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Economic Development


PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Sep 5, 2013

Austin, Galewood Residents Take Part In New Community-Based Planning Initiative

Dozens of West Side business owners and neighborhood residents gathered Wednesday evening for their first community-based planning meeting as part of a new Austin-Galewood Sustainability Roadmap spearheaded by Ald. Deborah Graham (29th). Progress Illinois was there for the meeting.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Sep 4, 2013

Elwood Takes Legal Action Against CenterPoint Over Prevailing Wage Dispute

The Village of Elwood wants CenterPoint Properties Trust to prove that it is complying with the state’s prevailing wage laws as part of a heavily-subsidized tax increment financing (TIF) agreement to construct a massive multi-use industrial park in Will County.

Elwood officials filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court August 28 asking that a judge require the Oakbrook-based real estate developer to hand over records that would show workers at the Deer Run Industrial Park redevelopment site have been paid according to state law.

According to Elwood’s complaint, CenterPoint has refused to provide any payroll documents to the village that would confirm that the company is adhering to the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, which requires a minimum wage and benefits threshold for workers associated with publicly-financed projects. Under state law, developers of taxpayer-subsidized projects are required to keep such compliance records.

“We find it troubling that CenterPoint refuses to hand over public documents that would reveal if prevailing wage laws have been violated,” Elwood Mayor William Offerman said in a statement. “Because taxpayer dollars and public records are at issue, the village has a duty and obligation to ensure that prevailing wage statutes are enforced and that local workers are getting paid what they deserve and what is required by law.”

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
Fri Aug 30, 2013

Community Members Skeptical As Rush, Kirk Promise Federal Support For Englewood (VIDEO)

Following a tour of the crime-ridden streets of Englewood on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D, IL-1) vowed to work together in a bipartisan effort to invest federal dollars to combat violence and poverty in the South Side neighborhood.

“We have agreed that this isn’t going to be a one-stop tour, or a cameo appearance,” said Rush, who invited Kirk to tour his district’s community following the congressional delegates’ disagreement earlier this year on how to clean up Englewood’s streets. “We need money, we need jobs.”

Kirk agreed, saying Englewood “has potential.”

“If we remove the scourge of gang violence from it, we will unlock its potential and we should do that,” the senator said, following his neighborhood visit.

Kirk and Rush said the three-hour tour, which was closed to the media, allowed them to see first-hand the abundance of abandoned properties and vacant lots that are often breeding grounds for crime in the neighborhood. Kirk said the tour was “pretty shocking” with “a lot of despair.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Aug 28, 2013

Chicago’s 39th Ward Residents ‘Disturbed’ By TIF Program’s Impact On Education

The five tax increment financing districts (TIF) located in the 39th Ward on Chicago’s far Northwest Side had more than $24 million sitting in their collective bank accounts at the start of 2013, according to city data revealed by the CivicLab at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening.

That money would have otherwise been dispersed among the local units of government that rely on property tax revenue, including the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district, were it not for the city’s controversial TIF program, which is intended to spur economic development in “blighted” areas.

Meanwhile, the 39th Ward’s four neighborhood schools are seeing their budgets slashed by a collective total of $2.3 million this school year due to the cash-strapped school district’s new per-student funding system, an analysis by Raise Your Hand for Illinois Pubic Education shows. The Chicago Board of Education is also set to vote Wednesday on the district’s proposed $5.6 billion budget for the current academic year, which contains $68 million in classroom cuts, including teacher layoffs, to help close CPS’ reported $1 billion budget hole.

Rick Cardis, a 39th Ward resident, said he’s concerned about the financial state of the school district and what CPS’ budget deficit may look like in a few years when his two young children are ready to attend school.

“I’m disturbed that the money gets diverted from our institutions like the parks and the schools through the TIF program,” he said at the meeting, held at Hiram H. Belding Elementary School. “I think our priority in Chicago should be our schools first and our children first.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Aug 26, 2013

The CivicLab Illuminates Oak Park’s TIF Program

Oak Park’s tax increment financing (TIF) program may operate on a smaller scale compared to the city of Chicago’s controversial economic development program, but it too has major transparency and accountability flaws, suburban residents said at a town hall meeting Sunday. 

The three TIF districts in Oak Park sucked up $164 million in property tax revenue since their inception up until the end of 2012, according to an analysis by the CivicLab, a Chicago-based non-profit focused on providing citizens with data and tools for civic engagement.

In 2012 alone, Oak Park’s three TIF districts took in $10.6 million in tax revenue, and the village spent almost $7 million of that money, the CivicLab found.

“I hope somewhere there is a spreadsheet that tells you what (the village) did with that money, and if there isn’t, you need to go get it, in my opinion,” the CivicLab’s co-founder Tom Tresser told about 15 community members at the meeting.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Fri Aug 23, 2013

IL Advances Offshore Wind Energy Research, But Lake Turbines Still ‘Light-Years’ Away, Experts Say

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Lake Michigan Wind Energy Act earlier this month, but don’t expect wind farms to pop up in the lake anytime soon.

The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), authorizes the state to conduct further research on which parts of Lake Michigan are suitable for offshore wind energy development before any leases or permits are issued for such projects.

The recent measure piggybacks on the recommendations cited in an Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) report released last year that first explored the issue after the state set up the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Energy Council in 2011.

Under the new measure, IDNR is now tasked with developing an offshore wind “siting matrix” to identify preferred or prohibited development areas in the lake based on existing wildlife, infrastructure, transportation and other environmental factors. IDNR is expected to use its own funds for the study, which is projected to take at least two years.

Within this two-year research window, devices will be installed on the lake to track wind currents, peak hours and other factors, explained Gabel’s legislative assistant Matt Trewartha.

But that’s just the beginning, acording to experts.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Aug 21, 2013

Experts: New Chicago Food Desert Numbers Not As ‘Rosy’ As Emanuel Says

Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the population of food deserts in Chicago declined 21 percent over the past two years thanks to 15 new grocery stores, additional farmers markets and more produce carts. But those working on the ground to combat food-access issues in Chicago say the new numbers are not as sweet as they appear.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Aug 7, 2013

Far South Side Residents Demand More TIF Accountability At Town Hall Meeting

Far South Side residents were shocked to learn that the five tax increment financing (TIF) districts located in the 19th Ward sucked up $4.2 million, or about 11 percent, of their property tax dollars in 2011, according to data from the CivicLab.

Three of the TIF districts located 100 percent within the ward, which includes the Beverly, Mount Greenwood and Morgan Park neighborhoods, raked in a total of $24.9 million since their inception through the end of 2011. The three districts were created in 1994, 2001, and 2007.

The news was especially troubling to the approximately 30 residents who attended the CivicLab’s 19th Ward  TIF Illumination Project meeting Tuesday night, seeing as though a portion of that money would have otherwise gone to the public school district and other government units were it not for the city’s controversial economic development program.