TIF – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 SE Side wants to benefit from USX development http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/se-side-wants-to-benefit-from-usx-development/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/se-side-wants-to-benefit-from-usx-development/#comments Fri, 06 Sep 2013 22:16:10 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7672 With nearly $100 million in TIF funds being spent on the first phase of a massive development on the south lakefront, a community summit on Saturday will discuss strategies to win a community benefits agreement for the project.

The Coalition for a Lakeside CBA meets Saturday, September 7, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 3200 E. 91st.

Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Partnership for Working Families will discuss how community benefits agreements (CBAs) across the country have won opportunities for local workers and communities, and Tom Tresser of CivicLab will present an analysis of all TIFs in three local wards.

The Coalition will also release results of a new survey of Southeast Side residents.

Site developer McCaffrey Interests has been granted $96 million in TIF support from the city for the first phase of a vast new redevelopment of the former site of US Steel’s South Works (USX) plant, dubbed Chicago Lakeside.  Ultimately McCaffrey plans over 13,000 units of housing, 17.5 million square feet of retail, 125 acres of parks and a 1,500-slip marina.

The TIF subsidy will cover one-fourth of development costs for the first phase of the project, which will include 1 million square feet of retail and restaurants and 848 units of housing.  The first phase is planned for the northwest corner of the 530-acre site, which runs south from 79th Street along the lakefront to the Calumet River.

Concerns about displacement

A major concern is that development could cause displacement in the adjoining area, as it has in other communities, with property tax increases as home values rise forcing longtime residents to leave, said Amelia NietoGomez of the Alliance of the South East, an organizer of the coalition.

The coalition wants property tax relief for longtime residents as part of a CBA, she said.  According to the new survey, families on the Southeast Side have lived in the community for an average of 32.6 years; in South Chicago and the East Side, the average is 50.1 years, she said.

“Our people have lived here and worked here,” said Sylvia Ortega, a 37-year resident who is president of the Bush Homeowners and Tenants Association, directly across from the site.  “We survived the closing of the steel mills, the unemployment, the gangs and the blight.  We want to stay here.

“Our tax dollars are paying for the development,” she said.  “Our community needs to benefit from the development.  We don’t want to be left behind.”

Housing is another issue that organizers hope a CBA will address.  While the TIF provides for 20 percent of new units to be affordable, the affordability standard is based on the six-county area median income rather than the immediate area, where it’s much lower.  That means even affordable units could be out of reach of local residents without extra protections, NietoGomez said.

“You don’t want an artificial line between the new development and the existing residential community, and one way to prevent that is to make sure new affordable housing is on-site and fits the profile of neighborhood income,” commented Kevin Jackson of the Chicago Rehab Network.

Quality jobs

The Coalition is also calling for training programs and employment of local residents in the new development — and for partnerships with local schools focusing on science and technology.

“This development is going to take decades, so we want education and training for kids who are in school now so that when they graduate, they can qualify not just for construction jobs but as project managers, engineers, and for green jobs,” said NietoGomez.

“Development is great, we are looking forward to it, but there needs to be a balance with community needs,” she said.  “The families that live here deserve to be able to stay, and they deserve to benefit from the development.”

Tresser said that of the $96 million allocated for the first phase of the project, just $1 million is set aside for job training.  “I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to reach the grassroots.”

He added: “If we’re going to be spending public money, we should be getting high-quality, good-paying jobs.”

Two TIF districts — Chicago Lakeside and South Works — cover the site.  According to a McCaffrey brochure, the city has committed to spending $60 million on a new high school and $20 million for a new marina, among other projects.  The Chicago Park District has committed $120 million to new park development on the site, according to the brochure.

