Our Presentation from Everything You Need to Know About TIFs

On Tuesday, January 29, 2019, we joined our friends at Chicagoans United for Equity (CUE), Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights (CLCCR), and Blocks Together for an event, Everything You Need to Know About TIFs.

Below is our presentation (with photos and many links) given by our part time parent organizer, Huu Nguyen. You can find video of the entire event here

RYH/RYHA TIF Campaigns Since 2010


Raise Your Hand (RYH) and Raise Your Hand Action (RYHA) have been calling for TIF reform since our inception in 2010. When TIFs are created, property taxes are diverted from the schools, parks and other taxing bodies and the increment in these areas are held in accounts for 23 years. Taxes are then raised on the whole city to make up for the loss to meet the tax levies. TIFs were created to spur development in blighted areas, but Chicago has abused them greatly and ⅓ of the city is now in a TIF district, and mostly in our most affluent areas. This amounts to a secret tax hike with a highly inequitable outcome of further developing already wealthy areas.


2010 First TIF surplus return campaign: RYH started. CPS was facing a list of monumental cuts and a threat of increased class size to 37 students. We realized we needed to hit both the state and the city for revenue. Our first campaign was around state funding and our second campaign was around TIF reform.

We delivered 5,000 letters and emails to Mayor Daley in 2010 and won the first-ever TIF surplus which returned roughly $95M to CPS.

Chicago Tribune: Daley proposes using TIF funds to help balance budget


Details about the campaign:

RYH website: Mayor Daley Proposes Use Of TIF Surplus In City Budget – $90 Million To CPS

The Raise Your Hand Coalition has worked hard to illuminate the TIF issue. This has historically been an off-limits topic with Mayor Daley. When RYH first broached the TIF topic with political insiders, CPS officials and others, many believed that although it was a bold endeavor, they doubted our ability to have any impact. Well, we proved them wrong!


Since 2011, we have worked with community organizations almost every year on campaigns to demand return of the TIF surplus to the taxing bodies.


2013 TIF Squads opposing DePaul Arena: Worked in coalition with many groups around Chicago opposing use of TIF for the DePaul basketball stadium. Formed “TIF Squads” by ward to pressure individual alderman to support return of the surplus

DNAinfo: CPS Budget Cuts: Parent Group Calls on City to Return TIF Money



Opposing use of $55M for DePaul basketball stadium:

DNAinfo: CPS Closings: Protesters Slam Plan For New DePaul Arena Amid Budget Cuts



There was so much pressure and noise, the mayor ended up changing course and using the TIF funds for the Marriott hotel around the corner. But then, from a BGA investigation, we learned that he really used the funds for Navy Pier—in a major TIF shell game move.

Crain’s: How city power players diverted millions in blight-fighting TIF cash to Navy Pier

2015 Cancel Obama Prep: RYH opposed the construction of another selective enrollment high school on the north side, “Obama Prep”, with $60M of TIF funds for building it (no allowance for operating costs)---near two other SE high schools and across the river from a resource-deprived neighborhood high school that was fighting to increase its enrollment and get funding for an athletic field. This was a more than year-long campaign to demand that they cancel Obama Prep and return $30M to the CPS operating budget. In Oct 2016, we won, and they announced that the school wouldn’t be built.

Sun-Times: Elite high school once known as 'Obama Prep' put off by CPS deal


2016 TIF Surplus Ordinance: Pushed for a more permanent solution: an ordinance that would require automatic return of the TIF surplus in years when CPS’s budget is in “distress” 

DNAInfo: Aldermen Clash Over Diverting TIF Surpluses To Chicago Public Schools

DNAInfo: CPS Parents Ushered Out Of Council Chambers As TIF Ordinance Stalls


Present: Lincoln Yards/The 78

The city is attempting to fast track two Mega-TIFs in the amount of $2.4B before the current Mayor leaves office. This will lead to taxes being raised on citizens across the whole city to pay for subsidies for private development for Lincoln Park (Lincoln Yards) and the South Loop (The 78) neighborhoods. Both of these would be the largest-ever TIF giveaways in the history of Chicago, at a time when equitable investment in our neighborhoods is needed most. 

For Lincoln Yards alone, CPS agreed to forego $477M over 23 years so that Sterling Bay could have this money to develop in Lincoln Park.


What you can do now:

Call your alderman and tell them to #RejectTheMegaTIFs and vote no when a vote occurs in the city council.

Find your alderman here.

Tell her/him:

--You oppose raising taxes on all of Chicago to pay for private development for Lincoln Yards and The 78.

---These areas are not blighted and don’t meet the “but not for the TIF definition.”

--The city needs equitable spending on development. We don’t need to use public dollars to encourage developers to build in Lincoln Park.

--The way Chicago is abusing the TIF program needs to end. TIFs are a secret tax hike.



More Action Steps here, plus, find the above flyer as a downloadable & printable pdf.