Daley's Shadow Budget Revealed

Blows holes in TIF defenses

The city has finally released -- for the first time -- an accounting of its controversial tax increment financing (TIF) districts, which are ostensibly designed to boost development in economically distressed areas.

And what does the city's "shadow budget" -- as the Reader calls it -- reveal?

1. That TIFs are not only frequently used in wealthy areas with virtually no distress, but that TIFs in those areas are far more successful than those in poor neighborhoods. That's not a surprise given the larger pot of money that can be collected and spent, but it also illustrates that TIFs are hardly the economic development tool for troubled neighborhoods that they are touted to be.

2. That TIF money is hardly restricted to building schools and parks as the mayor often brags about. The Reader found that the definition of economic development is so loose as to be meaningless; TIF money has been spent on corporate subsidies, a theater troupe and a bakery, among other projects.

That's just an initial analysis by the Reader's Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke, who have spearheaded TIF coverage in the city. There's more to come, and it's sure to incite more outrage.

You can also download a copy of the shadow budget for yourself.

The city's obfuscation of its TIF program is legendary. In "A Round of Really!?! With Mayor Daley," the Reader accused the mayor of "playing fast and loose with the facts" about TIFs.

The Sun-Times followed up with its own fact-checking piece that showed Daley's claims about the program that reached the same conclusion.

Following more bad publicity, the mayor had the city's chief financial officer, Gene Saffold, send a long letter to the Tribune defending the program. Saffold got it wrong, too, according to Joravsky.

What is the city trying to hide? Now that the TIF budget is out of the shadows, we'll know soon.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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