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The Mechanics
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Election 2015 Mon Dec 22 2014

Fioretti Talks TIF Reform

Ald. Bob Fioretti of the Second Ward has the platform of "True TIF Reform" for his mayoral campaign. I spoke with him over the phone on Friday to discuss TIFs and how to reform them.

One of your platforms is "True TIF Reform." What projects under Mayor Emanuel have led to you developing this platform?

A meeting -- I think it was the Finance Committee meeting, I do not serve on the Finance Committee -- and I watched what happened with a TIF on the Far West Side where the aldermen had not done anything to improve the infrastructure. And many African-American aldermen complained about the lack of use in terms of the infrastructure and at that point I had come to the realization as I watched what happened our TIF program is broken. I mean, it's there to help blighted areas and instead we see most of the money being directed to the South Loop, West Loop, Downtown area. And, accordingly, short-changing our neighborhoods like Pullman, Riverdale, Roseland, West Pullman, South Side communities where blight is, as I said before, prevalent and economic development is scarce.

TIFs as a slush fund have received attention from various people, notably Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke of the Reader, since Daley was in office, but there has been a renewed discussion about TIFs. Do you have a perspective on what might have led to this?

I think we've seen where there are disparities in our communities, granted that the Downtown has benefited from it, and our neighborhoods should suffer. And illumination [...] has raised the issue of what happens with this disparity. That's why I called for an immediate moratorium on any new TIFs and at the same time we need a complete audit. We need to freeze programming and do a complete audit and a complete overhaul of the system to ensure that we have true transparency.

You were a very vocal opponent of the school closures in 2013. How did that influence you to include in your position on TIF reform using TIF money to work on the CPS budget?

One thing I and members of the progressive caucus called for [is] surplus to be used for teachers and for CPS. And lo and behold the mayor now proudly asserts it's his idea, but we had thought of it and introduced a resolution calling for it. And to save jobs, to help our schools, I talked to our legislatures about the issues, about raising money for our schools. And you throughout the Second Ward we've utilized TIF funds for our schools. As Alderman I had one perspective, but as mayor of the city we need to find new ways to fund all of our schools, help all of our schools and this hurts our schools.

In addition to doing an entire audit of TIFs, how do you think there can be more oversight of TIFs in the city?

The TIF task force is pretty...who do we know is on it? Who makes the decisions on how the money should be spent? Who makes the decisions on the issues? When billion dollar companies are receiving money so in tax breaks and in TIF assistance? I mean, there is no real oversight so if it continues we need transparent recognized regular meetings so we can have true representation on that task force that makes the decisions for the mayor before the aldermen then finds out about it. When they find out about it, the money's already been allocated.

Both as an alderman and as someone running for mayor what do you think could be done to improve community input on projects that are using TIF money?

I think one overriding charge should be community benefits. Anything using governmental funds, TIF funds, governmental zoning of property ought to have community benefits so that the community knows that [it] receives benefits whether it's jobs, job development, people who work on the sites, and long term benefits from it. You know, all of that, a community benefits agreement a lot of this should go a long way towards helping make our communities safer, safer streets and stronger neighborhoods.

What could be done to attract developers with suitable projects to neighborhoods on the South and West Sides that have TIF districts with little development occurring?

I think we create tax-free zones. We offer tax benefits. There are ways we could do this that could help development and bringing them here.

Why do you think the voters of Chicago should care about TIFs and TIF reform?

The TIF imbalance has created the fiscal mess we have. If money had been directed to the proper entities we wouldn't be having the pension crisis, we wouldn't be having -- well, before I say that, we may still be having some of it, but not to the concern that we see. For many years it was over half a billion dollars that went in to the slush fund. There are different economic tools that we can use to bring businesses here, to put people to work so we can have safe streets and strong neighborhoods.

What sets you apart from your opponents when it comes to TIFs?

I have seen the good and the bad out of the TIFs and I know where they can work and where they can't. But I have a full understanding of the lack of transparency that happens to them and how they're used for a personal slush fund.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

 
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Tom Tresser / December 22, 2014 10:36 AM

The TIF Illumination Project has done 27 public meetings around the city - ward by wrd we are exposing TIFs. We can tell you the FULL story of what TIFs do to your community and who got PAID. If you want YOUR ward Illuminated contact Tom Tresser at tom@civiclab.us. More info online at http://www.tifreports.com.

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