A month ago it appeared to be dead, but today the TIF Sunshine Ordinance passed the full City Council by a 48-0 vote. Several aldermen declared that it would help make city government more transparent. Several others predicted it would help the city show taxpayers how effective the TIF program is.
As the economy keeps foundering, expect to hear this line plenty from aldermen and city officials under pressure to find money to pay for basic city services.
Detailed information showing how city officials are using hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is now supposed to be easily accessible online by the end of July, which should help members of the public trying to make their own decisions about the value of the program.
It might even help aldermen figure out what they’re voting on when they’re asked to approve or watch over TIF deals.
“I have five TIFs in my ward and I have lots of questions and lots of concerns,” said 24th Ward alderman Sharon Dixon. “This will help me understand.”
And just maybe the council will follow up, as promised, with even more efforts to let the public see how its money is being spent. “I do think the taxpayers of Chicago deserve an honest accounting of every tax dollar,” said 42nd Ward alderman Brendan Reilly. “Certainly the city of Chicago can offer more transparency and sunshine.”
Yes, this could be argued.
Meanwhile, the council also voted 48-0 to approve an agreement with the Chicago 2016 bid committee to create affordable housing and minority contracting goals in any buildup for the Olympics.
Left undefined in the memorandum of understanding is exactly what will happen if the goals aren’t met, but today aldermen were effusive in praise for themselves for working to put such a great deal together. They were also a little touchy in response to criticism that it’s toothless.
“As opposed to people who sit in the cheap seats and take shots, some of us went to meetings–two, three, four a month–to work something out,” said Sixth Ward alderman Freddrenna Lyle.
“We all came together to do this,” added 27th Ward alderman Walter Burnett. “If God helps us and we get the Olympics, we have to stay together.”