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TIF Slush Fund Continues

Chicago’s TIF slush fund is the by far the most corrupt thing about Chicago’s government these days, and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader has been following the story closely:

Miller Coors HQ West Loop
Miller Coors HQ West Loop

Chicago’s TIF slush fund is the by far the most corrupt thing about Chicago’s government these days, and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader has been following the story closely:

 

 

But because of loopholes in the state TIF law, the mayor’s pretty much free to spend the money on anything he wants, such as subsidies to corporations in return for unenforced agreements to keep jobs in Chicago. That’s how TIF money ended up subsidizing wealthy corporations setting up shop in the “blighted” communities in and around the Loop.

Ferguson’s July 12 report (available at chicagoinspectorgeneral.org) hones in on the role played by World Business Chicago, an economic development group whose board is appointed by the mayor and includes many of Chicago’s corporate big shots. Among them are Glenn Tilton, who used to be CEO of United Airlines, and Terrence Duffy, chairman of CME Group, formerly known as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

WBC’s mission is to convince other corporate big shots to move jobs if not their headquarters to town, which is supposed to make us swell with civic pride—as though persuading, say, MillerCoors to move its corporate headquarters here from Milwaukee and Denver is the corporate equivalent of the Bears beating the Packers.

Anyway, as Ferguson points out, it’s not just that the folks at the WBC call on other corporate hotshots to move to town. It’s that they use handouts from the TIFs as one of the lures.

As Ferguson found, from 2005 to 2010, WBC wrote letters to the city’s TIF overseers, recommending subsidies for 12 corporations, including Accretive Health, ArcelorMittal USA, Block 37, CareerBuilder.com, CME Group, CAN, MillerCoors, NAVTEQ, United Airlines, Willis Group, and Ziegler and Ccompanies.

 

(click here to continue reading Mayor Emanuel does the TIF reform dance | Ben Joravsky on Politics | Chicago Reader.)

Self Portrait with South View

Why do these wealthy corporations need tax payer money to build, especially during these dire economic times? Nobody really has a good answer. In the West Loop, Roundy’s got money from the TIF fund to build an upscale store called Mariano’s Fresh Market, directly across the street from an existing (and recently built) Safeway (Dominick’s), and a few blocks from a proposed Wal-Mart…

Yet just last month Emanuel’s administration signed off on a deal to give $7 million—taken from the Near West TIF district—to a bunch of developers so they can build an upscale grocery store at Monroe and Halsted.

Wow, where do I start?

First of all, the area is hardly blighted—it’s booming by Chicago standards.

Second, it doesn’t need a grocery store—there’s a Dominick’s right across the street.

And third, there are any number of more pressing needs for that $7 million. Every unit of local government is freaking broke—Mayor Emanuel just grimly announced that the city’s deficit is $600 million and counting.

I asked city officials if the developers had substantiated a claim that, but for the TIF, the land could not be developed. I’m still waiting for them to get back to me on that one.

The city says the grocery store will create 200 new jobs. That amounts to a subsidy of $35,000 a job—if we actually get all the jobs. And let’s face it—the city has never done much to monitor job agreements in the past.

I think we’d all be better off if Mayor Emanuel just closed the Near West Side TIF and sent the roughly $54 million it has in reserves back to the city, schools, parks, and county, which were all foolish to give it up in the first place.

(click here to continue reading Mayor Emanuel does the TIF reform dance | Ben Joravsky on Politics | Chicago Reader.)

And to top it off, this site isn’t even a blighted building, up until a few years ago, MB Financial, a mid-sized bank with over $10,000,000,000 in assets, was headquarted in this building. They moved across the street into a newer, sleeker building, but their old location isn’t exactly a shit hole.

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