Legal fees from Oak Park TIF dispute now total $424,075

Three-way lawsuit to mediation next week

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Oak Park's village hall and the two local school districts have been battling it out over money in court for more than a year. And since February 2010, the three taxing bodies have racked up $424,075 in legal fees.

The numbers on that meter will keep spinning next week, as village hall, Oak Park and River Forest High School, and elementary school District 97 plan to sit in front of an independent mediator. There, Julia Nowicki will charge $500 an hour, trying to help the three sides resolve the longstanding dispute.

Village Manager Tom Barwin says it won't be a moment too soon.

"I'll just be glad when it's over," he said. "It's probably the most disappointing and inexplicable situation I've ever bumped up against in 30 years of public administration."

Mediation is slated for Wednesday, June 22, in Nowicki's offices in the Loop. Village Attorney Ray Heise expects the powwow to take all day, and be attended by the head administrators, lawyers, financial officers and two elected officials representing each governmental body. The meeting is closed to the public and officials were unsure when taxpayers might find out the results.

OPRF first sued village hall in February 2010, in a dispute over how much the village allegedly owes the high school from its controversial downtown Oak Park tax increment financing district. The TIF district was set to expire several years ago, but the village and schools inked a deal in 2003 to extend its life to 2018.

While the village and District 97 long ago came to a financial deal on the TIF, the elementary schools were added as a defendant in the lawsuit last summer, since it also signed the 2003 agreement.

The three sides have been loath to publicly discuss the details of the dispute, as they've agreed to try and resolve things in private and away from media glare. But recent court filings shed some light on what the three sides are fighting over.

Oak Park started its downtown tax increment financing district in 1983. The TIF is a fund created by freezing property taxes at a certain level and using future tax revenues above that amount for development and infrastructure projects in a designated area.

As part of the 2003 TIF extension, Oak Park was supposed to "carve" properties out of the TIF each year, funneling their property taxes back to the schools and other taxing bodies. But OPRF says the village failed to make those carve outs in 2007 to 2009, amounting to at least another $50,000 owed to the school.

And OPRF says in court documents that, under the agreement, if property values in downtown Oak Park grew more than originally predicted, the high school should get a cut, amounting to about $1.5 million. The high school also believes that the TIF improperly collected more than it should have, after OPRF raised taxes in 2005, resulting in another $528,000 allegedly owed.

On the other side, the village says in court documents that OPRF's referendum was passed in 2002, before the TIF was renewed, and thus, the village doesn't owe the $528,000. And Oak Park argues that the contract gave the village the option of paying out cash, rather than carving out properties. Such a practice is more beneficial to District 97, since it doesn't lose state funding when it collects cash from the TIF.

"D97 has a very clear opinion that they prefer cash," said Craig Lesner, Oak Park's chief financial officer. He said the village decided to stop making carve outs in 2007.

District 97 board President Peter Barber could not be reached for comment on Monday. In an emailed statement, Superintendent Al Roberts said he's looking forward to trying to settle the lawsuit out of court (the district has spent $47,721 in legal fees).

"We continue to contend that talking about it outside the courtroom is the most prudent, timely and fiscally responsible way to resolve it," Roberts said.

OPRF Superintendent Steven Isoye declined to comment on the particulars of the suit, but said he, too, hopes mediation helps bring things to an end.

"We're heading into mediation in hopes that this will be the point at which we'll be able to settle," Isoye said.

OPRF Board President Dee Millard could not be reached for comment Monday. The school has spent $132,827 on legal fees related to the dispute.

Village hall has spent the most, though, at $245,527. Officials say the large tally is because it's a highly specialized arena of law, and it requires much more time and manpower to defend yourself in court, rather than being the plaintiff.

Village President David Pope said village hall would discuss the lawsuit in any forum that doesn't involve wasting "buckets and buckets of taxpayer dollars on lawyers."

"This should have been resolved with reasonable and rational people sitting down at a table and working through it," he said. "It's a profound waste of public resources."

Reader Comments

147 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 6:11 PM

Many people, hearing Oak Park mentioned, think "Historic Oak Park - Wright and Hemingway." Our "leaders" seem to want to brand Oak Park as a diluted version of Wicker Park/Bucktown or a "lifestyle mall" with fewer stores and less parking. The CVB depends on Village and business funding; they've always supported massive redevelopment and gentrification.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 6:06 PM

So, TIFs work and all new projects (or failures thereof) are good because you say so. I ask for facts. I get empty rhetoric. As for tourism, why is it that very few of the 80,000 annual visitors to the FLW Home and Studio go anywhere else in Oak Park? Why did Oak Park so vigorously reject the National Trust Main Street Program that's worked so many other places (including Forest Park)? How come the Heritage Tourism plan commissioned by a previous Village Board has vanished?

Lee  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 4:11 PM

Oh Gary you know nothing about tourism or the CVB. Stop pretending you know what thu do or even their name and move along before you get embarrassed again about how little you know.

OP  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:46 PM

TIF's are and have been a very useful tool in economic development. Think of it as a piggy bank to build good things that have better return than what they replace.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:26 PM

So, increasing the tax base, which you've said was the reason for the TIF and the necessity for schlock development, isn't important. I guess you're now agreeing we don't need the TIFs?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:24 PM

In the physical universe, the square footage of a given lot is invariant. Thus, something which pays more tax per square foot, on a given lot, pays more tax. All the Village's proposals for the site included taking space for their precious, magical "Station Street," which would be a tax and maintenance burden for the Village.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:18 PM

Why don't we tear down all of DTOP and make parking lots? With no businesses, we can advertise for people to come here and see all the parking spaces. If additional parking is so great, why does the Sertus proposal still reduce the number of public parking spots? All development is speculative. Developers supposedly make (or lose) their money by taking risks. Why should taxpayers be taking risks for private developers when the developers won't?

OP  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:15 PM

......"per square foot". Another great one.

OP  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:14 PM

There are plenty of taxes in this Village to be collected. We all know that all to well. None of the taxing bodies are hurting.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:13 PM

Before the Village evicted all the tenants, the "Colt" building was paying more taxes, per square foot of land, than the marvelous "shops of Downtown."

