Too Little Too Late
“Show Us the Money” by Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke [March 19] correctly criticizes the city for its failure to monitor compliance with Republic’s $10 million TIF Agreement. However, because the plain language of TIF agreements don’t protect taxpayers (e.g., no penalties for Republic if they breach during the last ten years), we must demand more of the city than monitoring compliance of weak agreements.
The proposed law to post all final TIF agreements online is fine, but that may be too little too late. The city should also post all proposed TIF agreements online for public comment. This way, the public can make sure that the city (and taxpayers) have some recourse if a breach does occur. For instance, the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group is calling on the city to impose a “claw back” provision (requiring entities to pay back all money plus interest if they don’t fulfill their contract). A great idea. If the city gets enough pressure during a public comment period to include these kind of provisions, as taxpayers, we’d be in a much safer place. But alas, until City Council requires the city to include these kind of provisions, the city will still have the discretion to ignore public comments.
So, notwithstanding this, maybe the city should only provide TIF funds to entities or people who are legally obligated to comply with the terms of the agreement by other legally enforceable contracts. Like affordable rental housing developments. These developments often already have legally binding use restrictions (usually imposed by the federal and state government) on them, which require the housing to be remain affordable for 15-30 years.
Bottom line: if the city can’t or won’t draft TIF agreements that protect taxpayers’ money or monitor their compliance, it should only give TIF money for uses that someone else is monitoring and enforcing.
Chicago’s Olympic bid may be in question due to the weak economy and its reliance on sponsors. It’ll be a good idea to keep their reliance on sponsors and not taxpayers to win the bid; keep up the good work.
Maybe TIF geeks should plan a loud demo outside City Hall to coincide with the IOC committee visit.
What do we want?
TIF docs online!
When do we want it?
The leadership in this city puts drunken sailors to shame. But hey, no biggie—it’s just the schmoe taxpayers’ money they’re burning through.
The scary part? The brain-dead voters of Chicago don’t care.
The big media outlets are still catching up on this topic, if they dare. Great job on taking time to report on this. Kudos, gents!
Kudos to Reporters
Shoulda Been an Analyst
Re: “Who’s Holding the Remote” by Liam Warfield, March 19
This is fascinating. I did a media studies degree back in the mid-90s and much of my work focused on this issue, media ownership, and, my personal pet subject, micro-radio. I was actually quite conservative back in those days, but as I uncovered the deceptions and the manipulations of the FCC and corporate media, I found myself trending more and more to the left.
Unfortunately, there was no work for a left-leaning media-rights analyst. My degree wasn’t advanced or sophisticated enough to warrant anyone’s intellectual attention, and my sense of ethics kept me from working for corporate media. I spent the next decade whipping up lattes and wishing I’d studied something valuable. I admire Szczepanczyk for actually getting somewhere with his passion.
What’s the Coyote?
Re: “Left Behind by Around the Coyote” by Deanna Isaacs, March 19
The Flat Iron Artists Association doesn’t seem to understand that even small groups need to find ways to save money during the economic crisis. I have attended events at ATC, and I feel that the FIAA saying they are more like the ATC than the ATC is ridiculous; the ATC is still helping small artists find a market. In recessions the arts are often overlooked, and it is beyond reasonable that the ATC moved to a cheaper location to ride out the storm. No one should interpret an organization’s decisions to stay afloat as personal insults, that just leads to heightened drama distracting from the goals of everyone: keeping the arts alive in Wicker Park.
ATC needed to move to save money in order to survive. I don’t understand why the Flat Iron artists feel so entitled to mooch off of ATC. ATC funded, organized, and promoted their festival, and then some other residents of their building opened their doors and “joined” the festival through the back door. These artists can still submit their work to be included in future ATC events, they are not being discriminated against in any way. I feel sorry that any artist would lose a significant chunk of their income, but perhaps their business plan should not have leaned so heavily on participating in a festival they were not officially a part of.
Imagine if you had a restaurant and some outdoor vendors made a living selling desserts outside your building. Then the economy took a bad turn and you had to move. Would it be fair for those vendors to bitch to the Chicago Reader about how you ran your business?
The two previous comments miss the point entirely. Around the Coyote is a location-specific organization. It was created to run a festival in Wicker Park. Its mission remained supporting arts in the area around the Coyote Building. All of ATC’s money, support, and long reputation was derived from this mission. Far from the Flat Iron mooching off ATC, it was a vital part of its identity—which Mills and Stites were being paid to maintain. Holding events far outside the neighborhood was essentially abandoning ATC’s reason for being.
I agree that the Flat Iron was the source of ATC’s vitality. Because let’s be honest—no one paid to see their shows simply because of a bunch of emerging artists in the hallway. The big draw was the resident artists in the building—with the hallway artists as very tasty icing on an already delicious cake. I’ve shown in both positions (studio and hallway) and can assure you that it’s the artists with studios that make the show. And further, it wasn’t just ATC but THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD that was the draw for that show. What’s a neighborhood show without the neighborhood?
I don’t think anyone has said that the FIAA is more like the ATC (organization) than the ATC. What WAS accurately pointed out in the article was that the current shows being presented by the FIAA in the Flat Iron and WPB are more recognizable in the spirit, substance and tradition of Around the Coyote festivals than the ATC show that was held in the West Loop last fall. I believe that is indisputable.
Also, it is inaccurate to characterize the majority of artists in the Flat Iron as mooching off a festival that they had nothing to do with. Many of the Flat Iron artists have participated for years and contributed greatly to creating the festival’s identity. Although there may have been a few artists who opened their doors and didn’t pay a fee, many of the resident artists not only paid the show fee, but also paid annual membership dues, took out ads in ATC brochures and made additional monetary contributions to the ATC organization.
Finally, the individual marketing efforts made by resident Flat Iron artists each year to promote the ATC festivals were a significant factor in creating the overall awareness of the festival. To many attendees like me, those artists WERE the festival.
I founded ATC with Jim Happy-Delpech in 1989. It was always our intent to be in neighborhoods where artists live. While Wicker Park still has a few artists, it is not where emerging artists live anymore. ATC was always about unestablished Chicago artists and providing a place for them to show their work outside of the gallery system. It was always about the public being able to see artists in their studios and to get a bird’s-eye look into the life that artists live. For the last ten years, ATC has been about Wicker Park businesses more than it has been about artists.
Jim and I wanted ATC to occur in the neighborhoods where artists lived. It was meant to move where artists moved. The coyote in the name Around the Coyote did refer to the Coyote tower, but it was also the symbol of the trickster, the shapeshifter. That image appealed to us, I thought, because it offered the opportunity for ATC to change and reinvent itself when it needed to. ATC, because it hasn’t moved to where the artists live, is now in real danger of being boring and stale. Just another Chicago art festival. I’d like to see it continue to flourish and stay relevant. I am very proud that ATC is still here after almost 20 years. Astounding, really. I’d like to thank all the people who continue to make ATC happen. It’s marvelous.