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Nicole Goodrich/MEDILL

'Corporate Welfare Tour' calls for TIF reform

by Nicole Goodrich
Oct 12, 2011

Groups of tourists in the Loop are a familiar sight. But on Wednesday, one group was looking at the buildings for a different reason.

Protesters were looking at offices of corporations that received TIF money.

The protesters want the city to put unspent TIF money back in the budget to help close the deficit.

Members of the Grassroots Collaborative and other Chicago community and labor organizations gathered downtown Wednesday for what they called a “corporate welfare tour,” meant to highlight the need for the proposed Responsible Budget Ordinance.

Protesters began the tour with a press conference outside City Hall. Some then boarded a trolley and others marched to the Chicago Board of Trade, MillerCoors headquarters, Willis Tower and United Airlines offices. At each stop, they held protests.

“Mayor Emanuel is about to give his budget address this morning and we’re here to tell him to end corporate welfare,” the Rev. Steven Vance, member of the Grassroots Cooperative, said to a group of about 100 protesters.

The protesters want the city to pass the ordinance, which Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) introduced at the Oct. 5 city council meeting. The proposal, if passed, would require all TIF districts with unallocated budgets of more than $5 million to give half the unallocated amount back to taxing bodies such as schools, parks and libraries.

“TIFs are taxpayer dollars,” Waguespack said in a statement. “They aren’t corporate funds. It is not funds for businesses that say if you don’t give us this money we’re going to move out of town. It’s for the neighborhoods.”

More than $850 million was left unallocated at the end of 2010. Emanuel’s budget declares a 20 percent TIF surplus, totaling $60 million.

Protestors say that $60 million is not enough. They say the stops on their tour received a combined $56 million in TIF money.

“The mayor has no right to sit on top of that money,” Vance said. “TIF money is our money. In a time of need, why should the mayor insist on leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in a slush fund?”

The protest is part of Take Back Chicago, the group that organized Monday’s march in the Loop. The group calls Wednesday “Take Back Our Schools” day in its “Week of Action.”

Michelle Torres, who lives in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, said the Responsible Budget Ordinance would put money back in the schools in her community.

“Mayor Emanuel, how can you just sit there on hundreds of millions of TIF funs when my children don’t even get music, art, computer or recess,” Torres asked. “How can you sleep knowing that’s happening?”