OP  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:12 PM

.............."would likely have been better." -Love it!

OP  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:11 PM

Is it full though? Again, you say the Lake and Forest project parking for DTOP is insufficient . More confusion Gary. What is it. Are we meeting parking demand with the Colt lot or should we have kept the inefficient expensive building and had less parking?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:11 PM

If all the projects generated and approved by the "For Oak Park" Trustees and their friends had been even started, we'd have LOTS of vacant condos in DTOP.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:09 PM

Our alernate proposals would have cost less, for both potential developers and the Village. Village subsidies would have been far lower and the net return to the Village would likely have been better.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:06 PM

The Village didn't buy the "Colt" site to build a surface parking lot. They bought it to lock Taxman/Focus in as "preferred" developer, thus circumventing any fair competition. When they fell out with Taxman/Focus, they then tried to get someone else (Avalon Bay) to build something wretchedly excessive. To say the current lot there is a good result of Village planning is as ludicrous as Trustee Lueck's comment about how smart they were in avoiding and empty condo tower at Lake and Forest.

OP  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:05 PM

Sounds like your would cost more per square foot and bring in less taxes

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 3:01 PM

NO ONE, including the many HOCA neighbors of Whiteco, proposed that that site remain a surface parking lot. I presented a proposal at one of the Whiteco hearings. It included retail, townhouses, offices, possible senior housing, and a multilevel garage expansion. Others presented similar proposals, also through HOCA. It was 6-8 stories high and filled the lot. It DIDN't include an immense cheaply built concrete tribute to punlic housing of days past.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 2:55 PM

The Convention and Visitors bureau has been pretty ineffective, largely because they've been, at best, lukewarm toward heritage tourism. They say what the Village tells them to. Why should the Village use tax money to take business away from existing hotels and give it to a new one? As I've told the CVB many times, we should work to build Oak Park as an attraction. If that works, hotel demand will rise naturally.

OP  

Posted: June 27th, 2011 2:49 PM

On one hand Gary, you want the parking lots to exist( Whiteco) On the other hand you dont want parking lots( Colt) You are confusing me.

OP  

Posted: June 27th, 2011 2:48 PM

What about this idea that the people currently staying at the 2 hotels Oak Park has might stay at the new hotel? Plus the new people of which a new hotel attracts? The simple way to find answers to these questions is to go directly to the visitors of Oak Park and ask them. Doesnt seem that hard.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2011 1:03 PM

Please remember that the convoluted Village analysis for the Sertus project asserted that we really need LESS total public parking in DTOP. The Sertus project, as originally proposed, TOOK AWAY public parking spots. It is true that if we replace all our occupied sites with parking lots, at some point there'll be no businesses and, thus, no parking demand.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2011 1:00 PM

Even Sertus says the main market for a new Oak Park hotel would be "overflow" from places with real structural demand. Who in his right mind would build a hotel now and wait for all the excess rooms in Downtown Chicago, near O'Hare, etc., to fill up? Local hoteliers said, during the boom, that this happened only a few times per year. The "Colt" parking lot has cost the Village a lot, in tax revenues, actual cash, and loss of businesses.

OP  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 7:03 PM

The need didnt pertain to just Oak Park, the need you reference was the market. There is a difference. When the economy picks up and the hospitality industry does as well, there will still be a need for a new hotel in Oak Park. Not only does RF TC get people who drive to the stores, they also get commuters. Win, win, win. I suppose the colt parking lot is too small as well.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 4:44 PM

The Oak Park hotel was nixed because they couldn't get funding because no funders would believe there was a need. The River Forest Town Center lot is full because it's too small for the stores there. Strip malls aren't "transit centered development." Do you think tourists are going to visit Oak Park to see the view from a 20-story apartment building? Holley Court Terrace and 100 Forest Place must be swamped. Of course, in Oak Park, tourists can see our bluestone sidewalks, too.

OP  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 3:03 PM

You must like Paris and Europe so much that you live here? All the buildings in Europe were also once NEW. I dont like new for new sake. I think you need a blend-which Oak Park has. The Hotel was nixed becasue they couldnt get funding becasue of the economy. No correlation whether or not Oak Park needs one. The Sears Tower and The John Hancock both are huge tourist attractions. I suppose that is some unbelievable architecture as well ? Everyday the RF Town center parking lot is FULL.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 2:52 PM

Besides, the Lake-Forest hotel plan is clearly dead. Sertus and the Village have met, once again privately, and produced a new plan for senior and regular rentals. It will likely move forward Monday night. The tower will also be as big, but will apparently have a different (likely cheaper) facade, and the garage will get bigger without adding any parking for shoppers.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 2:46 PM

In Oak Park, we have a uniquely attractive historic community of the sort the "new urbanists" only wish they could create today. The AIA has recently said as much. As time goes by, Oak Park's advantages over bottom-line-driven centers of density and sprawl will only become more apparent. As for our needing a new hotel because our hotels are old, note that some of the most expensive and successful Loop hotels are in finely reworked old buildings.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 2:39 PM

OP - Have you ever visited Paris, London, or Vienna? Have you seen all the tourists spending lots of money just to gawk? Have you seen the people from all over the world paying lots just to live there? Can you think of any places where people come to see cost-effective modern junk? If you, or anyone else, really appreciate "newness" for its own sake, there's plenty to be found on the fringes of the Loop. With all the speculative over-building, it's available at reduced prices.

OP  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 2:13 PM

The Write inn and The Carleton are both old buildings. People associate the old with "out of touch". New is something to be OK with. It works for various reasons. RF made a big improvement on the Lake and Harlem corner while still being conscious of money.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 1:59 PM

OP - If the River Forest Town Center was so great, why did Taxman redo it after only a few years? Are you suggesting we'll, in a hundred years, come to love whatever schlock someone builds now? Fortunately, Dryvit doesn't last that long. Are you suggesting I avoid theatres?

