Oak Park to consider removing mayor, trustee businesses from TIF district

Move aims to prevent conflict lawsuit for future high-rise vote

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

What started as a routine overview of the business connections of newly elected Oak Park trustees, has turned into a proposed reworking of the boundaries of Oak Park's Downtown Tax Increment Finance District.

The village board was scheduled to debate the proposal, and one that would amend the ethics code, at its board meeting scheduled for May 22, but the item was tabled until the June 5 meeting.

The request to table the agenda item was brought by Trustee Bob Tucker.

"There's a lot of information here and I think a lot of things to consider," he said. "I think I'll need more information on this, and I think we need to present a real clear idea of what's going on with these so we can all be informed and vote accordingly."

Earlier this month, the village began reviewing business ownership and connections of newly elected trustees to educate them on potential conflicts of interest when casting votes on issues in the village.

It was determined at that time that trustee Jim Taglia, who was appointed trustee earlier this year to fill a vacancy on the board, could face a potential conflict of interest when voting on issues within the Downtown Tax Increment Finance District, a special taxation district that is set to expire at the end of next year.

Taglia's ownership of Red Mango, a frozen yogurt shop at 1044 W. Lake St., which lies within the TIF District, could prevent him from voting on any issue connected to that TIF. But further legal review of the district by village staff revealed that Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb's restaurant Maya Del Sol, 144 S. Oak Park Ave., also is in the Downtown TIF.

This potential conflict of interest could prevent both elected officials from voting on the controversial proposal for a new residential high-rise at the corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue among other issues.

The downtown TIF has been amended multiple times over the years most recently earlier this decade as part of a legal settlement after a lawsuit brought by District 200, Oak Park and River Forest High School. As a result, only the Colt development on Lake Street and the Vantage building, also on Lake, remain as tax increment generating parcels in the much larger TIF. All other properties in the expansive TIF have been "carved out" meaning the property taxes collected are now passed directly through to each local taxing bodies. The carve outs include the sites of Maya del Sol and Red Mango.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees aims to remove the perceived conflict by approving an ordinance that "amends the TIF map by removing property owned or leased by elected officials (along with surrounding properties for simplicity) to visually show that neither the Red Mango nor Maya Del Sol remains in the TIF," according to an overview of the ordinance.

The ordinance aims to "provide clarity to the public and staff that these properties cannot benefit whatsoever from the increment generated by the Downtown TIF," according to the village.

Another proposed ordinance amends the section of the village code that deals with "conflicts of interest and ethics" to "provide legal certainty that village elected or appointed officers or employees who maintain an interest in the carved-out parcels" [namely Red Mango and Maya Del Sol] "are not in conflict with the TIF Act or the village code."

The village proposes an alternative measure to adjusting the map and code of ethics by dissolving the TIF entirely prior to its current scheduled dissolution on Dec. 31, 2018. "This would eliminate the capture of any TIF increment from either the Vantage Development or Emerson Development, the only two properties in the TIF which can generate increment for economic development eligible expenditures and it would eliminate the use of TIF increment in the amount of $1.8 million in tax levy year 2017 and $1.8 million in tax levy year 2018 for infrastructure debt service," according to the village.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

* This article was updated to include information about the agenda item being held by the board of trustees until their June 5 meeting.

Reader Comments

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Neal Buer  

Posted: December 15th, 2017 11:25 PM

We have started an Oak Park Tax Watch group on Facebook, and would like you all to join.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 9:42 PM

Jim Coughlin: No they cannot vote on the change, the Village Attorney already laid that out. The three new Trustees hold all the power at the moment as to who gets their vote back. Abu-Taleb plays fast and loose, and they should learn from the master. The next step might be for Abu-Taleb to try to dissolve the TIF early. But then Taglia still has the potential conflict of interest with regard to a consumer business on the same block as a new potential residential complex with lots of customers.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 7:56 PM

Will Abu-Taleb and Taglia be allowed to vote on the proposed change?

