On Thursday the Peoples Church, 941 W. Lawrence Ave., is scheduled to host a presentation about 46th Ward TIF districts, followed by a discussion to address concerns and questions attendees might have about the nearly $500 million in property taxes channeled into the city's TIF coffers every year.
The group behind the event, the CivicLab, is an organization of activists and researchers analyzing Chicago's TIF districts ward-by-ward. Its founder, Tom Tresser, is a community organizer who helped lead the "No Games Chicago," anti-Olympic games effort a few years ago.
"The idea is to look at TIFs on a ward-by-ward basis. That's never been done before. And it's impossible to do with the data that's available on the city's website," Tresser explained. "You can't find information that we think people need to access to understand TIFs at the local level. You can't sort by community area or by ward, which we think is odd."
The 46th Ward includes five TIF districts. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2013 budget nixed the Lakeside/Clarendon TIF district, but that didn't stop a private hospital from launching a multi-million dollar expansion effort there.
On Thursday the TIF Illumination project will use the latest data to show residents how much property taxes went into TIFs in their ward in recent years, how much TIF investment the ward has received, what projects were funded and what entities received funds.
Tresser said its important for residents to ask questions about "who decides who to give TIF money to, and on what basis?; and "why should private businesses get public money, if we're so broke in Chicago?"
Chicago uses TIF districts as a redevelopment tool that often pays subsidies to private developers and firms and has been criticized for not being used to the benefit of Chicago's most vulnerable populations.
In an interview with DNAinfo Chicago, Tresser blasted JDL Development's $32 million request for TIF dollars to build luxury housing by the lakefront in Uptown's Montrose/Clarendon TIF district.
"There is still the fundamental question of why do you have to give my property tax dollars to a for-profit company to do something they would do anyway?" said Tresser.
For more information about Thursday's forum, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (773) 572-9023. Organizers also have a Facebook page.