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TIF Subsidies Helping Not So Blighted Communities and Companies

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 7, 2011 3:00PM

Mayor Daley loved TIF funds - tax dollars given to spur economic development and growth in struggling areas of the city. However, a four-month investigation by Columbia College journalism students at Chicago Talks revealed that less than half of the monies were actually spent in this manner. The Chicago News Cooperative reports that the investigation found a huge chunk of TIF monies went to profitable companies and some non-profits centered in the loop, while many of the city's actual economically depressed areas received little benefits.

Katie Piercy, director of government reform at the Illinois Policy Institute. said that TIF districts were supposed to "promote economic development in blighted areas" but said "that’s really not even the case anymore." She added "We’ve got TIFs ... in areas that nobody in their right mind can really call blighted."

While the city has often touted the benefits of TIF money, tracking actual results of long-term benefits has proven difficult. Many companies contacted by Chicago Talks did not return phone calls or refused to give information as to how many jobs the money created. In some cases, the information provided is misleading. One company, Midway Games, went bankrupt in 2009, supposedly before the city handed them $2.3 million, but a FOIA request showed the project created 275 jobs and was “completed.”

You can view a searchable map of Chicago's TIF projects here.