From NPR via Capitol Fax:
NPR Illinois: Your office has one initiative, House Bill 571, which would call for municipalities…to report more details about tax increment financing districts. Could you just first tell me a little bit about what that bill would accomplish? And also because such a big portion of education dollars are wrapped up in property taxes, do you believe that school districts should have a say on whether a TIF is created in their district or whether or not their dollars should be allocated to go towards a TIF, especially since not all TIFs, you know, lead to a return on investment?
Susana Mendoza: Well, look, I feel that transparency has been the hallmark of my administration, and I think that it’s also the road to restoring trust in government.
When people believe that all of the decisions related to their school district or in any environment, right, are done behind closed doors without input by the people that are actually toiling away at this endeavor, it creates distrust and animosity towards the process…
What happens is that all of these dollars are being generated and districts are missing out on money because it’s going to investments on potential job creation or economic development.
But we’ve also seen that a lot of, they’re supposed to be going to blighted areas, and a lot of these TIF dollars are not in what we would consider by any stretch of the imagination blighted areas.
The other issue with the TIFs is that, interestingly enough, the developers are the ones who choose the consultants who determine whether or not this TIF is meeting its expected goals or deliverables in a return on investment for those tax dollars. Which is an inherent conflict of interest…
So, we decided to at the very least, as part of our big reform here, is that the city would be responsible for choosing their consultant because they want somebody who will advocate for the city’s position here, not the developer’s position in this deal.
Of course, the consultant’s always going to say, “This is going to pay off great in 10 years,” and it usually never does, right?
So moving forward, these TIFs will have a lot more transparency and they’re going to have to report to my office whether or not they’ve met their deliverables and what their expectations are for meeting them, their timeline, and most importantly the city will now have a vested interest in choosing a consultant that will make sure that these deliverables are legitimate.
And then that gives the constituency a much greater voice.