Money for Blighted Neighborhoods Pushed to Chicago Tourist Attraction
$55 million dollars of Chicago TIF money were spent on the city's Navy Pier. "The bookkeeping jiujitsu appears to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the controversial tax-increment financing program, which critics say has been widely abused and not used for its intended purpose of spurring development in or near economically disadvantaged neighborhoods," John Chase and Danny Ecker report for Better Government.
These funds, which were supposed to be for a hotel project within the boundaries of the TIF district, went to Navy Pier, but Chas and Ecker report that "[e]mails and internal documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that officials at the city as well as the governing body of the lakefront convention complex knew the planned 1,205-room Marriott didn’t need the financing."
For the administration’s part, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel says, "The $55 million was properly allocated for the hotel project within the confines of a TIF district." Emails uncovered through the freedom of information act dispute this claim.