Huge TIF Revenues Sign of Program’s Failure Not Success


A new report released on Wednesday by the Cook County Clerk showed a record breaking $1.2 billion in TIF funds collected this year.

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money comes from property taxes in designated areas of the city. Originally the program was intended to help blighted neighborhoods struggling to attract investment – areas like Garfield Park and Englewood. However, for decades, our elected officials have found it more lucrative and politically advantageous to use the program as a slush fund to dump more money into downtown and other affluent parts of the city like Lincoln Yards.

The City creates TIF districts in wealthier and wealthier parts of the city, and the TIF fund increases accordingly.

The shockingly high amount of money that the TIF program took in this year, if used correctly, could still do some real good for the city. On Monday, Mayor Lightfoot made a commitment to greatly expand the number of nurses and social workers in Chicago Public Schools, but did not specify how she would pay for it. Lightfoot could immediately declare a TIF Surplus and could use that $1.2 billion to pay for the critical support staff that parents and teachers have been demanding for their students.

Putting TIF money back into our schools would be a great first step but we can’t stop there. The ever increasing size of the TIF funds should be a giant red flag that needs to be addressed. We need our new Mayor and City Council to take a good hard look at the TIF program and why $1.2 billion was sitting in a slush fund to begin with. We need to address the stark racial and economic inequality that is happening as a result of the misuse of the TIF program. And we need to focus on solutions that help Black and Latinx families across the south and west sides thrive.

Grassroots Collaborative has filed a lawsuit against the city over the misuse of the TIF program and the violation of the civil rights of our residents. You can support our efforts to reform the TIF program by making a donation here.


Statement: Grassroots Collaborative Lauds House Passage of Fair Tax


CHICAGO – On Tuesday, the Illinois House passed the Fair Tax Constitutional Amendment. The following is a statement by Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel.

“The passage of the Fair Tax Amendment in the House is great news for Illinois working families that have for far to long been burdened by the state’s outdated regressive tax system. It is fundamentally unfair for teachers and service workers to pay the same tax rate as Hedge Fund managers and CEOs. Addressing the unfairness and inequality of Illinois’s tax system has been a priority of Grassroots Collaborative’s membership for years. The Illinois House is correct to move the amendment forward and we strongly believe that Illinois voters will support the ballot question and finally create a structural fix to our broken tax system.

“Giving a tax break to working families and generating new substantial revenue from the wealthy paying their fair share will help create jobs, fund vital programs and services, and reverse the current trend of working families being pushed out of the state.”


How Chicago City Council Should Choose Committee Chairmanships


The following is an open letter to Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council:

Dear Mayor-Elect Lightfoot & Chicago City Council,

We, the undersigned community organizations, are committed to working to pass policies to help low-income and working-class communities of color whose needs have long been ignored in favor of the wealthy and politically connected. Like so many Chicago voters we are deeply disappointed by the corruption that has come to light in recent months.

We appreciate the promises many of you made during the recent election to end practices that allow politicians to profit from elected positions and moving Chicago towards the racial and economic equity our residents deserve.

Towards this end, we write to submit our recommendations to you about the criteria you should use in your selection of Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs.  As you know, the Chair and Vice Chair for each Committee hold tremendous power. We ask your Administration to take steps to ensure that Committee Chairmen and Chairwomen:

  • Wield their power in the interests of the public,
  • Are insulated from corrupting corporate influences and donations from special interest groups
  • Are accessible by average members of the public, and
  • Make a commitment to center the needs of Chicago’s most marginalized and vulnerable people and communities


Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must commit to center questions of racial and economic equity in how they run the Committee

Residents want a Chicago a where your zip code doesn’t determine your destiny. We urge Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs to make a commitment to centering the voices and needs of Chicago’s most marginalized, vulnerable and under-supported constituencies. This includes using Racial Equity Impact Assessments to evaluate whether proposals in front of their Committee will benefit or burden people of color, low-income and working class people, people with disabilities, and other protected and vulnerable classes. We urge the Lightfoot Administration to make a bold statement about its commitment to racial and economic equity and ask Committee Chairs to do the same in their role as Chairmen.

Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must reject donations that present conflicts of interest with their leadership role

We urge that the Lightfoot Administration and Chicago City Council to adopt a policy that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs must make a commitment not to accept donations from for-profit business sectors or corporate lobbyists whose money may present a conflict of interest in how they run the Committee over which they have power.  Specifically, we urge that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Housing Committee and the Zoning Committee commit not to accept donations from developers or real estate companies who seek zoning changes or financial benefits from the City in their development deals. We also urge that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee commit not to accept donations from any kind of private detention center or sector with a financial interest in the enduring criminalization and over-incarceration of people and communities of color.  We urge that your Administration further instructs the Office of the Inspector General to assess potential conflicts of interest with Chair and Vice Chair roles for each committee, publish a list of prohibited donors, and then audit Chair and Vice Chair compliance with avoiding potential conflicts of interest every 4-6 months.


Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must make themselves accessible to members of the public across the entire city, not just from their own wards

In addition, we urge that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs make the commitment to hold public office hours and times and locations accessible to members of the general public from any neighborhood in Chicago. The Chair and Vice-Chair role is one ideally responsible and accountable to the interests of residents across all of Chicago, not just residents from the specific ward the Chair and Vice Chair were elected from.   In holding open office hours at regular and posted times, the Chair and Vice Chair of each committee will be available to receive input about how to govern in the interests of constituents from all across Chicago.

Similarly, we urge the Lightfoot Administration to adopt a commitment that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs should hold public comment at every Committee Meeting, in line with the Open Meetings Act.

Questions or follow up regarding this letter can be directed to Thank you for considering these recommendations.



Action Now

American Friends Service Committee Midwest Region

Alliance of the  Southeast

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Centro Trabajadores Unidos

Chicago Housing Initiative

Chicago Community Workers Rights

Chicago United for Equity

Enlace Chicago

Grassroots Collaborative

SEIU Healthcare

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Jane Addams Senior Caucus

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Organized Communities Against Deportations

One Northside

Raise the Floor Alliance

Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education

The People’s Lobby


Time to #ReimagineChicago


We need to transform Chicago into a city that works for everybody through targeted community investment, expansion, and protection of affordable housing, police accountability, jobs programs, and progressive revenue. Read the full#ReimagineChicago platform here.

Below are five stories from residents across the city about why it is so important that we #ReimagineChicago. The testimonies in these stories were shared with Mayor-elect Lightfoot during at #ReimagineChicago Mayoral Forum in January.  Graphics by Danbee Kim.

Reimagine Safety:

Reimagine Healthy Communities:

Reimagine Community Investment:

Reimagine Revenue

Instead of Subsidizing Sterling Bay We Should Be Taxing Them


On Wednesday, outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a lame duck City Council approved the $2.3 billion dollar taxpayer handout to mega-developers Sterling Bay and Related Midwest. This action reinforces what many of us have been saying for years – we have to fundamentally change the way that Chicago utilizes TIF dollars.

As City Council moved to pass the Alderman-elects Daniel LaSpata (1st Ward), Mike Rodriguez (22nd ward), Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th ward), Andre Vasquez (40th ward), Matt Martin (47th ward), and Maria Hadden (49th ward) stood with community members blocking LaSalle St. to call for a stop to the creation of the two megaTIFs.

Chicagoans are fed up with the continued handouts to politically connected developers for their pet projects and luxury developments. In the case of Lincoln Yards, community residents, union members, and small business leaders opposed this project every step of the way.

