Why your tax money keeps going down the TIF portal hole | Ben Joravsky on Politics | Chicago Reader

27 Jul

I was all set to give a little love to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for finally getting around to making good on his long-delayed promise to create an easy-to-search TIF portal on the city’s website.

That’s a place you can go to find all of the 160-something TIF districts in the city and track which ones have doled out how much to whom for what. The hope, of course, is that we can start to track the bang we’re getting for the buck—adding up to $5.5 billion over the last 26 years—from the slush fund known as tax increment financing.

As you’ve probably heard me mention before, if it weren’t for the TIF program, more than half that money would go to the public schools—which, the mayor claims, are so broke he had to close 50 of them a few weeks ago.

The mayor sent out a press release Friday morning congratulating himself for creating the portal and claiming it “will help the city focus programs on job creation and economic development.”

Right on, Mr. Mayor—jobs are good!

Alas, within hours of the good news, word broke that the mayor was firing about 2,100 CPS employees—including more than 1,000 teachers—in the latest, largest round of budget cuts. That’s on top of the 600 teachers he fired last month as part of the school closings.

So much for job creation. You know, Mr. Mayor, you make it hard for anyone to be a cheerleader.

In the meantime, the mayor’s moving full steam ahead on his plans to spend $55 million in property tax funds for a basketball arena for DePaul and a new hotel.

So the private university gets the money and the public schools get the pink slips.

My guess is that Mayor Emanuel deliberately timed the release of the TIF portal announcement to gain a little positive PR on the day he was firing a couple thousand of school employees, in part because of the millions of TIF dollars he’s hoarding.

It doesn’t get much more cynical than that.

Just so you know—it wasn’t the mayor who broke the news of the latest firings. No, it seems the mayor’s never around when the bad news has to be announced.

He was skiing in Utah when CPS announced which schools were being closed. And he was vacationing in Europe when the early round of budget cuts were announced this summer. For all I know, he was skinny-dipping in the Bahamas when word broke of Friday’s firings.

He wasn’t seen in public that day. Most of the teachers got the bad news in calls from central office bureaucrats who were reading from scripts.

Now that the cuts are official, Emanuel is blaming them on the teachers—or at least the $400 million contribution he has to make to the teachers’ dastardly pension system. Speaking of cynicism.

As pretty much everyone concedes, the major cause of the so-called pension crisis is that neither Mayor Emanuel nor Mayor Daley before him made payments to the pension fund that they’re contractually bound to make.

via Why your tax money keeps going down the TIF portal hole | Ben Joravsky on Politics | Chicago Reader.

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