LEGISLATION: Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: City Council keeping info in TIF funds in black hole

Here’s an editorial in today’s Sun-Times.Chicago Sun-Times: City Council keeping info in TIF funds in black holewww.suntimes.com/news/commentary/1488786,CST-EDT-edit22b….March 22, 2009It was a modest proposal. Two aldermen, Manny Flores and Scott Waguespack, suggested shedding some light on the city’s TIF district deals by putting information on the Internet.TIF stands for tax increment financing, but as we have explained before, this is what they really are: Mayor Daley’s private piggy bank.TIF districts allow the mayor to use hundreds of millions of dollars in property tax money to pay for what he’d like done in the city, with little oversight.When the City Council sets up a TIF district, it siphons all the property tax money that’s generated for the next 23 years from rising property values or new development into a TIF fund. That’s money that would normally go to schools, parks and other taxing bodies.TIF money is supposed to foster redevelopment in neighborhoods, but, of course, there’s always a question of which developers get the money and under what terms.The two aldermen wanted to put much of that information in one easy-to-find Web location for all to see.At a Council committee hearing, Dan O’Neil, a representative of EveryBlock.com, which publishes nifty information such as local crimes and restaurant inspections, offered to help the city get the information out — for free.The matter was put on hold.For more study.This from a City Council that can approve a $1.2 billion deal to lease the city’s parking meters after about an hour of debate.The aldermen’s suggestion was nothing earth-shattering.But the Council’s reaction speaks volumes about their cynical attitude toward open government.