OP  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 1:50 PM

You like what you like. Thats OK. You are a unique guy Gary. To each their own. I think River Forest Town Center was done very nicely. Everything old was once new. Design is a evolution. Abe Lincoln had a unique beard you dont see everyday. It worked for him.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 1:50 PM

If Whiteco was proud of their design, they wouldn't have done the "bait and switch" act of getting the Village to approve the somewhat less offensive Perkins and Will design and then switching to something cheaper. Oak Park Place violates most of the design guidelines proposed in the Crandall-Arambula plan David, Ray, and others so love. IMHO, this was a spite building to punish Oak Park for giving Whieco so much argument.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 1:44 PM

Wieboldt's and the adjoining Deco storefronts have been considered excellent architecture ("Streamline Moderne") by experts. Adaptive re-use of these buildings would have been far preferable to the already-remodeled Taxman banality. Such re-use might have happened a few years later. Oak Park Place is a nice building, perhaps from the inside, if you like living in a generic concrete box. Most of us will end up in generic concrete boxes soon enough without having to do it while alive.

OP  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 12:22 PM

TIF incentive development and private development both work in my book. Its a win win. The Weibolts building wasnt exactly pretty. OP Place is a very nice building. Maybe you and Dan should take a tour sometime.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 11:06 AM

OP - Your side still hasn't shown that TIF expenditures have produced/will produce ANY net tax revenue over what unhindered private development might have. No one, certainly, has shown that tax money spent encouraging development will ever produce a measurable return. In the meantime, no less a light than Dan Haley has said that the DTOP TIF has produced obvious aestehtic blight (see his recent comments on Whiteco).

OP  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 10:52 PM

Gary, You seem to be approaching your position on TIFs from the Taxing bodies point of view- as if they dont get enough tax dollars from us? Am i missing something? Ultimately they will get MORE. Will you be happy then?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 4:49 PM

Thanks for answering my question, Trustee Johnson. I agree this is an awful suit and a waste of public resources. Our local taxing bodies have got to establish better lines of communication and promote a cooperative spirit. We're all in this together. Maybe it's time for a beer summit.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 4:09 PM

Good day Mr. Coughlin....its been a busy week, so my apologies for not following posts very closely thus delaying my answer to your question. Regarding your question -- the Village's expenses related to this awful suit filed by D200 are being covered by the Village general fund and the TIF.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 3:19 PM

And this one, pithy but not quite printable: "Money has no ears, no eyes, no respect; it is all gut, mouth, and a__." (Guy Davenport)

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 3:17 PM

I can't resist including a couple of quotes: "Under the total rule of industrial capitalism, nothing is so valuable as anything theoretically more valuable that might replace it. Anything we may look upon with interest or approval must be regarded as potentially in the way of something more valuable and therefore as potentially doomed." (Wendell Barry)

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 3:11 PM

"Why does the history matter?" - I guess you like those people who learn from their past mistakes so well that they can now repeat them easily and often. By the way, I wasn't involved with the VMA in 1983, but I've been saying the same things about development and economic fairness for the 20 years I have been involved in local politics. Yes - Oak Park was built by people with money. I just don't think today's rapacious capitalists constitute an oppressed minority deserving special help.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 11:28 AM

I think the forum is better served when we hear directly from our elected officials. The question is legit. Are the Village's legal costs being paid by the DTOP TIF or being drawn from the Village's General Fund? President Pope and Trustee Johnson both regularly post comments and replies. Prior to the election, so did Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman. Sadly, they've taken a powder along with their promise of greater transperancy.

OP  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 10:35 AM

Why dont you call President Pope or the trustees directly and ask him(them). Seems like a much better approach than asking a question on a comment board of which they may or may not read. While I'm at it, why dont you stop pretending like their hiding something or not being as transparent as you like just becasue you havent received a response on a comment board. Please!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 6:48 PM

Who is footing the bill for the legal services to represent the Village of Oak Park in these proceedings? I know it all comes out of the taxpayers' pocket but from what account is it drawn? I'm sure President Pope, Trustee Johnson or any board member could answer the question. What's the problem? Please don't tell me I have to file a FOIA request. I thought voters were promised greater transperancy with the elections of Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman. Are either of them willing to go on the record?

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 5:12 PM

Gary was part of the VMA back then so he should know all the specifics. Why does the history matter? They are now here legally and a useful tool for this community. I like how Gary thinks money is the root of all evil. Guess what? Had Oak Park not included people with dollars to spend, Oak park as we know it today , wouldn't exist. Since when is Gary Schwab the expert as to how things should or shouldn't be? Neither one you have moved out, so OP must be doing something wright.

GJK from The hand getting greased  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 4:28 PM

The TIF is not paying any legal fees for the HS or the Village. God point Jim C.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 3:04 PM

In the late 60s and 70s, market forces were about to turn Oak Park into a disinvested low-income community for profit. Courageous, creative people, with a lot of luck, saved Oak Park then. When market forces in the 1990s pushed Oak Park into becoming an uglier, more economically exclusive community, some "leaders" liked that trend and tried to push it to an extreme. They didn't ask those of us who didn't meet their idea of "upscale" if we wanted to subsidize our own removal.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 3:04 PM

Thanks, Gary. I do recall that DTOP had a stale feel to it in the early 80's. New shopping options were opening and expanding. So, I guess the idea was that a TIF district would help recapture past glory. DTOP does have a buzz these days.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 2:58 PM

The TIF wasn't what turned market perceptions of Oak Park around; it was the wave of gentrification, the rise of condos, and the overall real estate boom (bubble?). Some people saw an opportunity to use TIF money to transform Oak Park by adding around 10,000 affluent people in high-density housing surrounded by "upscale" shops & restaurants and pushing problematic (less affluent) people out. This, in my opinion, was an illegitimate use of TIFs.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 2:51 PM

Jim - Back around 1983, Oak Park was still suffering from a widespread perception that it was a "declining" community. Businesses were reluctant to invest and preferred opening in less "threatened" (all white) communities. There was a real chance of "blight" here, and I think the TIF was legitimate. Even the Taxman "Shops of Oak Park" development was probably a legitimate TIF project, although it was far from a true fair, competitive process. By the mid 1990s, Oak Park wasn't seen as threatened.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 1:51 PM

