After a search that seemed never-ending, I’ve finally found something good to say about the city’s controversial tax increment financing program. That’s because the city has finally created a TIF district where one’s truly needed.
TIFs–created by City Council to divert a portion of property taxes within a defined district into a fund controlled by the city with virtually no oversight–are supposed to be used in blighted communities that would find it difficult to attract development without them. But under Mayor Daley and his planning department, the rules have been bent so that TIFs are routinely employed in some of the hottest neighborhoods–at great expense to local property owners, not to mention the schools, the parks, the libraries, and other entities that their taxes are supposed to fund. (The link above goes to an archive of my articles on the subject.)
But on December 12 the Community Development Commission, the mayorally appointed body that oversees TIFs, created the Harlem Industrial Park TIF. It will attempt to stimulate industrial development and create jobs in the manufacturing area around Harlem and 63rd Street.
According to James Capraro, executive director of the Greater Southwest Development Corp., the area desperately needs help to compete with the southwest suburbs, which are offering tax breaks and subsidies to woo industries and their relatively high-paying jobs out of the city. “If you drive down the Stevenson, you’ll see all the new industrial parks outside the city,” Capraro testified at Tuesday’s CDC hearing. “Keeping these jobs in the city is very strategic and serious.”
A promising start, but given the city’s abysmal record in enforcing TIFs–like the Pilsen, Fullerton-Milwaukee, and Devon-Sheridan TIFs, just to name a few–I wouldn’t be surprised if this one winds up funding something having nothing to do with Harlem Avenue, 63rd Street, or industry. I’ll be watching.