Is TIF Reform on the Horizon?

Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel's TIF Task Force released their recommendations for how to improve the transparency and accountability of TIFs in Chicago.

Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel’s TIF Task Force released their recommendations for how to improve the transparency and accountability of TIFs in Chicago. The full report can be found here.

Overall, I am impressed with their recommendations. These recommendations, if implemented properly, would increase accountability for TIF spending by establishing clear goals and performance monitoring, increase oversight and expectations, and ensure that TIF funds are being used for their intended purpose with an inherent public benefit.What an exciting notion!

Ultimately, whether or not these recommendations make TIFs more efficient, transparent, and accountable will rely almost entirely on their implementation. The proof will be in the pudding.

Here are the six overarching recommendations:

“1. Establish the City’s TIF Goals. The Mayor’s Office should develop a multiyear Economic Development Plan that is then submitted to the City Council for consideration. The Economic Development Plan should guide all future TIF district designations and project allocations.

2. Allocate Resources. The City should create a multi-year Capital Budget that is then submitted to City Council for consideration. The Capital Budget should detail the funding of City infrastructure needs, including those articulated in the Economic Development Plan. All TIF infrastructure allocations and porting decisions should be made in accordance with the Capital Budget.

3. Monitor Performance. The City should establish metrics for its use of TIF. These metrics will be used to benchmark (1) TIF district and project performance in aggregate; (2) alignment with the Economic Development TIF Reform Panel Report Plan; (3) achievement of district-specific goals appropriate for district type (i.e., industrial, commercial, residential or mixed use); (4) programmatic characteristics (TIF-NIP, TIFWorks, SBIF, etc.) and (5) project-specific characteristics. The City should compile data for and report on these metrics on a regular basis.

4. Increase Accountability. The City should make the justification for public funding of private projects more explicit, monitor projects more systematically to ensure recipients of TIF funding meet their obligations and ensure there are consequences for not delivering expected returns on public investment.

5. Take Action. The City should set and manage to performance thresholds for districts and projects. Every five years TIF districts should be subject to strategic reviews which lead to continuation of the district, revision of the district strategy or more significant change.

6. Enhance Oversight and Administration. The Mayor should empower an internal body with clear accountability for all aspects of TIF, and ensure that the staff and organizational capacity exist to execute recommendations and provide effective oversight.”

To read more, visit Chicago News Cooperative’s “Ready for TIF Reform?”


Celeste Meiffren-Swango

State Director, Environment Oregon

As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.