Trustee Johnson, would you please explain how the Village is paying it's legal fees relating to this dispute. Is the money coming from the coffers of the DTOP TIF or being drawn from the Village's General fund?

simpleton  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 1:43 PM

TIFs are a vehicle that creates outcomes. They are very much like guns and drugs/medicine - not inherently bad or good; can used for good or abused; can accidentally cause harm regardless of intent; or can be very beneficial.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 1:29 PM

We've gone back and forth on this issue, TTH. My questions were directed to Gary Schwab. If you have the info I was asking for; now would be a good time to share. Otherwise, let's see if Gary Schwab can provide additional background on the history of TIF districts in Oak Park. Your position is clear. There's no need for you to keep chiming in with the same harangue. I get it! You support the TIFs.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 12:11 PM

True intent and true spirit? Your kidding right? Its intent, on purpose or not, is to create economic development. DOH! Whats the harm of that? How is Oak Park worse for it? I guess all the other communities around the State and Country are awful too. RF, OP, FP, Berwyn, Cicero, Chicago, Etc. ALL use TIF's. You make me laugh coughlin.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 8:32 PM

Gary, thanks for providing a historical perspective. Do you recall if there was any discussion by elected officials or local movers and shakers regarding the appropriateness of the Village using a loophole to create the TIF district in DTOP? Oak Park certainly did not met the criteria. Did anyone challenge the fact that we were violating the true spirit and intent of the law? Were we facing economic issues that would have been impossible to address without utilizing the TIF? Who drove the plan?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 6:06 PM

In 1983, outside real estate "experts" still thought Oak Park had a real chance of failing. A TIF made real sense in terms of restarting commercial development at that time. Condos really weren't a big thing. By the 1990s, Oak Park had gone from "How bad is it getting?" to "Gee, Oak Park's getting expensive!" This wasn't a result of TIF spending. Someone apparently decided to use TIFs to turn Oak Park into a poor copy of River North.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 6:00 PM

We still can't say that the TIFs produced ANYTHING beyond that which the real estate boom would have over the past 20 or so years. Most investment in Oak Park was in existing residential property outside the TIFs. Does anyone really want to claim that people remodeled/rehabbed/expandedtheir homes and redid apartments for condo conversion because of the "improvements" in the TIFs?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 2:04 PM

I'm not a religious person,THT. Far from it. The issue I wanted you to address was whether it was appropriate for trustees to use loopholes in the law to create TIF districts in Oak Park. You think that as long it benefits the vitality of our community; all's fair. After all, we are all stakeholders in this village and have a vested interest in successful economic development. My concern is that long-established community standards and guiding principles had to be ignored to achieve those goals.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 8:06 AM

Economic development. No more ....No less. You can take your collar off Fr. Coughlin.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 1:44 AM

We stand on opposite sides of the fence,TTH. Your focus is "What's in it for me?". A sad but growing sentiment. I appreciate responsible government that plays by the rules and shuns the angles and schemes. We've been lied in to an illegal war while witnessing massive war profiteering. Affordable health care was challenged by corporate criminals. Lobbyists own our elected officials. Profits before principles. That's the world you respect and expect us to embrace. I can't go for that. No can do.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 12:48 AM

Dont know too much about the Madison TIF. I know the village owns the NE corner of OP and Madison that will one day be developed. I think the CVS and the KFC might have gotten TIF dollars. Not sure if the Wendy's did. I hope Walgreen's did. Its a work in progress. Belmont Villages, The new town homes on Madison between Wisconsin and Home? Village Players? Al's Grill? Foley Rice? Park National? McDonalds on Madison? Building next to McDonalds? Park District?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 12:39 AM

Hey truth, Is the Madison TIF one of the successful development funding you are talking about?

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 12:35 AM

Your welcome to pay more on your own taxes. I, on the other hand, appreciate what the TIF does and will do for this community. Its economic development. Whats so bad about that?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 10:20 PM

Win at any cost! Is that the mantra we want for Oak Park? You cheer the fact the our elected officials were able to game the system. Not me! Oak Park took the lead on many important issues and stood for fair and honest government. We followed the letter of the law. No grey area. The improvements to DTOP are the result of a willingness to compromise those principles. Loopholes were used to get around the spirit and intent of the law. No different than the corporate crooks who game tax codes.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 6:35 PM

Coughlin, TIF's work irregardless of what their initial purpose was. Whats the real beef here? Shouldnt all Oak Parkers be happy that they are making our community a better place? I'm sure the same people are the people that would be complaining about how awful our village looks becasue nothing was being done. Its a brilliant concept. Poor or not so poor communities both benefit from economic development. No?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 5:21 PM

Truth, you know TIFs were intended to be used by poor communities to stimulate economic development. Oak Park and many other municipalities used loopholes in the law to created their own TIF districts. Credit our board's creativity but they did ignore the true purpose. I am sure you are aware of reform movements throughout Illinois that aim to close those loopholes. School superintendents, housing activists & teacher unions want the law changed. Read Ben Joravsky's reports in The Reader.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 2:37 PM

murtagh, the short answer is no. The VOP budget is much leaner becasue of the lack of revenue coming in due to the slow down in the economy. If the TIF didnt exist, there wouldnt be development money. Thats my point. I know you like to put all the blame on the board for posters not understanding, but its not the reality. It just seems to be a "few" vocal people who "misunderstand" them and want to blame the village for all these "evil, unethical" things. Just not true.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 11:58 AM

Truth - Is there any link between the growth of developments and the decline in the village's infrastructure, the reduction in services,and the additional ad hoc costs for services. TIF's are tax dollars that are targeted by the OP village gov't for development in select areas. Where would that development money be used if the TIF did not exist? TIF's are a major village policy issue. If posters are misunderstanding them, it is up to the board to remove their opaque wall on the subject.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 10:31 AM

