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Aldermen Tell Emanuel to Change TIFs

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The alderman and his cohort will introduce legislation to return TIF surplus funds to different taxing bodies.

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So much for a rubber stamp.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in September he would make some changes to the city's TIF district funds. After years of questions about how the shadow budgets were used, the mayor would transition to more transparency by putting them online, submitting a TIF budget to City Council and more.

Some aldermen have other ideas for what they called a giant slush fund (a point they emphasized by bringing an oversized slushy to a Tuesday event.)

Led by alderman Scott Waguespack, a number of city legislators and the Chicago Teachers Union called Tuesday for the return of surplus TIF money to where it came from. 

"What we need to is hold the administration's feet to the fire and say 'the TIF commission you put together is a good start. It really is a good start," Waguespack said.

But he thinks reforms should go further.

"The Responsible Budget Ordinance could return hundreds of millions of unallocated TIF dollars back to the original taxing bodies, significantly ameliorating their budget deficits without laying-off workers, taxing working families, or privatizing any valuable city asset.

Chicago’s neighborhoods currently suffer from the economic recession and every tax
dollar allocated to neighborhoods this year is a dollar that can preserve basic city services for seniors, children, and parents. It would be irresponsible to let these funds sit idle in TIF
accounts while we lay off teachers and other workers who have families that depend on them,and communities that benefit from their service."

The alderman said the funds should be given back to Chicago Public schools, for instance, to help retain teachers and pay for raises and equipment.

Asked about the proposed ordinance, Emanuel only said he was aware of it and didn't express immediate support.

"Obviously, the reason I asked a group -- a cross-section of citizens -- to spend time on the TIF review, was that we would come up with a set of policies to reform TIFs so they were achieving economic objectives and not political [ones]," he said during a Tuesday afternoon press event announcing a grant from IBM to help area schools and colleges.

Waguespack, Alderman John Arena, Alderman Will Burns, Alderman Bob Fioretti, Alderman Toni Foulkes, Alderman Joe Moore and Alderman Proco Joe Moreno will introduce the Responsible Budget Ordinance Wednesday at City Council.

Meanwhile, a report released Tuesday by Chicago Inspector General Joseph Feruson alleges the city, under former Mayor Richard Daley, required firms receiving TIF subsidies to donate money to certain non-profit organizations, including his wife's own After School Matters program.

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