Chicago has 149 TIF districts, as many as the other nine largest U.S. cities combined. The problem with TIFs is that the majority of TIF districts that have significant funds are located in parts of the city where development is already happening – namely on the North side, downtown, or near downtown. This means that instead of eliminating blight, or even reducing it, TIFs in Chicago serve to exacerbate inequalities. For example, between 2011 and 2015, 60% of TIF funds went to the downtown area and the north side. By contrast, the Westside only received 9% of TIF funding; the South Side received 16% and the Far South Side 4%. Yesterday’s votes reinforce the truth that the TIF system is broken.

We need a new way forward with economic development in this city.

Once Lightfoot is sworn in as Chicago’s mayor, she should immediately hit the pause button on the TIF program and hold public hearings on the economic priorities of the city. She must build an approach that centers investment in low-income neighborhoods on the South and West sides, not maintain the current status quo where our communities are at the margins. And, she should support revenue solutions that make the wealthiest of our city pay their fair share. Instead of subsidizing Sterling Bay, we should be taxing them.

At the Grassroots Collaborative Reimagine Chicago Mayoral forum, Lightfoot committed to, among other things, the reopening of the City’s mental health clinics, free city college tuition for all Chicago residents, and a more equitable funding formula for Chicago Public Schools.  All of these policies would be critical investments in our neighborhoods that have languished under the Emanuel administration.

If we made these investments and prioritized neighborhoods instead of luxury developments, we would not only be able to improve the lives of Chicago residents but create the sort of vibrant city that will make more businesses want to set up shop here – without us handing them billions of our property tax dollars.

Mayor 1% and Parting City Council Leave Behind a Legacy of Economic Segregation


On Wednesday, despite an outpouring of public opposition, Chicago City Council voted to approve two new megaTIF districts that will impact Chicago for decades to come. Grassroots Collaborative has worked for years to stop the abuses of the TIF program and helped lead a diverse coalition in opposition to the Lincoln Yards and the 78 megaTIFs. The following is a statement from Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel.

“The decision to move forward these megaTIFs epitomizes a legacy that has been a disaster for working families. Throughout his administration Mayor Emanuel has governed as the mayor of two cities. In one he closed schools, shuttered clinics, and nickled and dimed residents with fees and tickets. In the other, he rolled out the red carpet for the corporate elite, all at the expense of working families.

“Grassroots Collaborative will continue to work towards ending the abuses of the TIF program, and the racial and economic inequality it produces. We will continue to organize for a vibrant city that attracts good jobs and economic development without handing out billions of our tax dollars to the wealthy.”

No Votes About Lincoln Yards and the 78 Until New Mayor and City Council Take Office


Grassroots Collaborative Statement on the Postponed Vote for Lincoln Yards and the 78 MegaTIFs

CHICAGO – On Tuesday, responding to mounting pressure from a diverse coalition of community organizations, Aldermen, Aldermen-elect, and Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, Finance Committee Chairman Patrick O’Connor postponed the vote on the Lincoln Yards and 78 MegaTIFs. The following is a statement from Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel.

“We appreciate the actions by Mayor-elect Lightfoot to delay this vote and Mayor Emanuel’s acquiescence to the will of Chicago voters.  But 48 hours is not a meaningful delay for projects that will impact the city for decades to come.

“The subsidizing of luxury developments is not the right priority for Chicago. The officials that should decide what the right priorities for Chicago will be sworn-in in May and no votes should be happening around these projects until that time.”



What is Your Message #ToChiNextMayor?


The upcoming election is an opportunity to reimagine the future of this city. We want all of the candidates running for Mayor to understand the damage that the previous Daley and Emanuel administrations have done to our community and what Chicago needs to do differently so our neighborhoods can thrive. Let us know what your message is to the next mayor of Chicago by:

  1. Taking a picture of yourself holding your message.
  2. Posting your photo to Twitter using the hashtag #ToChiNextMayor or emailing it to

Need some ideas to get you started? Check out our Reimagine Chicago platform or get some ideas from the gallery below:

#ReimagineChicago Mayoral Forum


The upcoming election is our opportunity to #ReimagineChicago and fix the damage done by Rahm and his predecessors. Join us Wednesday for the #ReimagineChicago Mayoral Forum to hear where the candidates stands on our campaigns and our vision for the future of Chicago. Click here to register!

