Media on TIF does not understand TIF

Media tries, fails to explain why TIF is so confusing:

[E]ven Mr. Orr and top aides [are] unsure exactly how much money is in Chicago’s TIF coffers.

There are now 158 TIF districts in Chicago, and they generated $519 million last year, Mr. Orr said. In all, there may be a shade over $1 billion in unspent TIF money.

While Mr. Orr contends it’s a “travesty” that most Chicagoans are clueless about all that money, one can’t dispute that TIFs are central to development, especially downtown. And it’s hard to dispute how they allow municipalities to support development without raising property taxes.

(Full story here.)

Well, let me be one to dispute.

First off, the “travesty” is the city bookkeeping is so bad that we cannot even tell the citizens how much money is in the accounts.  That’s front page news and a good reason to toss every last elected bum out at their arse.

Second, it is also unacceptable that over $500 million is placed into the TIF’s annually for dubious reasons.  These are funds that could be used to put more police on the street, improve failing schools, or simply to shore-up our pension liabilities or now annual budget shortfall.

But more to the point, TIFs are not central to development.  TIFs were invented in California in 1952.  Illinois didn’t create its TIF statute until 1987.  How did we develop prior to 1987?

The Chicago TIF truth is that dozens of brand-name companies have received millions and millions of tax dollars from TIF funds.  UPS, CNA Insurance, MillerCoors, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Willis Insurance (the “Willies Tower” people), Quaker Oats, United Airlines, and CareerBuilder and just a few.  TIF dollars also went to support a local Mercedes dealer to build new dealership on some of the most valuable land in the city.  Oh, ya, and the Wrigley people to build on the best peninsula in the river (payback for helping with Millennium Park.)

The simple truth of TIF can be explained in one simple graph.

TIF Graph
TIF Graph

Click on the image to expand.

TIFs are a way to rob the person to actually invests in a neighborhood, the home or business owner.  A family moves into a neighborhood effected by a TIF and part of their property taxes goes not fund their police, their schools, their garbage collection or other city services, but rather to improve the lifestyle of the rich-and-famous and politically connected.

TIFs are inherently evil and should be done away with.

Rahm on Education: Not Daley’s Fault

Rahm Emanuel made a campaign promise last week that if elected mayor, he would install a new math and English language curriculum in Chicago’s public schools by the end of his first term.

Mr. Emanuel made clear that he meant no disrespect to Mayor Richard M. Daley, who assumed control of the city’s public schools 15 years ago and has said changes in public education are his proudest accomplishment.  Gery Chico, the mayoral candidate who was city school board president, recently angered Mr. Daley by saying that the efforts to improve schools have stalled.  Mr. Emanuel instead echoed Mr. Daley’s mantra about the schools. “There is no doubt we’ve made great strides,” Mr. Emanuel said, “but you don’t rest on your laurels.”

Full story here.

Kudos to the Chicago News Coop for getting this story.  I think it’s hilarious.  Rahm just simply refuses to say anything bad about da Mare.  At first it was just a little odd; now it’s straight-on entertainment.

The city’s broke and broken.  We’re out of money and have no plan to get out of debt or bring much needed jobs back.  But I digress.

Did anyone ask Rahm what this “new curriculum” is called?  Who sells it? How are we going to pay for it?  How are we going to train our existing teachers to use it? And, how are we going to make sure the teachers are not just slipping back to teaching the “old way?”

Further, much like Chico’s plan (my comments here) how are we going to measure the success or failure of the new curriculum?

In Chicago we don’t worry about measuring success.  We just move the chairs around, talk about how much we “care”, have our picture taken with smiling kids from the West or South side, and continue on as if there is no problem.

It’s embarrassing that the electorate stands for it.  People get the representative democracy they deserve; we deserve better that this.

June 11, 2008

Alderman Fioretti send two very dangerous messages with one vote:

  1. campaign and other donations to the city get results for the donors, and
  2. what the citizens want doesn’t matter, the city should always get its way.

Bob Fioretti believes that if your names sounds like Crown or Pritzker and you donate lots of money to the city (a la Millennium Park) the you should be able to take some of the most valuable land in the city (Grant Park) and turn it into a commercial enterprise against the wishes of the people who live closest.

Wrong.  It is just plain wrong.

Additional stories here, and here, and here, and here.

P.S.  The lawsuit to block this action is moving forward.  But the Mayor really wanted to make sure the city’s position was overseen by someone with the skin in the game so he appointed Mr. Pritzker to the Chicago Park District Board.

Emanuel’s Foolish TIF for Police Plan

Over the weekend Rahm Emanuel became the latest local politician to propose tapping funds from the city’s tax increment financing districts to help pay for city services.

