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Introducing The CivicLab
 

Introducing The CivicLab

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The CivicLab is a new nonprofit space devoted to building tools for civic engagement and government accountability. Co-founded by Tom Tresser, tom@civiclab.com. http://www.civiclab.us, ...

The CivicLab is a new nonprofit space devoted to building tools for civic engagement and government accountability. Co-founded by Tom Tresser, tom@civiclab.com. http://www.civiclab.us, #civiclabchicago

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  • If you view this presentation, please email me your comments or suggestions. We're looking for allies, collaborators, friends and funders! Tom Tresser - tom@tresser.com
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  • can you see this?
  • that "Young People" are the ones using the internet to connect, etc. etc.  In fact, the largest group to join facebook for the last few years have been middle aged and older (obviously, this is because young people are already on it. Nevertheless, the growth in social media is rapidly spreading to new cohorts)
  • Rebecca== go back to this..
  • I think we could use some better titles here. 

Introducing The CivicLab Introducing The CivicLab Presentation Transcript

  • LAUNCHING CIVICLAB ANDTHE TIF REPORT PROJECT September 2012 CivicLab 1
  • DISTURBING TRENDS• Big Business money swamping politics• Lack of government transparency but constant claims of financial stress• Widespread citizen anger and disengagement• Decline of local political reportingBottom LineWe are faced with a situation where local governmentsturn to bad policies, including privatization of publicassets, to escape consequences of bad managementand the need to reward large corporate donors.Meanwhile, reporting on local politics has been indecline and public is not able to accurately judge policymaking and evaluate elected officials. CivicLab 2
  • “America’s Civic Health Index for 2009 shows thatthe economic recession is causing a civicdepression. The national survey finds that 72% ofAmericans say they cut back on time spentvolunteering, participating in groups, and doingother civic activities in the past year while theeconomy was free-falling.” CivicLab 3
  • “The 2010 Chicago Civic Health Index demonstrates the failure of theregion to prepare its youngest citizens for their adult civicresponsibilities, along with the effects of endemic political corruptionand the widespread cynicism and disengagement it spawns. WhileChicagoland residents trail their national peers by small marginson most measures of civic health, including civic engagement andsocial capital, the overall numbers are unacceptably low. The challengeof turning the tide rests upon the region’s commitment to civiceducation and engagement opportunities for tomorrow’s active,informed citizens and political leaders.” CivicLab 4
  • ENCOURAGING TRENDS• Since the advent of social media, citizens increasingly use the internet to connect, inform and create• Millennials embrace a spirit of common purpose• An invigorated “Do It Yourself” spirit is on the rise• New media tools are being used for hyper local reporting• New breed of programmers work for the common goodBottom LineWe need new tools and new avenues for people –especially young people – to engage in civic life. Now isthe time to leverage the time and means to educate andactivate our citizens to take an active and creative part inlocal governance. CivicLab 5
  • It’s time for some new tools and some new tool builders!CivicLab 6
  • The CivicLab is a new nonprofit enterprise working to buildand deploy tools for distributed democracy, governmentaccountability and civic engagement.We are about: • Exploration & Investigation • Explanation & Education • Engagement & Improvement CivicLab 7
  • Distributed DemocracySpreading out the means and methods of democratic practice to the average citizen using technology. Examples Citizens monitor infrastructure Online spaces for issue education and analysis Online town forums Online voting Participatory budget analysis Participatory budget allocation CivicLab 8