Currently work is being completed on the extension of Lake Shore Drive and Route 41 to serve the site, funded by $30 million in federal and state funds.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/se-side-wants-to-benefit-from-usx-development/feed/ 2
No celebration: Chicagoans protest police, schools http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/no-celebration-chicagoans-protest-police-schools/ Tue, 27 Aug 2013 23:44:43 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7638 Two dovetailing protests will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in Chicago on Wednesday — a march on the Board of Education by a citywide coalition of community groups at 10 a.m., and a march on City Hall demanding accountability for police killings directly afterward.

Both protests emphasize how far we still have to go to address racial inequality, and both call for the creation of elected bodies to oversee local agencies — an elected school board and an elected civilian police accountability council.

***

A dozen community organizations have called for a one-day school boycott and will march on the Board of Education at 10 a.m. demanding an end to the destabilization of neighborhood schools and recognition of the human right to a safe, quality education for every child.

They are calling for an elected school board and reallocation of TIF funds to stop budget cuts.

“Our schools are still very segregated and very unequal,” said Sarah Simmons of Parents For Teachers.  Suburban and selective enrollment schools have a full range of programs while students at Dyett High School in Washington Park are forced to take art and phys ed classes online, she said.

After heavy budget cuts, Kelly High School has two art teachers for 2,700 students and no library, said Israel Munoz, a recent Kelly grad who helped organize the new Chicago Students Union and is now headed to college.

Adolphous McDowell, a longtime school activist with KOCO, places Mayor Emanuel’s educational policies in the context of the backlash against the civil rights movement — noting that we’re still struggling to fulfill the promises of Reconstruction, when newly enfranchised black legislators created public education systems in southern states where they’d never existed.

One reaction to school desegregation in the 1950s and ’60s was the shift of public funding to white-only private schools in the South; later President Reagan pushed vouchers as a way to shift public funds to private school operators, McDowell said.

All those efforts “are coming to pass with charter schools,” he said.

Wednesday’s protest is the kickoff of a 25-city campaign to stop school closings and charter expansions.

Working with the national coalition Journey for Justice, Chicago students and parents have filed civil rights complaints against CPS and testified this January at a hearing on school closings at the U.S. Department of Education.

***

The local chapter of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is leading a Peoples March on City Hall for Peace and Justice, highlighting the call for police accountability.  After gathering at the Federal Plaza at 11 a.m., they’ll march to City Hall for a 12 noon rally.

Since 2009, 70 Chicagoans have been killed by police, often in very questionable circumstances, said Ted Pearson of NAARPR.    Many police victims are shot in the back, he said.

Not a single officer has been charged for these killings, he said.

Investigations by the Independent Police Review Authority are “ineffective,” he said.  IPRA can only make recommendations to the Police Board or turn over evidence to the State’s Attorney.  “Anita Alvarez does nothing with these cases,” he said.  “She just sits on them.”

He points to the case of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old shot by an off-duty detective in Douglas Park in March 2012.  The officer claimed a young man pointed a gun at him, but he was holding a cellphone, said Pearson.  Alvarez charged the young man — who was shot in the hand by Detective Dante Servin — with aggravated assault.  Charges were dropped when Servin failed to appear for a hearing.

Servin has not been charged and remains on the police force. This spring the City Council approved a $4.5 million settlement with Boyd’s family.

Pearson said the issue of police killings gets little mainstream attention “but in the black community it’s a hot-button issue.”

“It’s common to hear people say the police are just a gang like any other gang, the only difference is they get away with it,” he said.  “They take the law into their own hands.”

The alliance’s legislative proposal to establish an elected civilian police control board is modeled on a measure that was enacted by Berkeley, California, in the 1980s, he said.

Buses are bringing protestors from Englewood, Washington Park, Woodlawn, Lawndale, Garfield Park, Austin, Pilsen, Little Village, Hegewisch, Humboldt Park, and Rogers Park.

***
Gary Younge has a new book from Chicago’s Haymarket Press on The Speech, about the background of Martin Luther King’s famous oration fifty years ago.  “The speech was profoundly and willfully misunderstood,” theologian Vincent Harding, a colleague of King’s tells Younge in an adaptation published in the Nation.