TIFs are TIFs. They are a tool to encourage development of all kinds. I'm sure communities with blighted areas may benefit more so, but they are not solely for that. C'mon coughlin, I didn't ignore anything. Your description of TIFs to "provides a huge pot of tax dollars to draw from " is exactly right. Thats the whole idea. Its not like OP or any other community could budget all these dollars with out taking from vital services provided to residents.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 1:45 AM

You forgot to mention that a TIF also provides a huge pot of tax dollars for politicians to draw from with almost no oversight and accountability. "THT" also ignored the fact that the creation of a TIF district was intended to assist blighted communities stimulate economic growth. Not the case in Oak Park or countless communities across the country. I recommend reading Ben Javorsky's reports in The Reader for a critical examination of TIFs.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 12:56 AM

TIFs are no different than your home. You put money into it for 2 reasons. 1. to increase value and sell it. 2. To live in it. TIFs allow communities to collect money to invest for improvements, beautification, and long term projects that will enhance the tax base over the length of the TIF. TIFs in booming times would probably return alot more than in non booming times. So far I am pleased with the TIF's in OP and look forward to more good responsible investments in our community.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 12:49 AM

Gary have you noticed that Oak Park Place is almost ALL rented. We know.... we know, you don't like the look of it. Have you been inside? Have you been in the apts? They are very sharp and the views are wonderful. The success is that it brings in more than the parking lot it replaced did. All the (built) developments Gary mentioned are very nice. Well Done in my book.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 9:14 PM

@The Truth Hurts - The financial results I want to see are on projects that were put together specifically to generate revenue. For example there were projections on Whiteco. This development has been pointed to as a success. Can we see the original projections and compare them to actual results? These types of figures are what the OP taxpayer would like see. I am not looking for the ROI on streetscape projects.

epic lulz  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 6:28 PM

That a "Don't question us! We know what's best for you!" VMA Politbureau favors Soviet style architecture makes me feel that all is right in the world.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 6:21 PM

I guess our new civic ambition is to become known internationally as the place where late Soviet-bloc traditions in concrete high-rise design are forever cherished. The European Communists at least justified this style as workers' housing. We try to show we're better by spending tax dollars to build ugly housing for the rich. When were Oak Parkers ever asked what they'd like the Village to become?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 6:12 PM

If one silly argument fails, try another? Whiteco, the 1120 Club, the Opera Club, and the Avalon Bay, Morningside, and Sertus projects were never promoted as adding to beauty or ambience; they were promoted - OVER and OVER again - as being necessary to "grow the tax base." Now that that's failed, this sort of cheesy banality is being forced on us to make us feel better? We're known as a great place to see the work of FLW and his contemporaries.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 4:42 PM

Not everything the Govt does is measured by a dollar figure. So trying to figure out the ROI on every dime invested into a community is tough to do. How much do new sidewalks return? Or new streets? Sometimes its the ambiance or beauty that are priceless. Sometimes the "if you build it" mentality works or with out doing "something" ...nothing would have happened. North Marion street is a great example of this.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 11:52 PM

You tell em john. If you want transparency go to FP, Berwyn and Cicero. Now that's real transparency. The Village Board is not hiding anything. You want to frame the conversation as such, but you are out right incorrect. There is no big conspiracy to defraud the residents of Oak Park from a good, decent, and responsible government. They do the right things and for the most part get it right. For the naysayers, if its not one thing its another. So tired and old.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 11:15 PM

To: The Truth Hurts -- the days of "the village knows" are over. It is time for the village to prove it knows rather than using one weak voice to defend it. See my following post. It is time that we all push the village toward transparency. It is evident that the campaign promises of transparency are not being fulfilled. Perhaps there is a sense amongst those in power that if they ignore the issues, they will go away. That worked in the last century but no more.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 11:09 PM

It is time to talk about the 2012 Press Awards. WJ needs to give a push to winning some awards for Local Accountability Reporting. Of all the traumas the Fourth Estate has suffered none is more damaging to its readers than the decline in investigative reporting. In OP, the Third Estate (Commoners) uses their 400 words in WJ Comments to call attention to flaws in government, but amateur commenters can only surface issues. It is the press that adds objectivity and professionalism.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 8:35 PM

The Truth hurts - Maybe,I was unclear. The board should explain past performance of investments, so residents can more easily assess past decisions. I also like to live here, and plan to stay here with my family for the long haul. It is unclear how TIF investments are performing. I have read the TIF statements, available since 2003, that are on the VOP website. I have a clear picture of what our money was spent on but not ROI.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 5:10 PM

Of course the Village knows what those numbers are. Of course they are trying to sell high and buy low. The Village doesnt control the market and just like all of "us" in the market the value has gone down. Doesnt mean its a bust. At some point it will be sold and dealt with. The Village has been in the process of unfolding some properties and not buying new ones. So far so good. Oak Park is always improving and I like to live here.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 5:07 PM

The Trustees should evaluate past investments as you have stated John. This way the taxpayers can see what we have received in return for our investment. This is particularly important right now, because they are considering spending TIF funds on Madison. Additionally, Oak Park will eventually team up with a developer to rebuild the northeast corner of Madison and Oak Park.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 4:29 PM

If the village buys property, it makes no gain unless the property increases in value when sold. If it is an idle commercial property, the village loses both property and sales taxes. The only way to determine if the village's "property investments" are yielding revenue from its properties is an analysis of the properties purchase and sale price, changes in rental income, and tax impact. Do they do this type analysis? Who knows?

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 3:38 PM

If the Village owns land and teams up with a developer to build something that generates tax revenue- Good. If the Village buys land that then gets sold at a higher price and gets developed to bring in more tax revenue -Good. It can caue development where development is needed. The private investor does not have to upgrade or do things that will enhance the tax base. TIF's help with doing all of these things. Hip Hip Hooray.

