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A recent proposal by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration encounters an unsure future amongst “opposition from Chicago City Council members.” This proposal suggests the usage of property tax revenue that’s generated downtown to finance a $3.6 billion extension of the CTA’s Red Line. This goes from 95th street to the southern border of the city by 130th Street.
What Exactly Would the Red Line Extension Proposal Do?
The Lightfoot administration’s Red Line Extension proposal would generate new tax-increment financing (TIF) district across the CTA Red Line’s southern branch to create $950 million for the project. This would be done via funneling a section of the increase in property tax revenues for the succeeding 25 years from the following wards: 3rd, 4th, 11th, 25th, and 42nd. This would occur even with the fact that the Red Line Extension would be multiple miles away from these wards.
What’s The Red Line Extension Debate?
The mayor’s ally and chair of the City Council’s Budget Committee, Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), opposed the Red Line Extension proposal. She declared to the Community Development Commission’s members that for the residents of Bronzeville, it would be a “bad deal” and place a bad precedent.
Dowell further expresses her heavy reservation about the Transit TIF’s creation in this infrequent appearance “before the Community Development Commission” to openly oppose the proposal supported by the mayor. She stated that would take the property tax obligations of her constituents and administer “them miles away.”
Another reason is that “there will be less money available for improvements in Bronzeville, which might be booming now, but has faced decades of disinvestment and that is not something she is prepared to support because finances” is stated to be a “zero-sum game. ”
On the contrary, CTA officials defended the plan by stating the entire city would benefit from the Red Line Extension, not merely the Far South Side. It would do this by allowing people to transport to work in the Loop area a whole thirty minutes quicker with decreasing cars’ carbon emissions.
Views From the Other Side
A recurring critic of Mayor Lightfoot and whose Far South Side ward would immediately benefit from the extension, Ald. Anthony Beale called the plan of the mayor “short-sighted.” He further declared the government should cover the complete cost of the extension — something he has favored for over a decade.
The Budget Needed
In order to get the project, the city must parallel an anticipated federal grant of $2.16 billion. This project, initially, was envisioned in the 1950s by Richard J. Daley, former mayor of Chicago
Furthermore, the CTA aspires to lock in $2.16 billion from New Starts, a federal grant program. This program assists in funding new line projects and rail extensions across the country. In order to receive qualification for the grant, local matching funds have to be found by the CTA for the other forty percent.
Let’s Get to the Vote
Post hours of debate, the commission voted to result in unanimous vote to “authorize city officials to take the first steps toward creating the TIF.” This would be the second of its kind in Chicago.
This vote succeeded the Department of Planning and Development’s member’s assurance to the members of the commission, appointed by the mayor. This assurance includes how they were voting to begin the process via “authorizing a feasibility study of the new TIF district,” by allowing alternate panels of the city to start the consideration of the proposal.
What it Boils Down To
Although, ultimately, the creation would require approval by the Chicago City Council.
Unending arguments, fed by the usage of TIF districts by the city, over the districts that catch the whole growth in property tax base located for 23 years in a designated area stimulate redevelopment. With this, it gets rid of “blight or serve to exacerbate growing inequality in Chicago.”
Furthermore, usually, funds generated via TIF are required for utilization in the same area in the city where taxes were generated from. On the contrary, the TIF proposed by the mayor would utilize the “growth concentrated” on the south of the Loop and downtown to finance this train line extension on the Far South Side. In fact, the Far South Side is where the tax revenue of property has been declining or motionless for multiple years.
Downtown Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd) explains this transit project that is particularly “targeting an underserved community” ought to be funded, federally, a minimum of eighty percent. There should not be a requirement for the people to pay for this with their “local property tax dollars.” He further stated how he “would only support this if we’ve exhausted all other opportunities.”
Written by Ke’Lena Thomas
Edited by Sheena Robertson
WTTW News: Push to Use Downtown Property Taxes to Fund Far South Side Red Line Extension Faces Uncertain Future; by Heather Cherone
PBS: Push to Fund Red Line Extension Off to Rocky Start
Chicago Sun-Times: CTA funding plan for $3.6 billion Red Line extension uses almost $1 billion in property taxes; by Manny Ramos and Fran Spielman
Featured Image Courtesy of Jacob G.’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons Licensed
Inset Image Courtesy of artistmac’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons Licensed