  • Government Accountability Using technology to x-ray and expose all activities ofgovernment and influences on government in order to reveal any potential or real conflicts-of-interest. Examples Online databases (contributions, contracts, etc.)Government data flow (employees, expenditures, statistics) Visualization of processes and relationships Coverage of all aspects of government operations –especially those involving tax expenditures & special deals CivicLab 9
  • Civic EngagementEncouraging citizens to take an active and ongoing role in shaping and guiding their local communities Examples Volunteering Donating to change and improvement efforts Voting and assisting the election process Participating in community improvement efforts Participating in civic investigations and research Working for political campaigns Running for local office CivicLab 10
  • Are Citizens Lazy?We reject the commonly held belief that average citizens arelazy, stupid, selfish and do not care.We believe when citizens have access to information in anaccessible form they will act on convictions and take part inthe democratic process.The Do It Yourself (DIY) and Open Source movementsprovides ample evidence that when individuals have accessto the tools they need to act, they take charge and oftenmake it a social endeavor.  Cycling Community  Growth of Community Gardens  Online Collaborative Projects (Firefox, Rally To Restore Sanity, SeeClickFix, etc.) CivicLab 11
  • Levels of EngagementCivic Labs will activate and encourage three types of citizens: o Users -- This citizen will largely benefit from the output of the projects. They will review reports and visit the website to learn more about the political process. o Collaborators -- This citizen, now empowered with information, will help in the collaborative process giving input, use the tools developed to explore the process and take action. o Developers -- This citizen, who has felt empowerment of engagement, will take on more responsibility and a larger role in developing tools and initiatives. CivicLab 12
  • ExamplesCivicLab 13
  • ExamplesCivicLab 14
  • ExamplesCivicLab 15
  • ExamplesCivicLab 16
  • ExamplesCivicLab 17
  • ExamplesCivicLab 18
  • Exampleshttp://www.theprojectlodge.com CivicLab 19
  • CIVICLAB’s FIRST PROJECT – THE TIF REPORT CivicLab 20
  • The TIF Report ProjectA new reporting service that will investigate, expose andexplain how Tax increment Finance Districts use and abuseproperty taxes in Cook County.The service will rely on trained citizen journalists who live inthe communities they report from.The service will have a robust web site AND publish reports.First phase is an in depth investigation of one ward inChicago. CivicLab 21
  • What are TIFs? • Created by municipality (state statute) • Boundaries cross community and some politICAL LINES • Designed to subsidize some business project or public project that the market won’t support • Capture “incremental” property taxes ABOVE base when district was created • Authorized for 23 yearsCivicLab 22
  • How Do TIFs Work? TIFs capture property taxes from the district and place them in off-the-book accounts The property taxes collected from properties inside the district BEFORE the district was created that go to units of government stay FLAT for the life of the TIF (23 years).CivicLab 23
  • Where are TIFs? • All over Chicago and Cook County • 163 in city of Chicago • Additional 280 in suburban Cook County • TOTAL = 443CivicLab 24
  • Where are TIFs?CivicLab 25
  • Where are TIFs?Source: Cook County Clerk CivicLab 26
  • How Much Revenue Do TIFs Collect?Source: Cook County Clerk CivicLab 27
  • How Much Revenue Do TIFs Collect?2011 TOTAL TIF REVENUE FOR COOK COUNTYCity of ChicagoTIFs diverted $454 MILLIONSuburban Cook CountyTIFs diverted $275 MILLIONTOTAL FOR 2011 = $729 MILLION CivicLab 28
  • How Much Revenue Do TIFs Collect? Ouch! $4.5 BILLION DIVERTED SINCE 1986! CivicLab 29
  • THE CITY HAD $1.5 BILLION IN UNSPENT TIFFUNDS AT THE END OF 2010! CivicLab 30
  • Who Is Harmed By TIFs? ALL units of government that rely on property taxes for their operation – which are STARVED of revenues - Forcing them to raise THEIR OWN PROPERTY TAX rates, and putting upward pressure to increase property valuation – which PUSHES UP your total property tax expense.In Chicago, The Board ofEducation is SUPPOSED to getalmost 54% of your propertytaxes. But… CivicLab 31
