More Fallout From Crapitalist Uptown TIF


In our last post, “The Uptown TIF: Crapitalism Without Accountability,” we discussed how a misguided and poorly-executed decision on the Uptown TIF – by former public officials who seem totally unwilling to accept any accountability for it – has saddled current City officials and the taxpayers with some major long-term consequences.

It’s not just about the money, although a $5 million (and counting) TIF fund deficit which the City is required to make up with money from its General (operating) Fund is nothing to sneeze at.  All the subsidies the City gave to Uptown developer PRC Partners, LLC for project elements like the underground parking garage and a variety of street-scaping also didn’t do the taxpayers any favors.

And let’s not forget the arguably “bargain” price that the City charged PRC for those prime parcels of Uptown land: the “Reservoir Block,” as well as the former Bredemann property the City acquired (at less than a bargain-basement price) in order to sell them all to its developer of choice.  We’re still amazed how the City inexplicably failed to obtain an appraisal that might have confirmed whether the properties’ value really was the $6.129 million for which the City sold it, rather than the $8-10 million that some local real estate people thought it might be worth.

Was the “fix” in for PRC?  Who knows?  But for those of you who didn’t sit through any of those City Council meetings where the merits of the competing designs were being discussed, all we can say is that then-city manager Tim Schuenke and several elected officials around The Horseshoe back then sure seemed to be herding the rest of the cats in PRC’s direction.

But where the rubber meets the road anytime large sums of public money is expended, or boatloads of long-term public debt is incurred, is what other projects and services are effectively foreclosed by those commitments of money and/or debt.

For example, you folks who are frustrated by the pace of the City’s flood relief projects probably should cast a jaundiced eye on the bungled TIF financing and expenditures, because that current $5 million TIF fund deficit represents $5 million of potential flood remediation that might not get done.  And if that $5 million deficit spirals into the $27 million “worst-case” deficit forecast by the City’s new TIF consultants, flood control and other important City infrastructure projects might not get done, at least not without a substantial increase in our property taxes.

Unfortunately, it appears that a lot of infrastructure needs were neglected in the years leading up to the Uptown TIF fiasco, during which former mayor Ron “All O’Hare, All The Time” Wietecha obsessed over Uptown redevelopment in those few waking hours when he wasn’t consumed by shoveling tons of City bucks into that bottomless Suburban O’Hare Commission pit and its Peotone airport annex.  Within months of getting the Council to pass the TIF resolution in July 2003, Wietecha resigned mid-term without prior notice and fled to Barrington.

What a stand up guy!

He was followed by two mayors – Marous and Frimark – who acted as if they were every bit as committed to doing the Uptown deal as Wietecha, if not more so; and who couldn’t be bothered with something as mundane as inspecting, maintaining, repairing and replacing sewers when there were monuments to be built.

That might explain the July 15, 2013 Agenda Cover Memorandum by City Engineer Sarah Mitchell, which states that the City didn’t “resume” its sewer lining program until 2011 – although the memo doesn’t say when that program was suspended.  The schedule of sewers designated for re-lining during 2013-13 total 7,417 linear feet at a price of $310,000.  That schedule shows sewer lines ranging from 8 inches to 21 inches in diameter.

Are 8-inch sewer lines too small?  How about 15-inchers, or 21-inchers?  The City isn’t saying, nor is it saying how many more 8-inch, 15-inch or 21-inch sewers are out there, and in what condition.

Could those be contributing to, or even causing, a signficant amount of the flooding we’re experiencing?

We don’t know.  And, frankly, we doubt that anybody at City Hall or the Public Works building knows – at least not with the degree of certainty a pro-active infrastructure maintenance and improvement program requires.  But we have to believe that the $5 million that already has been sunk into covering those Uptown TIF deficits could have been put to much better use inspecting, maintaining, repairing and replacing that aged sewer system.

This isn’t to say that the Uptown project is a bad thing.  But considering that the combined Reservoir Block and Bredemann parcels was so attractive to developers back in 2002-03 that the City’s Uptown redevelopment RFQ/RFP drew 19 responses, 5 of which were “short-listed,” it’s a tad nauseating to think about how the City ended up handcuffing itself with long-term bonded debt in order to give PRC multi-millions of dollars in subsidies – especially now that PRC has banked its profit and walked away from the project, while the City will be struggling mightily to meet those debt obligations for the next 14 years.

Are the three amigos who led the Uptown TIF and PRC subsidies efforts (former mayors Wietecha, Marous and Frimark) willing to step up and publicly hold themselves publicly accountable for the Uptown TIF millstone?  How about the former aldermen who rubber-stamped the deal?

So far they’ve all been MIA.  And unless the TIF finances were to miraculously turn around, we suspect they’ll remain MIA.  And why not?  They’ve already basked in the glory of the project as proud parents when it was young and full of promise.

But now that the TIF is looking like a bust, it has become the red-headed step-child.

Or an orphan.

To read or post comments, click on title.