Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TIFing it Up

One of the issues in Moore's FUD mailer about Brian's Top Secret plan was the TIF, and I wanted to address that separately.

First of all, I am not opposed to affordable housing.  Most of us are one or two paychecks (or pension payments) away from disaster.  And that disaster may actually be closer than we think.  Ensuring that folks have a safe, decent place to live is something that all of us should care about.  It could be you that needs that space.  How we provide that space and also make sure that the residents have a stake in its upkeep is always the challenge.  There are members of my family who might benefit from access to affordable housing, assuming they meet the income guidelines.

Lakeside Community Development Corporation and Northside POWER got behind the notion of a TIF to provide funding for rental property owners to bring their property up to code, weatherize/insulate, and generally modernize their property, provided they also maintained a specific number of apartments as affordable housing for a period of time.  The general proposals can be found here.

Joe Moore was approached for his support, and here the story varies with the teller.  According to Northside he agreed to support it, then basically backpedaled and stonewalled.  Joe claims that he  wanted confirmation of broad community support from the beginning and proposed a task force to that end.  He says he never got what he wanted/needed from the TIF proponents.  This went on for over a year.  Finally, in 2010 things started coming to a head.

In November 2010 Joe started up an Affordable Housing Task Force.  I was a member.  Lakeside and Northside were invited to send representatives and both declined.  I got feedback that the task force was seen as just another example of stalling and bad faith by Moore.  Northside sent emails to the Task Force members extolling the support they had in hand and claiming that some organizations had agreed to not publicly oppose the TIF.  You can read the details here.  They weren't satisfied with the responses they got and sent out another round of emails to those of us who did respond.  Rebuffed is the kindest word I can use to describe the response to Northside.

Meanwhile, Lakeside had obtained a grant to conduct a pre-eligibility study of the TIF.  That study appeared in January of this year.  It was on the agenda at the Northside POWER Martin Luther King celebration.  Brian White was a speaker.  Northside said Joe declined to appear.  I was told Joe was told by Northside he would not be allowed to speak unless he agreed to publicly support the TIF.  Joe was not going to do that and was MIA from the event.  He had an operative handing out a letter to the attendees that detailed Joe's position.  This is the point where I get annoyed.

The purpose of the Affordable Housing Task Force was to look at the TIF/RIF proposal and make a recommendation to Joe about whether he should support it.  We had two meetings.  The second meeting was at the HOW office on Howard in December.  We knew then that the pre-eligibility study was coming, and soon.  We expressed an interest in reviewing it before offering up any feedback to Joe.  We also expressed a concern about duplicate effort since Partners for Rogers Park also has housing on their radar.  I got the email about Joe’s decision before I saw the results of the study.  Joe did not convene the Task Force to discuss the study first.  In fact, we have not met since the last meeting.  There was one Task Force member from A Just Harvest's board, and he would have seen the study, but not through the Task Force.

In my opinion, Joe Moore made a mockery of his own Task Force, which he convened with all the solemn righteousness of a Solomon trying to be fair.  He wanted community input he said, and we represented many aspects of that community.  I drank the Kool-aid.  Fortunately the effects are not permanent.  When the rubber hit the road, he didn't have the courtesy to share the study results with the Task Force, or tell us he had made a decision so we were no longer needed.  In Brian's response to Joe's letter he makes it clear that information was shared with Joe, including information about the costs of a future study, which Joe did not reference in his letter.  I can't react to that other than to say at this point it wouldn't surprise me at all if Joe left out pertinent information.

I know Brian invested a lot of time on the TIF, and I know that Northside expects nothing less than unequivocal support.  However, in a response to a critique by Westgard, Brian acknowledges what the Task Force also realized; this will be a long slow process.  It won't happen overnight if Brian is elected, and it may not look like it does today if it goes forward to implementation.  Joe's FUD mailer overlooks that point as all good FUD mailers would.  A FUD mailer is not going to say anything that would let the other guy look at all reasonable.

The entire conversation about the TIF has been marked by distortions on the part of everyone involved, and a failure on the part of its supporters to devise and execute a marketing process that would mitigate the excesses that any thinking person would have foreseen.  The push-back from the Task Force members to the Northside emails were a shot across the bow and should have been taken seriously.  Instead, I got feedback that there are parties in Northside who are prepared to go eyeball to eyeball with Moore.  A showdown can work, but it helps to have control of the venue and the timing.  Northside, and Brian, lose on those points.  Moore is framing the issue via FUD mailers and the stealth flyer with the result that the TIF becomes Brian and Brian becomes the TIF.  It didn't have to be that way.  If Brian wins, it will be interesting if he lives up to his commitment to get a TIF ordinance introduced by mid-2012, and how he manages his constituents' expectations if he can't.

For his part, Joe has demonstrated that whatever he learned in the 2007 election, it doesn't include how to take the high road in a campaign.  The FUD mailers are purely FUD and the stealth flyer is as hypocritical as it can get.  I said before that he was sending out glossy mailers extolling his virtues, which were as good a sales job as any candidate's.  He could have stuck to that strategy and mopped the floor with Brian.  He easily has 10x Brian's money to begin with.  Instead, he reverts to 2007 Joe and it shows.  The fact that he effectively dissed his own Task Force makes me wonder why anyone would bother to trust him in the first place.  It's not hard to understand why Northside and Brian believe Joe has been duplicitous, all his pious hand-wringing at the November Task Force meeting notwithstanding.  If Joe wins, it will be interesting to see what happens with the TIF, and how Northside and Joe deal with each other in the process.

At this point the FUD mailers are done, I think, and the election is around the corner.  I don't know if the TIF will be a huge driver in the voters decision making.  There is one more forum to be held on Saturday at the Rogers Park Library that may yet shed some light.  My schedule will let me go to this one.

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