Start Over from OP  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 1:46 PM

Abolish Village government, eliminate the township (seriously, we won't even miss them). Then, consolidate the school districts, and put every single tax dollar into a single pot of money. Give half of it back to the taxpayers, then start over.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 2:31 AM

Whether the Village should be in the business of building apartments and retail spaces at all is open to debate. Clearly, enforcing construction and completion rules fairly and effectively becomes problematic when the regulator (the Village) is in business with some of those regulated. I don't think many people believe, with current threats to public schools, that school districts should ever be building stores and apartments with tax money.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2011 2:25 AM

When the Village diverts taxes to play developer, the other taxing bodies need to raise their rates to make up for the money taken away. No tax revenues magically appear; they all come from the same taxpayers. As long as TIFs don't produce any real new revenue, the money they take has to come from somewhere - us. Studies have shown that, nationally, as a rule, TIFs don't create revenue; they just tend to move it around, concentrating development in parts of a town where subsidies exist.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 11:21 PM

Your argument is always changing. What is it? STOP. Is that really it? The beef you have seems to be the tax levies from the different taxing bodies that ask and receive all the tax dollars. You must not like the schools, since they ask and receive the most of your tax dollars. Down the list we go. The Village is very low in terms of % of your taxes that they get.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 6:04 PM

I am categorically opposed, from quaint, obsolete notions of moral decency, to taxing people to pay for making it so they can't live here any more and have to move to make room for their "betters." Please note the article in last week's Chicago Tribune in which an Evanston analysis asserts that Oak Park is the most highly taxed suburb when all taxes and fees are included.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 5:58 PM

Of course, building tacky condos, getting them over-appraised, and selling them with mortgages requiring nothing down and low interest to start to people leveraged to their eyeballs is just what led to the current bust. Did anyone really believe property could appreciate 10-20% annually forever? The Village tried to use TIFs to encourage gentrification - pushing everyone who couldn't buy a $300,000 condo out of town,.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 5:53 PM

"Truth Hurts" - You haven't given me ANY examples of TIF expenditures producing tax revenues OVER and ABOVE those which would have been produced if developers had simply built within zoning and without tax subsidy. From about the mid 1990s on, developers would have put condos almost anywhere zoning allowed without being encouraged. The great bulk of growth in Oak Park's EAV came from the boom, not from the TIFs.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 4:50 PM

Gary its too bad TIF s dont work for you. They seem to work for Oak Park. I just gave you a bunch of examples of more tax revenue than before using TIF dollars. Like it or not, All the projects I referenced have contributed more Tax dollars to the taxing bodies of this community and have lessened our portion. I would like to thank VOP.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 2:38 PM

Even in Chicago, where almost everything seems to have a price, the zoning relief available for planned unit developments is strictly limited by law. Oak Park has no limits, hence 200 foot buildings allowed on lots zoned for 80 and 45 foot heights. No less a light than Frank Paris said, at a LWV forum on development, that Oak Park didn't get much for TIF subsidies.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 2:33 PM

Upon checking, I guess the AMLI development did involve the TIF. I think the Village sold the old Village Hall lot and the adjoining Jackson storage warehouse at a fair price and then lost money due to "unexpected" demolition and remediation costs. Remember that the high school parking garage, which created much of the "parking fund deficit" was in fact a bribe to get D200 to approve the TIF renewal. Where's that (non-TIF) cost fit in your accounting? It raises parking fees for everyone.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 2:22 PM

I believe the AMLI (formerly Prairie Court) building is also pre-TIF. You say Whiteco will "pay up." Where are your numbers? I'm pretty sure Whiteco's eventual assessed value will fall far below projections. I've been here for 33 years, and just east of here before that, and I've been watching towns go broke spending money to "increase the tax base." The benefit of the TIF isn't that things get built during a national real estate boom, but that the things built justify Village contributions.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 12:04 PM

I consider Madison St. from Kenilworth to Oak Park Avenue the modern day version of the Stankus Hole. Millions of TIF dollars have been spent in the last five years and all there is to show for it is the possibility of public housing, and Wahlgreen's relocation a few blocks from its abandoned location. There are other Stankus Hole's in Oak Park to explore. For instance the abandoned condo development on the east side on Garfield. Maybe a southside tour of 21st Century Stankus Holes is in order.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 4:43 AM

The Stankus hole is no more. Development doesnt just happen by chance. The Village got involved and look at what has come about. There is hope Gary, and you know it.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 4:40 AM

I thought owners of commercial buildings( rentals) will be paying more of the pie than before. There was an article that referenced that in the WJ. Hence OP Place will be paying up. Have you seen what the rents are there? Money is being made. Maybe the legal fees to fight Whiteco, if necessary, can come out of the TIF fund? Property, cash incentives and zoning variances happen everyday in developing. Where have you been?

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 4:35 AM

Euclid and Lake is all new development with more tax dollars than previously. Just what a TIF is suppose to do. The West side of Euclid from the tracks to Lake was mostly parking lot with a little Tasty Dog stand. Hardly what it is today. Commercial spaces front Lake and the apartments above. The condos behind them were once a parking lot. Old Village Hall was redeveloped. Finally a vacant lot on the N E corner is now a big multi-unit condo building.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 9:19 PM

Oh, before I forget, the owners of 100 Forest Place, while still making money, asked the Village to forgive the subsidized loan they received. For once, the Village told them to forget it. That site, though, was the location of the embarrassing "Stankus Hole" for years. Giving a developer a low-interest loan and demanding it be paid is a lot different from giving a developer property, cash, and lots of zoning variances.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 9:11 PM

If the Whiteco garage ends up costing over $1 million to fix, how good a deal is that? We can ask Whiteco for the money, but our "partnership" with them pits the Village against an exceedingly rich organization with pretty good lawyers. Fighting Whiteco over the flaws might make the D200 lawsuit defense seem cheap. Also, as the consultants reported that some cracks were present at the start and painted over, the Village's inspections clearly failed.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 9:05 PM

Euclid and Lake, except for one corner, was all occupied. Moving Tasty Dog, to cover up for Carl Swenson's mistakes, cost the Village quite a lot. I believe 100 Forest Place was completed with special bonds, before the TIF. "Oak Park Place" (not Oak Park Apartments) (Whiteco) is a success if and only if it proves to be a good investment of taxpayers' money. Is it? I'm pretty sure that, with the economy and changes in the ways rentals get assessed, actual taxes will fall way below projections.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 6:28 PM