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 4:29 PM

The MO seems to be: If the law doesn't allow me to do what I want to do, then we change the law!...Surprising? No. Disappointing? Yes.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 1:52 PM

Here's the situation the Village attorney is worried about, from the Illinois Attorney General's Office Informal Opinion #23 from 2008: "Subsection 11-74.4-4(n) of the Illinois Municipal Code prohibits city council members who own property located in an existing redevelopment project area from voting on or taking any other official action in connection with matters concerning a redevelopment plan, a redevelopment project, or the redevelopment project area, unless one of the statutory exceptions applies. 65 ILCS 5/11-74.4-4(n)". That's the concern, and the citation at the end is the statute, which can be Googled and read.

Nick Polido  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 1:30 PM

Wondering how many overdue books did he have and where any of his late fees paid?

Matt Fruth  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 11:32 AM

I am wondering how many votes about this TIF district have occurred under Village President Abu-Taleb's tenure?

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 10:51 AM

The full board will vote before Taglia Anan made a decision. The days of the president making all the decisions without discussion is over!

David Gulbransen  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 9:09 AM

This _is_ a pretty blatant attempt to alter both the TIF and the ethics rules to benefit two specific members of the Board--which is disturbing. I know it's fashionable to ignore ethics in the current political climate, but surely Oak Park can do better. Remember, the Board Trustees serve "at large" not by district, so if Abu-Taleb and Tadlia are not able to vote on projects which they have a *blatant* conflict of interest in, no one in Oak Park is losing representation--the five remaining Trustees are capable of voting on those issues without them just fine, and then there is *no* appearance of impropriety. These ordinances address a "problem" that doesn't exist.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 7:52 AM

It shouldn't matter at all how any of the trustees - even those recently elected - feel about the Albion project. Even if they support the project, they should still vote to prevent Taglia and Abu-Taleb from voting on an issue where even the Village Attorney notes there is a conflict of interest. The project will pass, without the votes of Taglia and Abu-Taleb, with affirmative votes by any three of the remaining trustees.

Nick Polido  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 6:06 AM

Maybe some day you might write a story on real conflict of interest.... http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/illinois-state-senator-don-harmon-law-firm-makes-millions-from-state-agencies-pension-funds-the-watchdogs-oak-park/

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 12:23 AM

MATTERS TABLED: FOR NOW. These matters (removing Taglia's and Abu Taleb's properties from the Downtown TIF, and changing an Ethics Ordinance) were moved to the June 5 agenda (tabled to another date certain).via a successful motion by Trustee Tucker, unanimously passed. He cited a need for more info and analysis. Folks, welcome to the world of parliamentary maneuver. If the proposed ordinances had passed, Taglia and Abu-Taleb could have tried to remove conflict of interest issues re Albion. If the three newly elected Trustees don't like Albion as structured, why should they let Taglia and Abu-Taleb out of their trap? Be Machiavellian, and keep them locked in it. The Village Attorney has apparently told Taglia and Abu-Taleb that they must recuse themselves on these related issues for now. If the three newly elected Trustees (Moroney, Andrews & Boutet) oppose Albion as structured, they can defeat Trustees Tucker and Button., and Albion is dead. They have two weeks to think about it. As the Italians say, "Revenge is a dish best tasted cold".

Roy Hlavacek from oak park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 6:30 PM

TIF district deserves further discussion and review before customizing for current officials.

Tom Gull from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 5:46 PM

Hmmm, I think the VMA brought up this issue in the past two elections.

Richard Holland  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 5:04 PM

When are we going to collectively get tired of this approach and put a stop to it?

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 3:45 PM

This is a cynical attempt to exempt Da'Mayor and Taglia from their ethical obligations. Both should either divest their holdings or resign. Oak Park does not need to slip further down the road of crony politics.

David Gulbransen  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 3:29 PM

A Special Board meeting, called on *Friday* to barely meet the notice requirements, all to pass ordinances that *specifically* target *two* *current* members of the Board. Oh, sure, nothing fishy about that!

Al Rossell  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 3:23 PM

They still have a conflict, particularly Red Mango as it is a benefactor of the increased density and probably more yogurt sales. This is just a smoke screen. Quite frankly, they should be excused from the vote. It is quite apparent to me they have their mind set on approving this next tower and are just making sure their T's are crossed.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 2:40 PM

That village board meeting tonight at 7, is going to be interesting...bring your popcorn.

Jolyn Crawford  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 2:15 PM

Great idea!

Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 2:04 PM

Get rid of the TIFs.

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