Aug 6, 2012
The news that the LaSalle Central TIF district took in no new revenue last year adds urgency to the demand of community groups that the TIF be shut down, said Eric Tellez of the Grassroots Collaborative.
On Tuesday, community activists will protest the newest LaSalle Central TIF subsidy, $30 million going to finance a plaza inside the planned River Point office development at Lake and Canal.
Starting at 11 a.m. (Tuesday, August 7), they’ll march from Merchandise Mart to the LaSalle Street district for a press conference and rally, and they’ll leaflet at a business owned by one of River Point’s developers.
They say “giving property tax dollars to wealthy developers to build in prosperous areas is not an effective strategy” for economic development – especially when basic services are being cut in the city’s neighborhoods.
In July, the annual TIF report from County Clerk David Orr revealed that annual TIF revenue in Cook County has declined 18 percent since the housing crash in 2007, and that LaSalle Central was among nine TIF districts with no revenue last year.
If that trend were to continue, the city could be forced to transfer funds from other TIF districts to pay for existing commitments downtown. LaSalle Central TIF agreements involve multimillion-dollar subsidies to corporations including Miller-Coors, Ziegler Co., Accretive Health Inc., NAVTEQ, and United Airlines, which is collecting a $24 million handout.
Grassroots Collaborative is calling for shutting down the LaSalle Central TIF. That would mean approving no new subsidies, and once current obligations were met, returning new property tax revenue to the city, schools, and other taxing bodies from which it is being diverted, Tellez said.
Earlier this year, the group successfully pressured CME to return $15 million to the LaSalle Central TIF and sponsored a budget amendment to capture TIF surplus that may have helped persuade Mayor Emanuel to declare a $60 million TIF surplus.
In July, Grassroots Collaborative delivered a letter to Emanuel asking him to withdraw the River Point subsidy and wind down the LaSalle Central TIF.
Emanuel has so far failed to implement the proposals of his TIF reform task force, Tellez said. (Illinois PIRG recently reported that the city is still failing to track TIF-related job creation promises). And, he adds, Emanuel has completely ignored his campaign pledge to stop spending TIF money in wealthy areas, Tellez said.
“These deals are not worth it,” he said. “On the one hand we are giving this money to corporations that don’t need it, and then we’re putting Chicago taxpayers on the hook for it” should TIF revenues continue to falter.
They’re hoping their protests will ultimately save taxpayers money by raising the political costs for corporations receiving TIF subsidies.
“We want to discourage corporations that don’t really need this help at all to not be greedy and not go after the money,” Tellez said.