I'm talking about the corner of Euclid and Lake street and south on Euclid. I'm talking about Ontario and Harlem. I'm talking about Forest and Lake (100 Forest). OP Apts is successful. You may not think its attractive from the outside, but then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 4:32 PM

Some people (especially Ray Johnson) keep talking about how Trader Joe's has saved the Village. The fact is that, while, those people have been patting themselves on their backs, we've lost two locally-owned REAL grocery stores (the Villager and Certifiedland) and Oak Park's sales tax revenues in the "grocery category have gone DOWN. You still don't say how long it will take taxpayers to get their involuntary investment in Whiteco back.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 4:27 PM

"Parking lots now full of buildings?" You must be talking about Whiteco. You're certainly not talking about the huge, Village-owned parking lots on Lake St., Madison,and South Blvd. which held tax-paying private buildings and businesses before the Village worked their magic. The idea that getting Trader Joe's required multi-million dollar subsidies to the hideous tower and the already-collapsing parking garage over it has always been a very bad joke.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 3:09 PM

Parking lots that are now full of buildings that produce tax revenue. Simple. Why is it then that other municipalities use TIFs? Must be because they dont work, right? You seem to think all developers are just over the top wealthy. Clearly thats not the case. Does the 1120 LLC come to mind. The mix of private and public funds to develop communities has and will happen. Would Traders Joe's have ever come to Oak Park by itself? Maybe not. Its not so black and white.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 2:34 PM

"Truth Hurts" - Simply restating a long list of self-serving platitudes and generalizations doesn't make them so. If most of the "accepted wisdom" about why we have to be nice to the rich so they'll be nice to us were true, the vast majority of Americans wouldn't be losing financial ground every day. If the DTOP TIF has produced any net increase in tax revenue, tell us how. I don't think you can. Those "leaders" you love so much have never been able to.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 12:37 AM

Consolidation is the bringing all development monies together for review, discussion, and approval of projects. The process of consolidation enables shared responsibilities w/taxing bodies for the identification, bidding, and funding. It would also lead to shared bldg space.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 12:37 AM

Reread your post j.m.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 12:10 AM

Actually if you do the math, it is less government. Less planners, less lawyers, less accountants, etc. You need to bone up on your Business 101.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 10:26 PM

j.m., more government, just what we all need.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 5:52 PM

I guess you missed my point re Are you suggesting that the village and other taxing bodies consolidate development funding? A TIF is not a consolidation. It is a single tax collection distributed to multi-taxing bodies. Consolidation is the bringing all development monies together for review, discussion, and approval of projects. The process of consolidation enables shared responsibilities w/taxing bodies for the identification, bidding, and funding. It would also lead to shared bldg space.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 4:09 PM

Will any board member go on the record? Is VOP drawing funds for these legal expenses from the DTOP TIF or the General Fund? What is the hourly rate being charged by the firm representing VOP? How was the firm selected and was this a "No-Bid" contract?

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 2:42 PM

Call and ask the developers. Clearly you have their numbers.

J.oak park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 2:40 PM

what is going on with the Madison/Highland project? I have heard/read nothing on that since the park district decided not to put the gymnastics center in the building.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 2:39 PM

Gary, you clearly dont know much about development and municipalities. Subsidies have been around for a long time and will continue to be. Incentives work and will continue to work. Collectively we take on risk a lot easier than one. The payouts are a lot more worthwhile too. Oak Park is a better place becasue of the TIF.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 2:30 PM

In the Avalon Bay ("Colt" site), Morningside (Harlem and Maple), and Sertus (Lake and Forest) cases, it was the developer, not the Village that pointed out that the Village's plans just wouldn't work. Until the developers said "sorry," the Village kept producing optimistic propaganda. Who really seems not to have comprehended what's happened in development since 2008?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 2:24 PM

Maybe subsidizing businesses and housing developments which don't make sense to private investors just shouldn't make sense to people throwing around tax money if ther's no obvious public benefit. Some public goods (such as, perhaps, arts spaces) require public subsidy. Who decided that really expensive condos and apartments and really fancy stores intended to gentrify Oak Park are what everybody, including those of us not so "upscale" should subsidize?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 2:18 PM

I don't suggest that the Village should subsidize private businesses for which markets don't show support. I'm just saying that making such subsidies part of a regular budget is a more honest way than creating a TIF slush fund. I defy ANYONE to demonstrate that Oak Park's nearly 30-year TIF experiment has produced ANY net incremental tax revenue. I, and others, have been asking for such an analysis for a long time.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 1:31 PM

I am suggesting that Gary's way wont work.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 1:29 PM

That is what a TIF is. It takes money that would otherwise go to all the taxing bodies and is used to develop areas with in the TIF for increased tax revenue after the TIF is over.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 1:18 PM

The Truth Hurts - Are you suggesting that the village and other taxing bodies consolidate development funding?

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 12:44 PM

"The Village would have to fund development projects from other sources, using their own share of taxes..." That is so Gary Schwab. FYI-There is no money available in the VOP budget for development to enhance the overall tax dollars to all taxing bodies. How about funds from all the actual taxing bodies budgets( not just VOP) to develop projects that will affect all of them? TIF's work

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 10:02 AM

Obviously, then, the bulk of a declared surplus, if any, and tax revenues on the increment since 1983 would go to the two school districts. The Village would have to fund development projects from other sources, using their own share of taxes and, ideally, through a more transparent, participatory process.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 9:57 AM

I belive that, if a TIF is ended, remaining money goes to meet obligations already in place and whatever is left gets distributed, as a surplus, to all the taxing bodies in proportion to their shares of the overall property tax levy. This was an option included in the intergovernmental agreement for the DTOP TIF extension.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 2:11 AM

Michael, the board made it very clear that the tax dollars generated by the DTOP TIF can only be spent on projects within the district. I wonder if the Village's legal expenses for this dispute are being drawn from the DTOP TIF funds or the General Fund? It would also be interesting to learn the hourly rate each of the taxing bodies are being charged by their legal counsel.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 10:50 PM

Some communities get financially wrecked by natural disasters and lose millions. Oak Park? We get "wrecked" by our elected officials. Boom - our legal costs for gun battle! Boom - our legal costs for the TIF. Can we somehow petition for federal aid for our man-made disasters?!? Can we somehow use the millions being spent for new Marion street project? Yeah, I didn't think so. It never ends, does it?