Younge points to one sentence often overlooked today — and which could serve as a rejoinder to Emanuel’s austerity agenda:  while blacks remain “on a lonely island of poverty,” King said, “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”

Don Rose, one of the Chicago organizers of the March on Washington, underscores this point in his latest Chicago Daily Observer column.  But given Wednesday’s agenda, last week’s column is also germane:

“There are so many twists and turns in Rahm Emanuel’s school plans it’s hard to figure out exactly what he has in mind—apart from wrecking the Chicago Teachers Union. He sure doesn’t seem to be helping the kids, which should be his first order of business.”

]]>
Alternatives to school cuts http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/alternatives-to-school-cuts/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/alternatives-to-school-cuts/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 22:32:17 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7539 Just a month ago — when they were intent on closing 50 schools — the watchword at CPS was “quality education.”

“What we must do is ensure that the resources that some kids get, all kids get,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett in an internet ad funded by the right-wing Walton Family Foundation.  “And these resources include libraries and access to technology and science labs and art classrooms….

“And with our consolidations we’re able to guarantee that our children will get what they need and what they deserve.”

That was then.

Raise Your Hand has released a very partial list of budget cuts faced by schools under the district’s new per-pupil funding system, and it’s impressive:

Goethe, Jamieson, Kozmisky, Sutherland, each will lose between $250,000 and $300,000.  Audobon, Belden, Gale, Grimes Fleming, and Ray, between $400,000 and $500,000.  Bell, Darwin Mitchell, Murphy, Suder, Sullivan High, betweeen $700,000 and $800,000.  Gage Park High, Lincoln Park High, Mather Elementary, Roosevelt High, $1 million or thereabouts.  Foreman High, $1.7 million.

CTU reports that Taft High School faces a $3 million cut.

According to Wendy Katten of RYH, every school they’ve contacted faces budget cuts.  So far they have figures from about 10 percent of CPS schools, and the cuts total about $45 million, she said.  (CTU budget analyst Kurt Hilgendorf said the union has requested district-wide figures on cuts but CPS has declined to supply them.)

“It’s horrific,” she said.  “There are terrible losses.”

It also clearly contravene’s Byrd-Bennett’s promise about what school consolidations would accomplish.

Losing library access

Two high schools,Von Steuben and Lincoln Park,  are reported to be considering laying off librarians — at Von Steuben it would mean no open-access library; at Lincoln Park, the library would remain open part of the school day but not after school — but many more principals are being forced to choose between staffing their libraries and having enough teachers.

At many schools it will mean  eliminating art or music.  At Katten’s son’s school, it looks like art will be eliminated and physical education will be staffed by a part-time teacher — which means gym just twice a week, far below the state requirement.

Funding for enrichment programming as part of the longer school day trumpeted by Emanuel last year is being eliminated.  At many schools, “the longer day is not going to be very enriching,” Katten said.

And many schools will be forced to lay off teachers and increase class sizes.  Audubon Elementary, losing $400,000, is considering laying off as many as six teachers, which will raise class sizes to 37 to 45, according to DNA Info.  Sullivan High is considering laying off seven teachers; Kelly High could lose ten or fifteen.

CPS’s per-pupil funding system, touted as a boon to principal autonomy, has turned out to be yet another way to remove resources from neighborhood schools.

It’s as if Emanuel thought he could cut his way to better schools.

TIF squads

And while the city’s elite clearly prefers budget cuts and layoffs to deal with CPS’s financial troubles, parents and teachers see another way.

Raise Your Hand is organizing “TIF squads” in every ward to compile the details of how schools are being affected.  They’ll use the information to impress individual aldermen with the necessity of declaring a TIF surplus and returning funds to CPS.

“We need a long-term sustainable solution at the state level, but parents refuse to accept these cuts now while the city is simultaneously handing out property tax money for projects like a $55-million DePaul stadium,” Katten said.

