs, the City of Chicago (through all its agencies) will have access to over $600 million in property taxes annually going forward.

We demand that the Chicago Board of Education use these funds from the one-time cash infusion and from new revenue going forward to cut class size dramatically, provide nursing and counseling resources in our neighborhood schools, provide robust arts and sciences programming for our youth, hire librarians for our schools, provide after and out-of-school programming for our young people, and fully fund the Board of Education's special education program.

We further demand that the City of Chicago and Cook County use their portion of newly liberated TIF funds to open store front health clinics across the county, start a robust youth training and employment program to prepare our young people for jobs in the green energy, tech, and media industries; and re-invest in a set of community centers across the city and county that support youth and family wellness.

We see these measure as a INTERIM step to getting a city of justice and prosperity for all. There are other measures we must undertake - especially looking at how our FEDERAL dollars are being used. But for now we see these steps as important and necessary - steps we CAN take on our own, with no permissions needed from other levels of government.

IF YOU AGREE, PLEASE SIGN OUR ONLINE PETITION TO END TIFs NOW. PLEASE SHARE AND CIRCULATE WIDELY.

VISIT OUR ONLINE "ACTION CENTER" TO DOWNLOAD CAMPAIGN MATERIALS SO YOU CAN ADVANCE THIS WORK IN YOUR COMMUNITY!

*Click here to find out who your Chicago Alderman is*

**Please help us fund this TIF Elimination Campaign with a donation of $10, $25 or even $100!**

***For more information: 773-770-5714 - Email: info@civiclab.us***

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Chicago, IL

To: Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the City Council of Chicago
From: [Your Name]

We demand that you shut down Chicago's out of control and racist Tax Increment Financing Program immediately. We are fed up with paying higher taxes, regressive fees, and being saddled with payday loan store debt. We are tired of our public dollars lining the pockets of wealthy and clouted developers - who then, in turn, shower you and the aldermen with campaign donations - all while our neediest communities suffer. Empty the TIF piggy bank now and send the funds in those accounts to the local units of government that should've received those funds in the first place.