Paul Vallas, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate, talks with Progress Illinois about important issues at stake in the November gubernatorial election and his priorities for the lieutenant governor's office if elected.
Chanting "tax Lasalle Street, not our street," a few dozen Chicagoans rallied near a speed camera in McKinley Park Thursday evening to protest what they say is an overuse of photo enforcement in the city.
"Red-light cameras and speed cameras are basically a fraud on motorists and on the citizens of Chicago,"Mark Wallace, director of Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras, said at the protest along Archer Avenue near a newly-installed speed camera. There is also a red-light camera at the corner of Archer and Ashland avenues, about a block from the new speed camera.
Volunteers with Chicago's CivicLab want a full accounting of the more than $1.7 billion that was sitting in the city’s collective tax increment financing (TIF) district bank accounts at the end of 2013.
Tom Tresser, co-founder of the CivicLab and leader of its volunteer-based TIF Illumination Project, said the group plans to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the city within the week to "demand the mayor to come clean" about how those unspent funds will be used. Tresser said the group is prepared to take legal action if the city denies the FOIA request.
"We asked for (similar information) last year, and they told us to go take a leap," Tresser said at a TIF discussion Wednesday evening at the CivicLab, 114 N. Aberdeen St. "This time, we're going to sue if we don't get it."
Ald. Ed Bus (53rd) thinks things really started to go wrong with the city when voters began worrying about reform, corruption, nepotism and cronyism.
Things worked best when The Machine was in charge, and if he has his way it will be again — soon. Bus won’t say he’s running for mayor in 2015, but you could say he’s showing all the signs.
“Ed Bus exposes a lot of the feelings people have about Chicago government — what has changed and what hasn’t,’’ says Ald. Scott Waguespack, a colleague and frequent foil of Bus. “I love his motto: ‘Keep it like it was.’"
Bus, of the 53rd Ward, is a fictional character, the creation of veteran Chicago improv group Schadenfreude and played by Justin Kaufman, a founding member of the group and a long-time producer and sometime on-air personality at WBEZ radio. Bus is part and parcel of the Chicago Machine: an insider, a nepotist, a backroom deal maker and a ward heeler.
With the media and public spotlight on Chicago's pension crisis, the non-partisan research center Good Jobs First is turning the attention to the city's controversial tax increment financing, or TIF, program.
"It's really hard to ignore the evidence that TIF has had some sort of impact on pensions," said Tommy Cafcas, research analyst at Good Jobs First, which works to promote corporate and government accountability.
"We know that TIF costs grew, and they started growing really quickly after 2000. We know that general fund revenues declined ... and we know that the city addressed its budget gap in part by making inadequate contributions to public pensions, so it seems reasonable that TIF plays a role in how the city thinks about addressing the pension issue."
Cook County property taxpayers in a Chicago or suburban tax increment financing (TIF) district will soon learn how much of their money is being diverted from local units of government and sent to a TIF program now that the data is being added to county tax bills.
Cook County Clerk David Orr released his 2012 TIF revenue report Thursday and announced that the second installment of the 2013 property tax bill will include the TIF information. The bills will be mailed during the summer of 2014.
Currently, Cook County tax bills for constituents living within a TIF district show zero dollars are being siphoned off into a TIF fund. But there were 435 active TIF districts in Chicago and suburban Cook County, which pulled in a collective $723 million during the 2012 tax year, according to Orr’s report.
Tom Tresser, co-founder of the CivicLab, is one of many Chicago TIF activists who have been calling for the information to be included on property tax bills. Tresser said the data is going to make “all the difference in the world” when it comes to TIF transparency.
“Your tax bill is lying to you when it says zero,” Tresser said. “It’s not zero.”