The group is holding an All South Side Schools meeting Thursday, June 20 at 7 p.m. at Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn, to continue organizing.  Friday, June 21 at 10 a.m., they’re holding a parent rally against cuts at the State of Illinois buildling, Randolph and Clark.

In the next year they’re among many groups planning a serious drive to fix Illinois’s regressive tax structure — a desperately needed reform to address school funding as well as the state’s fiscal crisis.  Will Emanuel and the school board join in?

Where the money is

In her City Club address Tuesday, CTU president Karen Lewis outlined a series of revenue measures that would tap into the vast wealth generated by the financial sector and restore a measure of balance to the tax system — and financial stability to governing bodies.

“The CTU wants to work with our leaders in City Hall, Springfield and at the board to solve these sorts of problems,” she said. “We can’t work together on these issues because they keep creating new problems.”

Instead of sharply dividing the city with his campaign of school closings — which had virtually no impact on CPS’s fiscal problems — Emanuel could “take a holistic approach” and work with all stakeholders for basic changes that would really make a difference, Hilgendorf said.

One example:  CTU backed legislation in the spring session that would close three corporate tax loopholes that bring no economic benefit and cost the state $445 million a year.  It died in committee.

And while everyone’s attention and energy was absorbed by school closings, nothing got done on CPS’s pension crisis.

But at least we’re seeing progress on building a new stadium for DePaul.

***

At the Campaign for America’s Future, Richard Eskow promotes the new Education Declaration — which spells out what might be called real education reform — and provides an apt rundown of the modus operandus of “Michelle Rhee and Rahm Emanuel and the rest of their ilk, using the same playbook that’s been deployed against Social Security, Medicare and other vital government services. It goes like this:

1. Pretend that “budgets” are the real crisis – but never mention that corporations and the wealthy are paying less in taxes than ever before in modern history.

2. Make scapegoats of innocent people to draw attention away from yourselves. For Social Security they’ve attacked “greedy geezers,” but it’s hard to come up with a catchy equivalent for kids. (“Insatiable imps”? “Avaricious anklebiters”?) So they vilify teachers instead.

3. Sell a fantasy which says that the private sector can do more, with less money, than government can.  (Never, never mention that private insurance provides far less healthcare than public insurance, at much higher cost. And don’t bring up the mess privatization’s made of prisons and other government services.)

4. Find a name that doesn’t use words like “money-making.” How about “charter schools”?

5. Describe yourselves as “reformers” – rather than, say, “demolishers.” That’s why “entitlement reform” is used as a euphemism for cutting Social Security and Medicare. (Michelle Rhee even called her autobiography “Radical.” Apparently “Shameless” was taken.)

6. Employ the political and media elite’s fascination with (and poor understanding of) numbers. Suggest that “standardized” and “data-driven” programs will solve everything – without ever mentioning that the truly ideological decisions are made when you decide what it is you’re measuring.

7. Co-opt the elite media into supporting your artificial description of the problem, as well as your entirely self-serving solution.

8. Use your money to co-opt politicians from both parties so you can present your agenda as “bipartisan” – a word which means you can “buy” a few “partisans” from both sides.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that all these attacks share a common playbook. The money’s coming from the same pockets, and for the same reasons: so they can keep their own taxes low – and make money from the privatization schemes.”

 

Updated: A sentence with an inaccurate statement regarding the impact on selective enrollment schools was removed.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/alternatives-to-school-cuts/feed/ 1
In Bronzeville: school closings, violence, Wal-Mart, and TIFs http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/at-overton-school-closings-violence-wal-mart-and-tifs/ Wed, 15 May 2013 00:58:22 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7199 Two actions protested the closing of Overton Elementary in Bronzeville today — a morning rally highlighting safety issues (and much more), and an afternoon action, which raised larger issues of resources by drawing the connection to a Walmart being built nearby with TIF funds.

