With Mayor Emanuel’s TIF panel looking into the program’s effectiveness, AustinTalks examines its impact in a community with the seventh-highest unemployment rate in the nation – and finds it falling far short.
Only four TIF projects have been authorized for Austin; only one – relocation of a Coca Cola warehouse – has met the terms of its TIF agreement; and that project has employed just 28 people who live in or near Austin, according to a report by Ellyn Fortino.
More than half of the 200 TIF projects authorized since 2000 are located downtown (as Fortino and ChicagoTalks staff previously reported in the New York Times). “Few if any projects can be found in Chicago’s most blighted communities on the West and South Sides,” Fortino writes in today’s report. “And many of those projects haven’t been completed at all – if started.”
Of $22 million in TIF subsidies allocated for Austin, “only $1.4 million has been paid out – most of it for the Coca Cola distribution center,” Fortino reports. That’s out of $1.2 billion citywide.
That project is “a prime example of how low-income neighborhoods in TIF districts don’t get what they deserve,” with property taxes diverted from public services to benefit big corporations, one activist tells AustinTalks. It’s “legalized corruption,” says Dwayne Truss of the South Austin Coalition.
As for those other TIF projects in Austin, “no one in the Department of Housing and Economic Development, which oversees the TIF program, could shed light on why the three other projects are incomplete,” Fortino writes in a sidebar.
David Orr recently offered suggestions for Emanuel’s TIF panel, focusing on recapturing funding for schools and other public bodies. Newstips recently reviewed a range of proposals for TIF reform.