Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicago's TIF scam: kids don't matter

Posted By on 10.04.11 at 05:11 PM

Just when I think I've figured out every little detail in the ongoing $500 million-a-year TIF debacle, along comes a new one.

In this case, kudos to Inspector General Joe Ferguson for blowing the whistle on an interesting arrangement in which unnamed officials in former Mayor Richard Daley's administration successfully convinced TIF recipients into donating to After School Matters, a charity founded by Maggie Daley

Where to start? And you know, it's just a start. I have a feeling this deserves far more than one blog bit.

Okay, not wanting to trash After School Matters.

Cause I'm sure there's a lot of people there who do lots of wonderful things for kids — like exposing them to music, art, drama, dance, etc. — though you should read Deanna Isaacs's story to judge for yourself.

But ...

Let's just try to put this whole thing into perspective.

The mayor takes roughly $250 million a year in desperately needed property tax dollars from our nearly bankrupt public schools and feeds them into a slush fund.

He then disperses money from that fund to well-connected developers and or corporations who don't really need a public hand out at all.

And they in turn donate money to the mayor's wife's favorite charity, which promotes after-school programs in the arts for children whose schools are too broke to have their own art programs. Because the mayor takes $250 million a year in desperately needed property tax dollars....

And so we go round and round in the TIF circle game.

Okay, sorry. I'll slow down. Let me take my pills. Breathe, Ben, breathe. Ah, feeling better already....

You know, not every town around here runs like Chicago. Why I can think of some where they just spend pretty much whatever it takes to have the best art/music/drama school programs money can buy.

In the New Trier school district, for instance, where Mayor Rahm happened to go to school.

Can you imagine, by the way, if they ran an arts program in Wilmette like the one they have in Chicago? Where they pretty much did away with art and music in the public schools and had the kids depend on the kindness of strangers who donate to the mayor's wife's favorite charity?

Somehow I think the good folks in New Trier wouldn't go for that.

And like I always say — if it was good enough for Mayor Rahm, it should be good enough for all kids.

Speaking of Mayor Rahm, he shows no signs of wanting to meaningfully change the TIF scam. By my count he could hire over 100 art and/or music, drama teachers just with the $7 million in TIF funds he intends to give to the developer who's building a grocery store in Greektown.

That grocery store happens to be across the street from another grocery store. Cause — as well all know — what Chicago really needs is more grocery stores in Greektown!

Anyway, thank you Mr. I.G. for shining a little more light on the TIF scam. Gives us one more reason — as if any more were needed — to blow this program up once and for all.

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