WRITING: “Chicago’s First Attempt At TIF Sunshine Falls Short”on Progress Illinois

Today Progress Illinois published an article that I co-wrote with Max Brooks: Chicago’s First Attempt At TIF Sunshine Falls Short. Here’s a snip:

The Projects section typically has a project name with supporting documents linked beneath. Document types include:

Redevelopment Agreements

These are often simply copies of the relevant pages from the City Council Journal of Proceedings on the day the agreements were approved. They can be very repetitive, sometimes containing three complete copies of the document in each PDF. The key bits in these documents are the budgets, project descriptions, and sources of financing. Again, they lack useful detail. Example: Schedule C of the CNA Financial Corporation Redevelopment Agreement notes $24,204,899 in “TIF-FUNDED IMPROVEMENTS” to cover “costs for rehabilitation, reconstruction, or repair or remodeling of existing public or private buildings.” That’s a lot of money for so little specificity.

Community Development Commission Staff Report

These are pretty beefy documents with tons of research about a particular issue. For instance, this one covers the problem of excess leasing space in the CNA building. Apparently CNA had threatened to relocate out of town, and this document lays out the case for giving CNA money to redevelop and lease the property. Again, some plain-language summary would be appropriate here. Instead of just posting these documents and letting people guess what happened after the money was spent, it would be nice to pull the story together. For instance, the Chicago Housing Authority ended up being a major tenant of this building, but you have to go somewhere else to figure that out.

Economic Disclosure Statement

These are some Holy Grail documents right here — they lay out the roles and relationships of key people associated with a TIF redevelopment agreement. They also happen to be the most difficult documents to feed into an OCR scanner in the hopes of getting usable text. The documents are images of photocopies of form documents with the answers (names, companies, relationships, etc.) hand-typed with typewriters. (If anyone is interested in doing a reverse-Facebook on these people, mapping relationships, that might be worthwhile.)

Certificate of Completion

These are documents — not very useful ones — certifying that the project is “complete” from a legal point of view. In the future, it might be worthwhile to ask certain questions of the CDC (what goal did the project achieve, who got paid how much for what, etc.) once a document like this hits the site.