I was sort of hoping that Mayor Daley would personally call to tell me he was killing the Central Loop TIF — you know, sort of the way a vanquished candidate calls the winner on election night.
As you all know, I’ve been vainly battling Daley’s TIFs for more years than I can count, and this is the first time, the very first time, that he’s ever pulled the plug on a meaningful TIF district (last year he killed a couple of loser districts).
So, first of all, I’d like to say you’re welcome to all the taxpayers who haven’t got around to calling me to say thanks. In the property tax appeal game, most lawyers get at least 10 percent of what they save you on your taxes. By killing this TIF, taxpayers will save about $100 million a year. The way I figure, Chicago’s taxpayers owe me at least $10 million — and I don’t take checks.
In reality, we’ve lost more than we’ve gained with the Central Loop TIF. Yes, the schools will get up to $50 million in 2009 they weren’t getting with this TIF district alive. But the schools will have to wait at least another nine years or so before they regain the $500 million they lost to the Central Loop since 1984.
And by then they’ll have lost even more money to all the other TIFs Mayor Daley and the City Council have been creating. Remember, there are still about 160 other TIFs out there, with the city council gearing up to create new ones almost every month.
As Greg Hinz points out in today’s Crain’s, the reason Mayor Daley gave up on the Central Loop TIF is that its 24-year lifetime was about to expire and he needed Springfield’s approval to extend it. This would have resulted in a loud and nasty public fight with Governor Blagojevich that the mainstream media would have had no choice but to cover. Suddenly, the public would be coming face to face with this scam. And the last thing Mayor Daley wants — be it for his TIFs or his Olympics — is public scrutiny.
From the mayor’s perspective, sacrificing the Central Loop is a small price to pay to keep the larger program going strong.
Besides, he still has the LaSalle Central TIF, which he created in part to replace money he would lose if he had to kill the Central Loop. The LaSalle Central will soon be soaking up far more than a 100 million a year. And if I know our mayor, I’m sure he’ll be looking for new downtown TIFs to create in the next year or so. He’s nothing if not resourceful.
Of course, he can only get away with this so long as the larger public remains docile and dumb. And there doesn’t seem to be any time limit on that.