Rahm Emanuel, the newly elected fiscally conservative mayor of Chicago, wants to “overhaul” that city’s tax-increment financing program, which he says “morphed from a tool for blighted economic communities into an all-purpose vehicle.” TIF was first used in Chicago by Mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s, whose goal was to help blighted neighborhoods.
Critics say that the second Mayor Daley, however, used TIF as a “private slush fundâ€ to reward developers and punish disobedient aldermen. Chicago’s 180 TIF districts cover nearly a third of the city and siphon $500 million a year away from schools and other programs.
Some Chicago aldermen want to completely abolish TIF. Emanuel isn’t willing to go that far, but may be willing to exempt schools from TIF and strengthen the definition of what is blighted. He still thinks TIF can be used to improve truly blighted neighborhoods, perhaps by hiring more police to reduce crime in those neighborhoods.