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Monday, July 23, 2012

David Orr's summertime TIF reading

Posted By on 07.23.12 at 04:40 PM

If you're looking for a fun summertime read for the TIF geek in your family—and every family's got at least one—look no further than Cook County clerk David Orr's annual TIF report!

It just came out and you can find the link right here!

My favorite section is the part about Chicago, although you can also find stuff about Evanston, Oak Park, Palatine, Cicero, or any of your favorite TIF-squandering Cook County suburbs.

Good job, Clerk Orr. You too, Bill. That would be Bill Vaselopulos, one of Orr's chief aides, who's the behind-the-scenes guru reporters go to for off-the-record TIF tutorials that generally start like this . . .

Reporter: "OK, Bill, one more time . . . "

There's a bunch of goodies in this report, like the Chicago summary, which tells you which district got how much TIF money last year.

Then there's the grand total, a running account of where the city's distributed about $5 billion in TIF dollars since the program was created back in the 1980s.

That's where you'll see for yourself that most of the money's gone to the wealthiest communities even though the program's intended to help the poorest.

Finally, there's the Tax Increment Agency report. Warning: this is only for advanced TIF geekologists. Repeat: don't try reading this at home. Unless, of course, you have Bill Vaselopulos on speed dial.

"OK, Bill—I know I just called you, but . . . "

The agency report shows the taxable value of property in a TIF district when the district was created versus its taxable value as of now.

As you can see, property values are falling in several TIF districts even though their boundaries are gerrymandered to include the parts that aren't developed and to exclude the parts that are—generally, without any TIF assistance. Makes you wonder—why do we need the program in the first place?

There's also a bunch of cool maps—so you can see just how gerrymandered TIF districts really are. Maybe next year Orr will make a TIF-district jigsaw puzzle, like Andrew Bayley did with the city's ward map.

Happy reading, everyone!

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