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Cloud Over TIF Sunshine?

By Kate Gardiner in News on Aug 6, 2009 4:00PM

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Begrudgingly, it seems, the city of Chicago made public a new TIF website, per the new ordinance passed back in April. Of course, it sucks. How do we know? Well, besides the fact that they were too embarrassed to link to it in their own press release, Progress Illinois government transparency enthusiast-hackers Dan O'Neil and Max Brooks went through page-by-page and evaluated its strengths (the information is, technically, there) and its weaknesses. They say (and we agree) that the site is a hard-to-use, poorly organized conglomeration of information at this stage in its development. We hope this first-ever attempt to put Chicago's public documents online in this way is in beta.

One of the goals of having public documents online is to encourage people to easily access any and all information they're looking for - and find additional information related to the topics they're interested in. Alds. Manny Flores (1st) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) said, at the beginning of their push for the ordinance last year, that their goal was to prevent a second Republic Windows and Doors fiasco (the city lost millions of dollars because it failed to police its redundant TIF agreements). Instead, if one clicks on too many links (apparently more than four), the site collapses.

We'd love to see the city embrace this subject and take it upon themselves to facilitate people's understanding of this huge politically-motivated gray area. In the mean time, we'll just keep typing addresses into a Google map (thanks Adam Verwymeren for the one above) and cross-referencing them with the county clerk, the city of Chicago web sites and a variety of other, more obscure web sites, hoping to eventually stumble across the data we need.