About a hundred parents marched from Overton, at 49th and Indiana, to Mollison, at 44th and King  — past four gangs and four drug locations, according to Francis Newman, a parent from Williams Prep, which is also on the school closing list.

The walk also took them past the spot where Columbia College student Kevin Ambrose was shot and killed last week, she noted.

“We’re demanding these schools be kept open and that they get the resources they need,” Newman said.  She said she recently visited Disney Magnet school, which has numerous computers, smart boards, and iPads for children.  “In our school, we can’t get a computer that works,” she said.

The real status-quo

The idea that “schools are under-resourced because they’re underutilized is a lie that is used to validate the status quo,” said Jeanette Taylor, an LSC member at Mollison and a leader with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.  “The status quo in Chicago is closing schools.”

Several parents discussed schools that had struggled after repeatedly receiving students from closing schools and are still being subject to school actions.

A hearing officer has recommended keeping Overton open, challenging CPS’s assertion that Mollison is a higher-performing school, which is based on its highly technical system of performance points.

“Closing this school to bring children from Overton to Mollison doesn’t sound like education reform it me, is sounds like sabotage,” Taylor said.

Overton parent Darlene Johnson said she served as a Safe Passage worker at Dyett High School last year.  “A boy walked past us, turned the corner, and was shot,” she said.

She also raised the issue of budget priorities:  “We say no money to McCormick Place for a DePaul arena, no TIF money for Wal-Mart — and why does that rich lady that used to be on the school board need all that TIF money?”  She was referring to Penny Pritzker.

Wal-Mart connections

That was also the theme of an afternoon rally that started at the school and ended at the site of a new Wal-Mart at 47th and King Drive, featuring Wal-Mart workers from OUR Wal-Mart and Warehouse Workers for Justice, along with the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Jobs With Justice.

The Walmart development on 47th is being subsidized with $13 million in TIF money, on top of an $11 million TIF subsidy for a new Walmart in Pullman, organizers said.  On top of that, the Walton family foundation gave close to a half-million dollars to finance CPS’s school closing “community engagement”  (including advertising).

Walmart’s owners have also given $22 million to charters in Chicago — their largest investment in charters in the nation — organizers said.

The world’s largest employer — and the nation’s wealthiest family — “can afford to build their own store without our tax dollars,” said Susan Hurley of JWJ.  “That money should be going to our schools.  We could save a lot of schools with $24 million.

“And they need to do a lot better by their workers before they start telling us how to run our schools.”

“Why does Walmart and the Walton Family, who don’t live in Chicago, have more say about our schools than the people who send their children there?” asked Kristine Mayle of CTU.  “It’s because they have the same agenda as the mayor, which is … to privatize them.”

]]>
TIF reform: one year later, no action http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/tif-reform-one-year-later-no-action/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/tif-reform-one-year-later-no-action/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2012 19:41:39 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6584 A year after Mayor Emanuel unveiled his TIF Reform Task Force’s report 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.

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.

“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.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/tif-reform-one-year-later-no-action/feed/ 1
Penny Pritzker’s TIF http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/penny-pritzkers-tif/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/penny-pritzkers-tif/#comments Wed, 08 Aug 2012 15:45:51 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6551 School board member Penny Pritzker’s Hyatt Hotels Corp. is benefiting from a $5.2 million TIF subsidy on 53rd Street – while CPS’s proposed 2013 budget cuts seven schools surrounding the hotel project by $3.4 million, which is roughly the portion CPS is losing from the TIF deal.

“This one example shows the fundamental corruption in the way things are done here,” said David Orlikoff of the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign, a labor and community coalition growing out of Occupy Chicago’s labor committee and supporting the Chicago Teachers Union.

CTSC will hold a press conference and speakout and picket the project at 53rd and Harper on Wednesday, August 8, starting at 5:30 p.m.

“As a member of the Board of Education, it’s Penny Pritzker’s job to find money for our schools, not to take our money for her business,” Orlikoff said.

