One of the great ongoing charades in Chicago politics unfolded earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Mayor Emanuel unveiled his 2012 budget, boasting that he had not raised the property tax.
And then on Thursday, Cook County clerk David Orr released his annual TIF report, which shows that city property taxpayers paid an extra $510 million thanks to the TIFs.
That's the TIF tax, taken from taxpayers in the names of parks/schools/county and turned over to a slush fund, which Mayor Emanuel—like Mayor Daley before him—pretty much controls.
Clearly, Emanuel's learned from the master. Like Daley, he simply pretends TIFs don't raise property taxes, even as they give him more property tax dollars to spend.
Why aldermen, reporters, and voters go along with this bizarre masquerade, pretending that a tax hike is not a tax hike, is one of the enduring mysteries of life in Chicago.
It's sort of like saying no Illinois governor has ever been indicted for wrongdoing, even as one sits in a federal penitentiary and another one prepares to join him.
Not that even George Ryan or Rod Blagojevich concocted anything as devious as the TIFs. In fact, at one point, Blago—for reasons too convoluted to explain—threatened to blow the whistle on the scam. For which every one from Speaker Madigan to Mayor Daley basically said—How dare you!
You know, people—every now and then you have to take a break to appreciate the weirdness of it all.
Anyway, with this year's $510 million, Chicago's property taxpayers have now paid about $4.6 billion in TIF taxes since the first TIF district was created in 1984, according to Orr.
That's $4.6 billion your mayors say you haven't paid, even though you paid it.
Here's another part of the scam. Despite Mayor Emanuel's promise for more TIF transparency—ha, ha, ha—you still have to depend on Orr, a county official, to come right out and tell you how much the TIFs take in property taxes.
Just as Orr was the only one who told you how much they took under Daley.
Proving once again, as much as mayors change. . . .
In short, the mayor and the City Council hike our property taxes in the name of schools/park/county and then divert the money into their slush fund.
Then they tell you they're not raising property taxes. Even as you pay more and more each year.
Same as it ever was . . .