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The CivicLab

Economic Justice & Public School Funding - Stopping the National Steal!

Stop the ANNUAL theft of over $20 billion from America's public school systems.

Posted July 18, 2022

Background & Context

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts are created under state law and ginned up and administered by municipalities. They are off the book methods of extracting and sequestering property taxes in secretive slush funds controlled by mayors. This money is doled out to clouted (mostly White) developers for private projects that have little or no public merit. These districts steal property taxes, in effect, from local units of government that then must either raise their own rates or cut services. In Chicago in 2020 some 136 TIF districts extracted over $825 million! This secretive practice is jealously guarded by our mayor (and all mayors who lord over TIFs) as it is a HUGE source of patronage and power distribution. See the work of our TIF Illumination Project at http://www.tifreports.com.

PLEASE WATCH THIS 55 MINUTE VIDEO THAT EXPLAINS THE PROJECT -> www.tinyurl.com/TIF101-PIL.

Immediate Problem

EVENTUALLY we seek some public interest lawyer or firm to take the CivicLab on as a pro bono client and allow us to brief them on our findings. We think that together we can secure national funding from organizations who stand for or benefit from a robust public sector. We would like to craft a local attack on TIFs and use that to fashion a national campaign to educate around TIFs and to eliminate them completely.

FOR RIGHT NOW we seek researchers to review the case law of selected states to uncover and digest any decisions made when a TIF district was challenged. What legal theories were used and were deemed relevant or irrelevant. We'd like a summary of the findings for the state that would be useful for a litigator to use in prep for a civil rights case.

Work & Deliverables

We need to litigate against Tax Increment Financing Districts in a specific city as a test case on how this program is corrupting, racist, and unconstitutional. We know this program is used in 49 states and thousands of municipalities under various names. We believe this program to be part and parcel of a long series of racist public programs that have decimated our communities of color - in line with segregation, red lining, contact home buying, disinvestment, and over policing.

To build our case against TIFs we need researchers to review the records for existing case law and relevant decisions around the creation and sunsetting of TIF districts. It would be great to have one volunteer per state. We'd love to start with the review of cases in Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas (as we are working with citizen groups in those cities).

PLEASE WATCH THIS 55 MINUTE VIDEO THAT EXPLAINS THE PROJECT -> www.tinyurl.com/TIF101-PIL.

Thank you!

This project is complete!

This project has been completed thanks to the efforts of our volunteers.

Visit the Project Directory to check out other projects that still need your help!

Additional Information

  • Time Commitment: 11-20 hours
  • Training Provided: Yes
  • Additional Training Details: We have had relationships with the Loyola and DePaul law schools as well as a huge network of activists and organizers who might supply volunteer research and other services.
  • Site-Preference: Remote
  • Open to Law Students: No
  • Bar License(s) required: Illinois
  • Required Languages: None
  • Mentoring Provided: No
  • Supervision Provided: Yes
The CivicLab

We are a small Black led 501 c 3 nonprofit located in Chicago dedicated to innovation, research, and capacity expansion for work around government accountability, grassroots democracy, and social justice. From 2013 through 2015 we operated what we believe to be the first co-working/maker space in America dedicated to organizing, social justice, and grassroots public policy.

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