Mayor Rahm's not so new idea: TIFs for the rich | Bleader

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mayor Rahm's not so new idea: TIFs for the rich

Posted By on 05.18.12 at 07:24 AM

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Rahm and Quigley: In TIF-top shape.
  • Rahm and Quigley: In TIF-top shape.
In their ceaseless effort to give the mayor credit for everything, Cty Hall flacks announced the sun rose in the east, thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Not really. The sun did rise in the east, but the mayor didn't try to take credit for it. At least, not yet.

He did, however, take credit for the $29.5 million River Point TIF handout that for better or worse had actually been cooked up by his predecessor—the mayor who will not be named—and dutifully adopted by the Chicago City Council in the fall of 2008.

That would have been roughly around the time when Rahm, still a congressman, was on the phone with Blago, still a governor, trying to concoct a scheme in which he'd have some lackey keep his congressional seat warm, while he spent a year or two as President Obama's chief of staff.

An Emanuel idea that you will probably never read about in a City Hall press release—unless, by some remote impossibility, I get elected mayor.

Back then, Congressman Emanuel probably knew next to nothing about TIFs. If you recall, he didn't get his TIF tutorial—from Congressman Mike Quigley—until after he'd decided to run for mayor.

At which point, Rahm exclaimed: "You mean, the schools and parks raise their property taxes and give all the money to me? Take your tampons out!"

Wait, sorry—getting my Emanuel quotes all mixed up.

A word about the River Point TIF deal, which I will be writing more about later . . .

As you know, TIF subsidies are intended for the poorest of poor communities that would otherwise receive no investment at all.

But in this case, the City Council—at Mayor Daley’s urging—voted to take the $29.5 million, diverted from the schools, parks, and county, and give it to a bunch of developers to build a skyscraper at Lake and Canal streets in the West Loop. Which is neither blighted nor underdeveloped, but is, in fact, as close to Boomtown, U.S.A., as any place in Chicago.

And so once again we're spending money meant for the poor on the rich, rebuilding a neighborhood that didn't really need rebuilding in the first place—a sham that passes for economic development in Chicago.

And what do we, the taxpaying public, get out of this deal?

A riverfront plaza—with trees and grass—built over the railroad tracks that run just east of the proposed skyscraper.

Well, I love trees and grass as much as the next guy. But with all of the park and/or recreational needs the city faces, I'm not sure I'd put this plaza at the front of the list ahead of soccer fields and running tracks (still no public indoor ones) and basketball courts in neighborhoods like Roseland, Englewood, Austin, etc. In fact, I'd rather see the money spent on coaches and teachers and rec leaders to run the leagues, classes, and after-school programs that might—I hope—give kids something to do except shoot each other.

Oh, my God—how hopelessly liberal of me. I apologize for that outbreak of bleeding-heart liberalism. I won't let it happen again.

Anyway, like I was saying . . .

Mayor Daley came up with the idea of giving the River Point developers the $29.5 million. The City Council approved it on on September 10, 2008. And then the development deal stalled for one reason or another. And now, having found new investors, the developers have dusted it off and announced they’re going to take the city’s money and build the skyscraper sometime soon.

Thus giving Mayor Emanuel an excuse to hold another press conference, basically hailing himself as the world's greatest mayor.

In fairness to Mayor Emanuel, Mayor Daley also liked to take credit for everything.

Like the sun rising in the east, some things never change.

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