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Monday, January 12, 2009

Your Olympic TIF Program

Posted By on 01.12.09 at 07:22 PM

Earlier today Mayor Daley told reporters that, yes, the Reader had it right all along: he was planning to pay for the Olympics with money out of his favorite slush fund--the TIFs.

"You should have listened to what Ben told you two years ago," Daley said. "Of course, we're paying for it with TIF money. C'mon, people, don't be stupid! Do you think it's going to pay for itself?"

Just kidding! He didn't actually say any of that. But Lori Healey, formerly the mayor's chief of staff and now the president of the Chicago 2016 bid committee, told aldermen today that the city would be paying for the proposed Olympic Village with TIF dollars. "If the city is selected to host the 2016 Summer Games, it will carve out a new TIF district from the existing Bronzeville TIF to help fund new roads, sewers, and other infrastructure needed for the Olympic Village," she said, according to an article in Crain's.

Just to keep track of the bouncing ball: First the mayor insisted there would be no public money for the Olympics. Then he flip-flopped--at the insistence of the United States Olympic Committee--and had the City Council put up $500 million ("skin in the game"). Then he went back to the no-money line, at least in comments to folks at last fall's budget hearings. Now it looks like we're kicking in TIF dollars after all. If we stick around long enough, I'm sure he'll say we'll pay for the games with parking meter revenue. Oh, wait--he sold them off last month.

As for the Michael Reese site deal, the spin--and these guys are always spinning when it come to TIFs--is that it's money we'd be spending anyway even without the Olympics.

Sure it is. As though the city, which can barely find the money to pay to clear snow from its streets, has no more pressing need than to buy Michael Reese Hospital, tear it down, clean the site of toxins, and build a bunch of condos.

Remember, TIF dollars are property taxes that could be spent on schools, parks, police, fire, or antipoverty programs. Or it's a tax that they might never have made you paid for in the first place. 

You watch, the next spin from the mayor is that the Olympic Village is just what we need to pay our way out of the recession.

But I know the Chicago's electorate's too smart to fall for that line--right?

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