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 10:05 PM

whoops - email address on the blog. @The truth Hurts, I would love to see the financial pro forma on the TIF in simple terms. If you have a simple way to sum up the financial successes, please do.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 10:00 PM

Murtagh - I am a novice and am trying to sort some of this stuff out myself. I believe if the TIF ends the money is dispersed, and the TIF district is ended. It cannot be recreated for the same area. J.Oak Park - I don't know all the properties but the TIF reports on the finance page(http://oak-park.us/Finance/index.html)lists the amount of money for properties currently held in a district. DTOP ~12.7 mil (mostly colt 5mil,Westagate 2.6 mil), Madison TIF 3.7 mil. Past years show purchases.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 9:32 PM

Gary, it would appear that the village would be a major beneficiary of the Madison streetscape and the reduction of lanes if you accept that the TIF spending will attract business. It's a neat skins game. If the TIF money is spent and the businesses do not bite, the village loses nothing since the TIF would elapse anyway. If it works OP can dump some properties at higher prices. The piece I don't have in the equation is: what happens to the TIF money if the village allows it to elapse?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 9:22 PM

The Village saying they shouldn't have to make the promised payments because District 200 has too much money already is odd. If I had a mortage, how far do you think I'd get by telling the bank that I shouldn't have to pay or be foreclosed because I think the bank has too much money?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 9:18 PM

I doubt that either school district at the time believed the Village would pretend the money promised wasn't owed. It seems that District 97 has come to some private accomodation with the Village; I personally opposed their referendum for that (and only that reason). District 200 has simply stated that the Village should meet their contractual obligation or explain why they can't and stop taking more money in violation of what they signed. I can't support D200's surplus, but this is separate.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 9:11 PM

When the economy slowed, pretty much everybody except Oak Park stopped trying to build highrises and wasting money on excessive streetscapes. Oak Park kept pretending property values would pop back. We've now lost about ten years of appreciation, but $650,000 condos still cost nearly as much to build. Might it be more than ten years before anyone wants to buy one here again? Both school districts accepted the TIF deal because the Village promised, in writing, that it wouldn't cost them anything.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 9:06 PM

I don't have an exact list of Village-owned vacant properties. The parking lot on Lake St. (the "Colt" site), the nearly whole block on Madison and Oak Park, and the former Volvo dealer's space on Madison come to mind. I suggest asking the township assessor; he likely has a complete list and is fair and honest.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 5:01 PM

Part of my previous comment got eaten by the internet. My question was: if the mediator finds against D200, will it use some of its enormous fund balance to reimburse the Village and D97 for the legal fees it forced them to incur?

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 4:57 PM

Hey Gary, Have you noticed the slow down in the economy? Its all the boards fault. It takes 2 to tango, so does the school boards hold any responsibility for agreeing to this? Your comments always seemed to be addressed at the Village board. You seem more concerned than they( the actual school boards)....at least on the WJ comment section.

j.oak park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 4:15 PM

Hi Gary, sine you are online I thought I ask you: Do you know just how many properties are owned by the village, and therefore not paying taxes? Is there a map or a listing? My question really goes to Ray Johnson's evasive text about the building on Lake St. and the developer filing for bankruptcy. Thanks and I appreciate your involvement on this blog. Best regards

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 4:06 PM

If increasing available EAV per student (by ending the TIF) really reduces the amount available to District 97, think how much better off we'd be if we drove property values to zero! We could perhaps apply for disaster relief!I guess the Village is helping with the vacant, non-tax-paying spaces on Lake St. and on Madison.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 3:59 PM

The DTOP TIF renewal plan called for around $85 million in TIF investment producing $350 million in private investment. According to Ray Johnson's best boasts, it's only fallen around $250-$300 million short. Private investors have stopped investing. The Village still says streetscapes will bring highrises. How much incremental tax money have we seen from Whiteco and RSC? Ending the TIF would reduce state aid, but by a lot less than the roughly $2 million the TIFs take.

The Truth Hurts  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 3:22 PM

A pipe dream? Do I need to show you all the successes of TIF money? Gary, have you heard of the real estate meltdown? If the TIF is disbanded, the Local schools would get LESS monies from the state, hence less over all for the kids!

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 3:16 PM

Regardless of what all the noisemakers attempting to distract from the truth say, the Village made legal, binding promises to pay the school districts millions of dolars which now cannot be paid because they've been squandered on pipe dreams. The only decent thing to do would be to admit the mistake, end the TIFs, and declare a surplus (an option in the intergovernmental agreement). Isn't this kind of what this week's "Shrubtown" is saying?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 3:11 PM

Oak Park's Village Hall took millions in tax money from other government bodies down to the recently closed "development casino" and bet it on unbelieveable gentrification long shots. The school boards agreed to this because the "carve out" deal promised they'd get their money regardless. The bets were made and lost, the money's gone, and District 200 is the only organization with any power trying to keep the Village from taking and betting even more on guaranteed losers.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 9:49 AM

If the mediator finds against D200, will%2

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 8:59 AM

When Distict 200 asked to see the TIF books, Village Manager Barwin said, "No!". That's want got the ball rolling and the meters running. The lack of a cooperative spirit between two local tax bodies will end up costing taxpayers more than $500K. What a waste!

Insider @ OPRF from OPRF  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 8:21 AM

Absurd!! And don't forget -- D200 is currently sitting on nearly $100 million in reserves. OUR money! But they want even more..... This fat cat needs to diet.

Adele from OP  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 6:42 AM

This is unacceptable. Approaching a half million dollars of taxpayers money so that the insatiable and gluttonous money entities can hold on to or get more of the overall pie. Tax payers are treated like ATMs, except they don't even need a password to access funds. Spend first, ask questions later. The taxes and "spending culture" in Oak Park have reached toxic levels.

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