The $5.2 million subsidy is part of $20.4 million in TIF funds going to the University of Chicago-led redevelopment of Harper Court (see here for some background).  In addition to the hotel, the university is building a 12-story office building in the first phase of the project.

CTSC points out that Pritzker has a net worth of $1.8 billion, and the University of Chicago – now engaged in a huge campus expansion – has an endowment of $6.6 billion.

“They have plenty of money,” said Lorraine Chavez of CTSC.  “They don’t need a taxpayer subsidy to pay for it.  It’s outrageous.”

At Catalyst, Penny Pritzker clarifies that she’s not personally receiving the $5.2 million, and in a statement to Newstips, Hyatt points out that the Hyde Park Hyatt will not be owned by the corporation but, like many Hyatts, operated under a franchise agreement, thus “neither Hyatt Hotels Corporation nor Penny Pritzker…is receiving TIF funds as a result of this project.”

Conflict of interest

“The school board should be defending school funding when the mayor wants to take it for TIFs; it’s the only body in a position to do that,” Orlikoff said.  “But they’re appointed by the mayor, and they look the other way.

“Then they tell teachers they don’t have any money for anything, except the mayor’s pet projects.  It’s a conflict of interest – and it will be a conflict until the school board is elected.

“We need representation on the school board, and we need to end the chronic underfunding of our schools,” Orlikoff said.

CTSC, which exists “to support teachers and fight for equitable quality education,” calls for increasing school funding “by reclaiming TIFs and taxing the rich.”

TIF is “a failed program,” Orlikoff said.  “It’s not fighting economic blight, it’s a way of taking from everyone and giving to the One Percent.”

Questions on 53rd Street

There are lots of questions right now about the 53rd Street TIF, especially with a new TIF district now being carved out of it by a second developer.

Antheus Capital, planning an upscale residential and retail development at 51st and Lake Park, wants to break its parcel out of the 53rd Street TIF to form its own TIF district —  in order apply for $10 million or more in TIF funds.  The 53rd Street TIF advisory council has okayed the proposal.

But after ten years of operation, the 53rd Street TIF fund has a balance of just $3.7 million.

Now, with thirteen years to go, it’s on the hook for a $20-million subsidy, while revenues are slowing (due not just to a lousy economy but to the County Assessor’s new formula, which shifts the property tax burden from commercial to residential taxpayers) – and the TIF district is getting smaller.

“Many of us don’t expect to seek Phase 2” ( a 26-story condo tower and four apartment buildings, estimated to cost $100 million), said longtime  community activist George Rumsey.  “It’s hard to see where the money’s going to come from . Everyone is wondering if there’s going to be enough to finish the first phase.”

“For two years I’ve been asking who is liable if the TIF funds come up short,” he said Rumsey.  “I have not gotten an answer.”

Fourth Ward Ald. Will Burns has backed Hyatt’s TIF subsidy, telling the Sun Times it’s “absolutely essential,” though the Ramada Lakeshore hotel is located a few blocks away.

Time to ‘revisit’ TIF?

The Hyde Park Herald called for “revisiting” the 53rd Street TIF in an editorial last week.  It points out that the TIF district was sold to residents in 2001 on the basis of promised community benefits, including a new addition for Canter Middle School and a parking lot, none of which have materialized.

The stated purpose of the 2001 TIF was to provide support for schools and parks and increase parking, Rumsey said.  In fact a city parking lot at 53rd and Lake Park is being gobbled up by the Harper Court project. The development now under construction includes two floors of parking.

“The one concrete advantage” for the community, a program which hired ex-offenders for street beautification, was cancelled, supposedly due to inadequate funds, the Herald points out.

“There is little evidence at this point that this TIF will do much more than TIFs have done in other parts of the city, namely grease the wheels of development,” according to the Herald.

