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.” 

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Budget Address Statement: Chicago is Not Broke, the City’s Priorities Are

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Grassroots Collaborative Response to Mayor Lightfoot’s Budget Address

Chicago, IL – The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative on Mayor Lightfoot’s budget address.

“We hoped that Mayor Lightfoot would choose to work with parents, teachers, and community leaders to end the Tale of Two Cities that has plagued Chicago for generations but that is not the choice we see her making in this budget. Instead of the change voters want, we see a continuation of the same budget policies that hurt working families and further enrich the wealthy. 

The budget she outlined today fails to provide the investment needed to address the inequality in our neighborhoods and schools and fails to make the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. It contains no corporate head tax or other substantive progressive revenue. It fails to reopen the public mental health clinics that are needed to heal the trauma in Chicago’s neighborhoods or provide the investment in affordable housing and homeless services needed to meet the current housing crisis.

Rideshare and restaurant taxes will not fix our city, neither will doling out TIF money to luxury developers. We need real progressive revenue to reinvest in our schools and Black and Brown neighborhoods. Failure to do so will result in more violence and more residents being pushed out of the city.”
 

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Statement: Community Groups Vow to Continue Fighting Broken TIFs Despite Court Ruling

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CHICAGO – A judge has granted the City of Chicago’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights on behalf of  Grassroots Collaborative and Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education over the creation of a new TIF district for the Lincoln Yards luxury development and the systemic racial inequity caused by the City’s administration of the program.

“We are disappointed with today’s ruling,” stated Aneel Chablani, Chief Counsel for Chicago Lawyers’ Committee.  “Although our complaint was dismissed based on legal standing, the ruling did not actually address the substance of our arguments that Chicago’s administration of TIF is discriminatory and illegal and that the Lincoln Yards TIF should never have been approved. We will be evaluating all legal options to address today’s court ruling and continue this challenge.”

Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative added, “Nothing about today’s decision will stop our decades-long fight to end the racist abuse of the TIF program by the City of Chicago. We are going to continue to pursue both our legal and legislative options to stop the abuse of the program. We hope that the Lightfoot administration will join with us in the push for TIF reform instead of fighting us. We continue to call on her administration to hold hearings on the TIF program in the low-income neighborhoods that the TIF program was originally intended to help.” “The $1.3 billion mega-TIF for Lincoln Yards is a perfect example of how our broken TIF system takes public funds away from families in under-resourced communities who need the most support, particularly hurting people of color,” stated Jennie Biggs with Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education. “Our public schools can’t afford for these abuses to continue. Inaction on this issue is not an option.”

A Budget to #ReimagineChicago for 2020 and Beyond

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For the past decade, Chicago has displaced and over-policed Black and Brown families, and starved the city’s working people of the resources they need to live and thrive. Black, Brown and working families overpay through a discriminatory use of fines, fees, and property taxes while corporate developers receive massive handouts for projects that displace residents.

Which is why community and labor organizations have come together with progressive aldermen to release a series of proposals for the 2020 city budget calling for $1.9 billion in new spending, $700 million in divestments, and $4.9 billion in new progressive revenue from requiring the wealthiest and large corporations to pay their fair share.

The proposal comes on the heels of ten aldermen pledging to vote only for a budget that invests in public services, divests from developers and failed policing, and taxes the rich. Working together, aldermen and community groups have prepared concrete proposals, a month before Mayor Lightfoot will deliver her budget address to City Council and are prepared to bargain together to win a budget that serves working families.

Download a A Budget to ReimagineChicago here

 

 

Huge TIF Revenues Sign of Program’s Failure Not Success

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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

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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.”

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