The Tax Integrity and Fairness Alliance (TIFa) will hold a press conference on Tuesday, February 12, at 6:30 pm, immediately before a 7:00 pm Town Meeting on the issue of TIF districts. Location is the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, Chicago. TIFa is an open group dedicated to exposing and changing TIFs to help return public control to taxes and the budget.
TIFs were originally created to keep tax money within a “blighted” district and use it to redevelop that area. But since the introduction of TIF districts in Chicago in 1986, about half of the $4.5 billion extracted from general tax funds has gone to private development projects, many of them far from blighted communities. Major corporations receiving TIF funds include Hyatt, Target, Coca Cola, and United Airlines. That comes at the expense of Chicago Public Schools, libraries, parks, and other public assets.
In 2011 Chicago’s TIF program extracted $454 million in property taxes from 163 TIF districts. Thirty percent of the city is in a TIF district.
“Last year, TIFs took about $250 million from CPS,” says Steve Serikaku, retired CPS teacher and activist. “That could have covered the costs of the new contract several times over. It could pay for more teachers, social workers, clinicians, and others who directly help children.”
The Town Meeting will feature award-winning political reporter Ben Joravsky and other speakers who will shed light on the opaque, clout-driven TIF program. Workshops will help attendees learn how to regain control over their tax money.
“It’s time for Chicagoans to get smart and take action,” says Tom Tresser, co-founder of CivicLab, which is conducting an in-depth investigation of TIFs. Tresser is also a featured speaker at the meeting, and will present detailed findings of the impacts of the 12 TIFs in the 27th Ward.
The third presenter is Professor Richard Dye of the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Professor Dye has done extensive research and writing on local government finance programs, including TIFs.
The founding organizations of TIFa include Chicago Gray Panthers, Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign, CivicLab, and Progressive Democrats of America-Illinois. The TIF Town Hall has also been endorsed by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, the Lawndale Alliance, and the Pilsen Alliance.
Biographies of Town Hall Presenters
Dr. Richard Dye is a Professor at University of Illinois, Chicago Institute of Government and Public Affairs, and co-author of “TIF districts hinder growth: Study finds that cities without TIFs grow faster.” His research and public service activities focus on state and local government finance as it relates to economic development. Professor Dye retired from Lake Forest College in 2007 after 24 years in the school’s Department of Economics. His administrative experience includes four years as chair of the Department of Economics and Business at Lake Forest College and a year as president of the Illinois Economic Association. Prior to going to Lake Forest College, he taught at Bowdoin College and was a research economist at the Social Security Administration under a Brookings Institution Economic Policy Fellowship.
Ben Joravsky is an award-winning journalist for the Chicago Reader and author of five books, including “Hoop Dreams.” Since 2003 he has focused on citywide matters such as Tax Increment Financing and the city’s proposal to bring the Olympics to Chicago. Over the last few years, Joravsky and fellow journalist Mick Dumke have collaborated on investigations exposing issues from the parking meter sale to costly and unfairly enforced marijuana laws.
Tom Tresser is a consultant, producer, educator, and trainer who works with individuals, companies, and communities to help them solve problems, create economic value, and trigger civic engagement. He was a co-founder of Protect Our Parks, a neighborhood effort to stop the privatization of public space in Chicago, and a lead organizer of No Games Chicago, a grassroots effort that opposed Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid. He has led workshops on for arts service organizations in six states, and has taught classes on art, creativity, and civic engagement for Loyola University, School of the Art Institute, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and DePaul University. Tom is currently working on establishing The CivicLab, a storefront space where activists can collaborate, educate, and build tools for civic engagement.
Valerie F. Leonard (moderator) works with community-based organizations to improve their internal board and management systems to help them effect positive changes in the lives of their clients and communities.. Her diverse client base includes After School Matters, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Habilitative Systems, Inc., and the University of Illinois-Great Cities Institute. Leonard is also convener of the Lawndale Alliance. She was born, raised, and still resides in North Lawndale, a changing community on Chicago’s West Side.
CONTACT: DAVID ORLIKOFF
Tax Integrity & Fairness Alliance
Phone = 773-882-7272
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