August 30, 2011. Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s anticipated review of Chicago’s much-criticized TIF system was released yesterday. While the results appeared to vindicate critics of the system, there is still no sign that Emanuel will do anything to fix it. Upon taking office earlier this year, Mayor Emanuel ordered the study to be done. Billed as an attempt to maximize the impact of the TIF system, what has resulted is a detailed laundry list of secrecy and corruption in the Daley administration. The big question is, will Mayor Emanuel do anything to stop it.
So far, Mayor Emanuel has proven one thing in his first 100 days – he disagrees with almost everything former Mayor Daley did while Mayor. Yet while the new mayor constantly talks about broken, corrupt and wasteful Daley programs, Emanuel has done little or nothing to change anything. Whether it’s criminals on the police force caught on camera in the act, sex offenders on the city payroll with access to Chicago’s children, admitted criminals still bilking Chicago’s taxpayers, firefighters admittedly stealing money from the city, or the endless line of corrupt former Daley officials that have found a home in the Emanuel administration – Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall has proven time and again that while the Mayor criticizes many of Daley’s policies, he continues to protect and advance them.
As just one example, when more than half of Chicago’s fire inspectors admitted to stealing money from the city for decades, Emanuel announced he wasn’t going to put a stop to it. Basically, he conceded that it would cost the city more money to stop the theft from taxpayers than the city would save by ending the illegal practice.
After the release of yesterday’s TIF report, time will tell if Mayor Emanuel has the political strength to put an end to a program that diverted millions of taxpayer dollars from the blighted areas they were intended to help turn around, but instead found themselves lining the pockets of some of Daley’s richest and most powerful corporate buddies.
On May 19, Mayor Emanuel announced the formation of his TIF Reform Panel. Three months later, Chicago has the results of the TIF program study.
The ChicagoNewsCoop quoted long-time TIFF critic Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) saying, “It’s a good day. I’m not after Rich at this point in time, but this report is in such sharp contrast with past TIF policy.” Quigley has long been a critic of the program. Yesterday’s report appeared to confirm all of the former County Commissioner’s complaints. According to the TIF Reform Panel recommendations, the city should:
- Create some kind of process and governance to administer and monitor the program.
- Performance metrics and standards to insure the city is achieving the results it assumes it is.
- Transparency and accountability are the final recommendations – two things conspicuously missing from former Mayor Daley’s City Hall.
Another outspoken critic of the TIF system is Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey. Fritchey again called on Mayor Emanuel to release the $500 million in TIF funds back to the taxpayers so the money can be spent in a constructive, legal, beneficial fashion. So far, Mayor Emanuel has rejected that request insisting that the half billion dollars will stay in the broken TIF system.
“At a time when everybody from the police to the schools needs more money, the city is stockpiling hundreds of millions of dollars” Fritchey said, “It escapes me how city officials can talk about the importance of education while taking money from schools and giving it to car dealers and grocery stores.”
Another indication of no real reform coming to TIF financing is the fact that the second biggest complaint behind the secrecy, rich corporations receiving money intended for blighted communities, wasn’t one of the suggested reforms in Mayor Emanuel’s report.
ChicagoNewsCoop reached out to Richard Daley for comment. Daley’s spokeswoman Jacquelyn Heard said Daley’s views on TIFs were unchanged. As mayor, Daley had often defended the program as essential to economic development in the city, even as critics derided it as a highly secretive “slush fund” to reward corporate Chicago. Jacqueline Levy of the now defunct citizen’s organization Neighborhood Capital Budget Group also had few kind words fort he TIF program.
Her group long had called for the city to restrict TIF spending “to areas of the city that were truly blighted,” she said, noting that much of the money was spent in and around downtown Chicago. The new report from Emanuel’s panel does not call for strictly limiting where the program would operate. Rep. Quigley also confirmed that nothing in the Emanuel report would change the way TIF districts operate. Once again, it appears the more Mayor Emanuel speaks of “change” and “reform”, the more Chicago taxpayers get more of the same.