Six candidates were invited based off of voting by community leaders belonging to Grassroots Collaborative member and partner organizations. Each candidate was also required to fill out a questionnaire. You can find the questionnaire responses here. Amara Enyia, La Shawn Ford, Lori Lightfoot, Susana Mendoza, Toni Preckwinkle, and Willie Wilson have all confirmed their attendance.

The forum will focused on a progressive platform developed in partnership with neighborhood residents across the city. #ReimagineChicago is an aspirational plan to transform Chicago into a city that works for everybody through targeted community investment, expansion and protection of affordable housing, police accountability, jobs programs, and progressive revenue. The #ReimagineChicago platform can be downloaded here.

You can also show your support for making Chicago a city that works for everybody by using one of our Facebook cover photos uplifting the community demands in the #ReimagineChicago platform.



Will there be childcare?

Yes, childcare will be provided for children age 3 – 10 years old. We ask that children older or younger stay with their parent/guardian.


Will translation be provided?

The event will be translated in Spanish and American Sign Language.


Is the event wheelchair accessible?

Yes, there is a lift outside of the building that opens up into the event space.


Do you need to register ahead of time?

Pre-registration is encouraged as seating preference will be given to those who registered prior to the event if the event space reaches capacity. It will also help us get an accurate count of the translation and childcare needs for the event. You can RSVP here.


Which organizations are sponsoring the event?

Sponsoring organizations include: Grassroots Collaborative, American Friends Service Committee, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, Action Now, Alliance of the Southeast, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Cook County College Teachers Union, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicago Community and Workers’ Rights, Chicago United for Equity, Coalition for a South Works CBA, Enlace Chicago, Generation All, Hana Center, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Latino Union, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Organized Communities Against Deportations, ONE Northside, Our Revolution Chicago, Parents 4 Teachers, Pilsen Alliance, Raise the Floor Alliance, Raise Your Hand, Southsiders Together Organizing for Power, The Leaders Network, The People’s Lobby, Westside Rising

Increased Spending on Police Will Not Make Us Safer – Investing in Neighborhoods Will


Grassroots Collaborative Statement on Proposed Increases to CPD Budget

Chicago, IL – Grassroots Collaborative is a community labor coalition representing tens of thousands of Chicago residents who been hurt by the failed policies of the Emanuel administration. The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative on Tuesday’s Committee on Budget and Government Operations hearing on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) budget.

“The proposed 2019 budget for the Chicago Police Department is an insult to every resident in this city who has had their school closed, services cut, and property taxes raised. It is especially insulting for Black and Latinx residents who have suffered under a racist and abusive police department. The 2017 Department of Justice investigation documented in detail the  abuses of citizens, use excessive force, unfair treatment of people of color, and a complete lack of oversight. That is not the behavior of a department we should awarded with new funding and shooting ranges.

Despite already receiving 40% of the city’s operating budget, this budget proposes an increase of CPD’s budget by $80,000,000 next year. In addition the budget includes a $17 million transfer from Chicago Public Schools to the Chicago Police Department to pay to put police officers in schools. It is outrageous that money is being taken away from our stretched public schools to pay for officers from a department that we know is deeply racist and is the same department that produced convicted murder Jason Van Dyke.”

Grassroots Collaborative stands with Black youth saying no to the proposed new cop academy and demands no additional revenue be given to the Chicago Police Department. In addition Grassroots Collaborative calls for the following reforms:

  • Erase the CPD Database used to racially profile Black and Latinx youth
  • Expand Sanctuary and strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance
  • Phase CPD out of schools
  • Fund Restorative Justice efforts in neighborhoods and schools
  • Create a Behavioral Health Unit of civilian crisis-intervention teams to support people with behavioral health issues or who are in crisis
  • Make expungement accessible and provide re-entry support services