- Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop - http://www.newstips.org -

TIF reform: one year later, no action

Tweet [1]

A year after Mayor Emanuel unveiled his TIF Reform Task Force’s report [2]with great fanfare, none of its recommendations have been carried out – and the city has a long way to go on transparency and accountability around job requirements for TIF projects, according to a new report [3].

Along with greater transparency, Emanuel’s task force recommended subjecting all TIF projects to a thorough justification process; establishing strict performance metrics and taking swift action including revoking TIF funding when requirements aren’t met; and creating an internal TIF oversight board.

“None of the task force’s recommendations have gone into effect,” according to a new report from Illinois PIRG [4].

“The proposed reforms would move us in the right direction,” said Hailey Witt of Illinois PIRG in a release.  “But it’s not enough to have these ideas on paper.”

Short on Sunshine

In addition, the city has yet to fully comply with the TIF Sunshine Ordinance passed in 2009, according to the report.  Of five documents required by the ordinance, none of the projects studied by Illinois PIRG had more than three available online, and most had only one or two.

Of 32,396 jobs promised in $320 million worth of TIF projects, only 16,948 — just 52 percent — could be accounted for, according to Illinois PIRG.

The study looks at 21 TIF projects from the past decade that promised to create more than 200 jobs, in some cases far more.  It found only 17 had clear job creation requirements, and only 14 had enforceable clawback language if job requirements aren’t met.  Six projects had met jobs requirements, six had partially fulfilled requirements, and no information was available for nine.

Little enforcement

In only  two cases – CNA’s $13.6 million subsidy from the Central Loop TIF, and Bank of America’s $27 million subsidy from the River West TIF –did the city require funds to be returned for noncompliance.

For seven projects where requirements were not fulfilled and five where documentation showed they were fulfilled only for certain years, no enforcement action was taken.

“Given that the purpose of TIF is to use taxpayer dollars to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, it’s unacceptable that the city isn’t holding developers accountable for achieving these goals,” Witt said.

Illinois PIRG recommends the city implement the TIF task force’s recommendations, include clear jobs requirements with strong clawback provisions in redevelopment agreements; do much more to monitor and enforce requirements; and do a better job collecting and publishing data.  A TIF website should meet “Transparency 2.0 best practices,” with a comprehensive searchable data base, the group argues.