And given reaction to the Antheus proposal, “it appears that the neighborhood is not any more enthusiastic about supporting private development with public money than it was when the TIF was first brought up in the ’90s.”

Hyatt under pressure

Meanwhile, Hyatt Hotel Corp. has problems of its own.  Major organizations including the AFL-CIO and the National Organization for Women have signed on to a global boycott of Hyatt hotels to protest the company’s outsourcing of union jobs to agencies that pay minimum wage and its refusal to adjust workloads – or even provide mops with long handles — to reduce injuries.

In Chicago, while other hotels have negotiated over limits on subcontracting and safer working conditions, Hyatt has refused to do so, according to press releases from UNITE-HERE, which represents hotel workers.

In May, OSHA issued an unprecedent letter to Hyatt calling on the company to take steps to reduce the risk of injury (h/t 1537 News).  OSHA has issued 21 citations against Hyatt and its subcontractors.

Staffing reductions and an “amenities race” has increased the risk of permanent, disabling injuries for housekeepers, according to a 2006 study by the union.  A 2010 study found Hyatt workers had the highest rate of injuries of hotel chains studied; Hyatt’s injury rate was twice as high as the best-performing chain in the study.

Hyatt housekeepers’ workload is double the industry standard, according to the union.

“Hyatt’s workplace environment is being characterized inaccurately by union leadership as part of tis ongoing campaign to pressure Hyatt associates to join their union in non-union locations,” said Katie Rackoff, Hyatt’s director of corporate communications, in an email which cited Hyatt’s “outstanding safety record.”

At the end of the month, Hyatt workers in Chicago will have been working for three years without a contract.

The Pritzker family took the Hyatt Cororation public in 2009 but retained control with a separate class of shares that have ten times the voting power of common stockholders.  Penny Pritzker sits on Hyatt’s board, which is chaired by her cousin, Thomas Pritzker.  The family’s total worth is estimated at $20 billion.

In the 1990s, Penny Pritzker chaired the board of Superior Bank as it plunged into the subprime market (the bank later collapsed); recently she established a private equity firm to invest in distressed properties.  (More here.)

She’s a major donor to Mayor Emanuel’s campaign fund and to Stand For Children, which pushed anti-union legislation in Springfield.

 

Reposted from 8-7 and updated to include comments from Hyatt and a revised lead sentence.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/penny-pritzkers-tif/feed/ 4
Protest to target River Point, LaSalle Central TIF http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/protest-to-target-river-point-lasalle-central-tif/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/protest-to-target-river-point-lasalle-central-tif/#comments Mon, 06 Aug 2012 22:52:28 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6523 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.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/08/protest-to-target-river-point-lasalle-central-tif/feed/ 3
Civic Lab plans ‘design hack’ http://www.newstips.org/2012/06/civic-lab-plans-design-hack/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/06/civic-lab-plans-design-hack/#comments Wed, 13 Jun 2012 23:00:31 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6367 Civic Lab, a new civic engagement project which aims at developing educational programs on local issues and online tools to encourage community involvement, will hold a “design hack” on Saturday, June 16, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Read/Write Library, 914 N. California.  Pizza lunch will be provided.

Initiated by long-time activist Tom Tresser, Civic Lab aims at operating a storefront “civic hacker space” to hold classes, conduct research projects, and create online tools for civic engagement.   It’s needed because while big money floods our elections, citizen anger and alienation is growing, Tresser said.

The first planned project is a TIF Report, with citizen journalists investigating the use and abuse of tax increment financing and producing ward reports for print and online distribution.

Also envisioned are classes in civics basics – how to read a property tax bill or a city budget, how to write a letter to the editor or run for office – and collaborations with activists and programmers to develop new tools.

One might be a phone app to allow participants at rallies to sign up for updates on particular issues or from particular groups– potentially a big improvement over hastily scrawled and often illegible sign-in sheets, Tresser said.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/06/civic-lab-plans-design-hack/feed/ 1