I've been busy

You may or may not have noticed that my follow up to the TIF Racket never appeared. I’ve been busy. In the month of May I helped manage the viral sensation of the Wonut, broke off my involvement with Pilsen Alliance, and accepted a full-time position as a data scientist at a tech start-up in the West Loop. Since then it’s been an exciting and stressful few months for a few reasons. Each of these stories merits a post. Those will be forthcoming. In the mean time, a quick update on the TIFs…

TIF districts in Chicago are legally required to be in “blighted” areas. That language makes one think of run down economically distraught areas, but a dictionary definition of blight simply means “deteriorated”. Given that the tax code allows for deductions based on the idea that everything not disposable is deteriorating, this is a low legal hurdle. One can imagine that when $15m of TIF money was offered to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) to redo the bathrooms, the legal hurdles were jumped when Da Mare used the facilities and had to flush the toilet manually. For this reason, following the letter of the TIF law is trivial. However, the spirit of the law isn’t to redecorate corporate bathrooms, it’s to boost economic development in struggling areas.

My goal is to look at who is affected by the TIFs, and that’s still a work in progress. If you look at the TIF map, you’ll notice a dense area of TIF projects in the Loop. The Loop is not blighted. How much of that downtown tax revenue could be going to local schools, parks, roads, and pensions? That’s another post.