Statement: Building Real Equity in the TIF Program Requires Community Engagement, Not Clouted Corporate Firms

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CHICAGO – Grassroots Collaborative is a labor community coalition that has been working to reform the TIF program for over a decade. Yesterday, Grassroots Collaborative, along with our co-plaintiff Illinois Raise Your Hand for Public Education, appealed the trial court decision in our lawsuit against the City of Chicago over the creation of the TIF district for Lincoln Yards, and the history of discriminatory uses of TIF favoring affluent areas at the expense of communities of color. The following is a statement by Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative, on the changes to the TIF program proposed by the Lightfoot Administration.

“We hear Mayor Lightfoot talk a lot about the need for greater racial equity. We agree with much of what she says but the words we are hearing do not match the actions we are seeing.  The reality is that the changes to the TIF program put forward by her administration will increase inequality by turning over the development of new standards to AECOM, and by reopening the luxury developer cash grab that is downtown TIF districts. 

Some of the changes being proposed are headed in the right direction, such as the clear need to tighten the ‘but for’ test. Yesterday, we submitted a brief appealing appealed the trial court decision in our TIF litigation because we continue to believe that projects such as the Lincoln Yards luxury development are not helping “blighted” areas and fail to meet the current ‘but for’ test set in state TIF law. However, by engaging AECOM, a clout-heavy firm with no accountability, the administration is all-but ensuring that the outcomes will remain inequitable. The city should engage community leaders from the most burdened areas to create the meaningful equity that our city so desperately needs.”