Category Archives: Activism

Open Letter To Chicago Candidates For Mayor

City_of_Chicago_sealHere are some ideas for a campaign for a better Chicago.

Rallying cry: Justice. Prosperity. For all. Make Chicago a city that works for everyone – not just the insiders and the mayor’s friends. More service, innovation and economic development – from the bottom up.

Calls to action: Stop privatization. Take back the meters. Re-open the closed schools – cut class size to no more than 20 students/class. World class students = world class workers = world class economy. There is no sustainable or just way to get there other than that. Can’t build another Ferris wheel on Navy Pier to get that job done.

How to get there (source of resources and funds):

General principle: Reuse. Re-cycle and re-create. If we use everything we have – we’ll have everything we need. (borrowed from Edgar Cahn, author of “No More Throw-Away People” – creator of time dollars and time banking).

Specifically:

(1) End TIFs, empty the TIF funds = $1.7 billion

(2) Financial transaction tax = $10 billion (split between state, county, city government)

(3) Bank of Chicago patterned after Bank of North Dakota (http://banknd.nd.gov ) = Huge local impact – would stop paying huge fees to corrupt and criminal Big Banks and would finance student loans, first time homeowners, small biz start-up & expansion and even back up local government finance for infrastructure – no more parking meter deals needed!

(4) Capture vacant land for local farming and production – at roughly $20,000 per lot could turn it productive to support two full-time workers making livable wage (estimate from Kenn Dunn – http://www.cityfarmchicago.org/our-roots is a few years old and would need to be detailed)
[Could combine #3 & #4 to transfer land, foreclosed homes to homeless and working poor]

(5) Millionaire’s Real Estate Surcharge – for every property in city valued at over $5,000,000 add surcharge to property tax – $10 for every $1,000 – would need data on # properties to play with this formula to see range of options. Benefit is that ownership is not an issue – that is, if you tried to pass a personal income tax the wealthy would just register address elsewhere. This way, regardless of legal ownership of properties, the new value is extracted. Place provision in ordinance that if a currently for-profit property is suddenly “gifted” to a nonprofit the property will still be assessed based on the new formula.

(6) Look at major capital equipment expenses – such as purchasing rail cars and computers and BUILD THEM IN CHICAGO in city-owned plants. Use technical high schools and city colleges as feeder/training platforms to prepare workforce and admin staff for these ventures. DON’T EXPORT OUR DOLLARS. KEEP THEM CIRCULATING IN CHICAGO.

In addition:

(1) Conduct forensic audit on the entire city’s finance and personnel – review every hire and every contract – conducted by independent audit committee led by financial and human capital experts. Are there job descriptions, are people qualified, are they physically present at job site? Review every contract and especially every contract led without bid and under the minority allocation program which has been notoriously corrupt. Announce amnesty for ghost, patronage workers – resign now without pension and avoid prosecution. If workers are caught in our review and found to be improperly hired and not performing, they and their hiring manager will be prosecuted for theft.

(2) Review all contracts let by Public Building Commission

(3) Review all members and transactions of pension boards

(4) Review all upcoming labor contracts and strip out provisions that allow for stupid work and law suit rulings

(5) “One person one job policy” – all aldermen, city workers draw one payroll and are not permitted any other paying work

(6) Review the entire judiciary process – move to merit selection – start recruiting young people now to go to law school to be placed on bench within 6 years – if we can’t eliminate corrupt slating/election system, then start prepping our own team of young advocates to run in 2016 and beyond.

CHICAGO WORKS FOR EVERYONE.

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Standing Room Only @ 11th Ward TIF Illumination

Tom at 11th Ward forumThe TIF Illumination Project did our 26th public meeting on December 4, 2014 when we lit up the TIFs of the 11th ward at the First Trinity Lutheran Church on 31st Street. I’m constantly amazed and thrilled by the turn out and civic energy present at these meetings. This one was partially sponsored by Friends of Maureen Sullivan, who is running for 11th ward alderman.

You can preview the presentation here. You can download the full presentation at the TIF Data Store. Please help us  produce a series of TIF training videos that will be placed online for free viewing – contribute to our first crowdfunding campaign!

If you would like more information on TIF training, research and scheduling an Illumination for YOUR ward, please email tom@civiclab.us.

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Interview Reveals (mostly) All

Jim Jacoby of the American Design and Master-Craft Initiative and Jim Cohen of BeSparked interviewed me in July for this series of master designer podcasts. What, you may ask, do I have to do with design? Ah ha! You’ll just have to listen to this wide-ranging 47 minute interview where I talk about my background in the arts and the connections between design, space and civic engagement. If you do listen – please comment at the bottom of the podcast web page.

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TIF Presentations Viewed 44,000+ Times!

Presentation views We upload all the TIF presentations to http://www.slideshare.net/tomtee. These presentations have been viewed over 44,000 times!

The champ is the two presentations on the 27th ward which were viewed a total 4,292 times.Thar works out to something like 10 views every day since they were uploaded.

So – if you are one of the people whose viewed these presentations and found them valuable – PLEASE support our work by (1) signing our email list at http://tinyurl.com/SignUp-CivicLab, (2) consider renting a desk with us (we’re in Chicago’s West Loop), and (3) making a deducible contribution via our fiscal agent, the Investigative News Network – http://tinyurl.com/SupportTheLab-INN. Contact Tom Tresser at tom@civiclab.us.

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Chicago Reader Cites Work of TIF Project

Reader_pix-8-27-14 Thanks to tireless TIF reporter Ben Joravsky of The Chicago Reader for this wonderful piece. He connects the dots from the supposed state of Chicago’s finances to the plight of our public schools and the tens of millions, nay, hundreds of millions of property tax dollars, we shower on major corporations.

None of this work would’ve been possible without the hundreds of hours contributed by our all volunteer team of coders, map makers, graphic designers, researchers and community organizers who – collectively – have now Illuminated 127 TIFs across 29 wards. The full record of these forums are here. If you want YOUR ward Illuminated, contact us at tom@civiclab.us.

When we Illuminate a ward we tell you: (1) overview of how TIFs work in Chicago, (2) how many TIFs in the ward, (3) best estimate of how much $ those TIFs took from your ward, (4) how much money left in TIF accounts FROM your ward, (5) who got paid from TIFs in your ward. We even provide a nifty graphic map that lays all this out in a super clear manner. No one else can tell you all this!

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