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Mayor Daley's Big Exciting Week

By Kevin Robinson in News on Aug 7, 2009 2:20PM

It's been quite a week for Mayor Daley's favorite change jar: TIFs. The city's new TIF sunshine ordinance went into effect on Saturday (the website that's supposed to list all of the information sucks, oddly enough), the mayor announced that the city will cough up $25 million to help relocated United Airlines into what used to be named the Sears Tower, and Chicago will create a TIF to help build the proposed Olympic Village. Whew! That's a lot of hot TIF action for only seven days.

The Olympic TIF (all 24 glorious years of it) will take all of that tax money that would have flowed into schools, parks and libraries, and use it to cover the $100 million price tag on new roads, sewers and utilities on the Michael Resse Hospital site, which will be home to the 2016 Summer Olympic Village. The city won't know until October if we will actually host the Games, but they're not taking any chances. And Chicago's bid committee is contesting charges that the money spent on the Michael Reese site is public financing for something that was promised to be privately financed. "That's not money for the Olympic Village, the Olympic Village will be a place if we win the games that will be rented and the athletes will for three weeks," Chicago 2016 CEO Pat Ryan told the Sun-Times. "This is money that will be used to build roads, a grid system, sewers - all the things for a neighborhood."

Daley has also agreed to give United Airlines $25 million to bring it's corporate headquarters from suburban Elk Grove Township to downtown Chicago. “This is the largest relocation of jobs to the city of Chicago in recent years,” Daley told Crain's. That includes nearly 3,000 jobs that will commute to downtown Chicago, instead of Elk Grove Village. Of course, the future of United Airlines (shocker!) in doubt, as the airline's credit rating is sub-investment grade, and there is speculation about its future viability. UAL CEO Glenn Tilton told Crain's the city cash was “key” to the relocation. He said 13% of UAL’s local employees live in Chicago and that 80% live within five miles of a Metra station.

But the icing on the sweet, sweet TIF cake is what the Reader's Ben Joravsky dug up about the city's oldest TIF, the Central Loop TIF. That's because it expired last year. (Daley tried to extend it by 12 more years, but Rod Blagojevich put the kibosh on that.) It seems that, before the Central Loop TIF expired, (it was started by then-mayor Harold Washington as an innovative way to revitalize a hobbled downtown), the fund was flush with cash to the tune of $358 million. That's enough to close this year's projected city budget deficit. But rather than take that money and put it back into all of the taxing bodies it came from (like schools, parks and libraries) the city went on a spending spree - burning through so much cash that it actually had to borrow a few million from neighboring TIF districts. Over $70 million of that money went to Block 37, and another $60 million $12 million went to Block 37, and another $60 million went to the CTA to finish the underground station that will zip riders to O'Hare and Midway on tracks that haven't been laid.