Emanuel said that if he is elected mayor he would use $25 million in TIF money to pay for 250 new officers that could be dispatched around the city as needed. This, he said, would let the city avoid making the “false choice” of deciding whether to move police districts away from some neighborhoods and into others with more pressing crime problems.

There all kinds of problems with this idea.  Mick Dumke at the Chicago News Cooperative points to a legal one:

Under state law, the city is required to spend TIF money in the area where it was generated (or, in some cases, in a nearby area). And currently most TIF funds are designated for use in downtown districts, according to a balance sheet on the city’s website.

(Full story here.)

Yes indeed, that’s a problem.  But here’s another one: in a department that is no less than 2,500 sworn officers short 250 is not enough to do anything!

This is the equivalent of someone getting their leg shot off and Rahm wants to offer then a band-aid.

I have an idea about how to solve the police crisis… and TIF reform… details coming soon but here’s a hint.  Tom Allen’s idea was a good start.  I say we go further.  I say we go all the way.

CPD Considers Reallocation of Officers

Police districts on Chicago’s North Side would lose beat officers to South Side and West Side districts if the city were to reallocate cops based on the volume of 911 calls and backups for police service, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found.

(Full story here.)

The Second Ward is on both ends of this; Weis probably wants to both take from those in Printer’s Row and give those on the South and West sides.  The facts are what they are and without seeing the details, there is little to evaluate.

However, the question I have is: if this is such a great idea why wasn’t it done two years ago?

This is similar to his “sit down” with “gang leaders” a few months back.  It’s not necessarily a terrible idea in theory, but if HE thought is was a good idea, then why did he wait so long to do it?

Mr. Weis just seems to be grasping at straws.  There is no real clear strategy to deal with crime in this city.  No preemptive plan; no reactionary plan.   I sense attending CAPS meeting that we’re out here on our own.

Very sad.

I’m just asking…

I have sat on this idea for several days now and not having seen anything in the news inline with my thinking.  After considering the pro’s and con’s, I’m asking a relatively simple question.

Last week John Kass at the Tribune wrote an interesting piece on how Rahm had been removed from the voter rolls not once, but twice.  However both times, Rahm was later able to get reinstated and vote via absentee ballot.  For example, back in February of 2010 Rahm’s voter status was changed to “inactive.”  However, in the February 2 primary election:

[Emanuel] voted using an absentee ballot listing the Hermitage address even though the Halpin family lived there and they also voted from that address.

The one question no one in the media is asking is, how is this not voter fraud?

CPS Gets Help From Discovery Channel

With tales of cannibalistic giant squids and endangered leatherback turtles that travel thousands of miles to lay eggs on the beaches where they were born, Philippe Cousteau, grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, tried to capture the imaginations of children at a North Side school Friday.

“It’s not about textbooks anymore,” said Cousteau, TV’s Animal Planet chief ocean correspondent. “If you want to be relevant in education, you need to use technology for kids to understand, to bring it alive.”

The U.S. ranked 29th in a 2006 international survey looking at literacy in science and math among 15-year-olds. President Barack Obama has pushed for improvement and greater interest in those subjects, hosting a White House Science Fair and appearing on the Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters” program in October.

John Loehr, Chicago Public Schools’ science director, said the city needs to try new things to boost science education, noting that, according to their ACT scores, only 9 percent of 2010 graduates showed post-secondary readiness in science.

(Full story here.)

So the entire country is failing, ranking 29th in math and science performance.  The city is even worse!  Nine percent of of students were ready to move on in science?  At this rate the Republic cannot sustain itself.

We have to admit that our schools are a failure in order to make them better. A problem well defined is half solved.

One Great School, Not Part of CPS

[Providence St. Mel] The lauded West Side high school — profiled in “The Providence Effect,” a documentary that hit the big screen last year — has long been considered a national model for urban education, sending 100 percent of its low- to very low-income students to college for 30 years. Its uniformed students each morning recite a mission statement that emphasizes strength of character.

(Full story here.)

Simple enough.

Daley, Chico Squable on Education

In a back-n-forth through the press:

“This is not a personal attack on Mayor Daley,” Chico said.

Daley has done a “tremendous job in this city,” Chico said, but added he would continue to “call it the way I see it.”

(Full story here.)

What?!  A “tremendous job?”  The city has sold off revenue sources and squandered the funds on bloated government and Friends of the Mayor.  Our police force is over 2,500 sworn officers short, crime is up, our schools are failing, taxes are going up, and businesses continue to lay-off hard working taxpayers.

Twenty-one years Mayor Daley has ruled.  He’s gotten everything he’s ever wanted.  Every issue falls at his feet.  No further.