  • Who Is Harmed By TIFs?In Chicago, The Board ofEducation is SUPPOSED to getalmost 54% of your propertytaxes. But…This property owner is in theTouhy/Western TIF District and24% of HIS property taxes werecaptured by the district. TheBoard of Education only got39% of his property taxes.That’s a loss of 15% in revenuesfrom this single taxpayer. This mock tax bill was generated by the Cook County Clerk’s web site. The REAL tax bill would NOT show the TIF diversion of property taxes. CivicLab 32
  • Who Is Harmed By TIFs? THE CASE OF THE LYING TAX BILLS The real tax bill does NOT show the money diverted by the TIF district. If you live in a TIF District your tax bill is LYING to you!CivicLab 33
  • Who Is Harmed By TIFs? CivicLab 34
  • Who Is Harmed By TIFs? CivicLab 35
  • How Are TIFs Abused?• Controlled by Mayors with no real oversight• Difficult to determine why they are created• No sound argument for creation – clout driven• Difficult to track how public money spent• Private developers and major corporations get millions in subsidies• No evaluation or accountability CivicLab 36
  • CivicLab 37
  • TIF for North Side auto dealer is a boondoggle. (Opinion)(cityofficials plans to give Grossinger Auto Group $8.5 million in tax-increment financing )Crains Chicago Business – Jan 14, 2008TIF addiction in Chicago reached a new low last week.City officials endorsed a plan to give Grossinger Auto Group$8.5 million in tax-increment financing to build a dealership atthe bustling intersection of North and Clybourn avenues on theNorth Side. The site isnt in a TIF district, but the officials werekind enough to create one just for the building Grossinger plansto convert into a four-level auto mall. CivicLab 38
  • 2009 revenues of $2.6 BILLION! CivicLab 39
  • IN 2009 THE CITY GAVE CHICAGO MERCHANTILE EXCHANGE $15 MILLION FOR REHABBING CORPORATE HQ. APPROVED BY ALDERMAN BOB FIORETTI, 2ND WARD.2009 revenues of $2.6 BILLION! CivicLab 40
  • CHICAGO PLEADS POVERTY…CUTS SERVICES. CLOSES SCHOOLS. CLOSESHEALTH CLINICS. LAYS OFF TEACHERS. City closed for three week days in 2009… CivicLab 41
  • THE CITY HAD $1.4 BILLIONIN UNSPENT TIF FUNDS AT THE END OF 2008 AND NEARLY AS MUCH AT THE END OF 2009 AND 2010! CivicLab 42
  • IF THERE WERE NO TIFS, WHAT HAPPENS?CivicLab 43
  • NO TIFS = YOUR PROPERTY TAX BILL GOES DOWN BY 11% !!CivicLab 44
  • Who Is Harmed By TIFs? We ALL are!• TIFs divert almost one billion dollars in propertytaxes in Cook County every year.• TIFs are a tax on everyone – regardless if youlive in a TIF district or not.• TIFs starve the units of government that relythem for operation.• TIFs are notoriously corrupt and difficult to track. CivicLab 45
  • Cook County Clerk David Orr issued a press release on November 23, 2009 and called for a moratorium on new TIF districts until a new Mayor is in place and a thorough review of existing TIFs is conducted. “Too often, Chicago’s policy has been to collect millions in a piggy bank and decide how to spend it later,” Orr said, “Now the city is plugging its budget hole with TIF money but TIFs were not created to be a safety net when the economy went sour,Cook County Clerk David Orr joins teachers andneighbors at a TIF protest on 3/19/11 The TIF system is broken and it needs to be fixed.” (see http://tinyurl.com/6dsabkc) CivicLab 46
  • New Mayor is “Shocked”! The Chicago Sun-Times (5/25/11) reported that "Without criticizing Daley directly, Emanuel said he was ‘shocked’ to learn that TIF districts have been multiplying for more than two decades without any job creation standards." CivicLab 47
  • The Problem Is State-Wide In Illinois, 360 municipalities have 943 TIF Districts? In 2010, across the state, 414 TIF districts were in “non-compliance” for not filing any or proper financial statements, according to The Office of the State Comptroller. That’s 44% of all Illinois TIFs! CivicLab 48
  • We Need The TIF Report To Shine A Light on TIFS! CivicLab 49
  • We Need The TIF Report To Shine A Light on TIFS!Phase 1 – Prototype • Pick one ward to fully investigate TIF history and activity • Create maps to show districts • Reveal all parties and organizations who have received TIF funds from those TIFs inside ward • Publish results on line and in tabloid form (using Chicago Reader as model) • Print up graphic poster showing TIF activity for one ward, distribute throughout the ward • Meet with groups in the ward to explain findings • Schedule community forum for questions, invite alderman and mayor to respond CivicLab 50
  • We Need The TIF Report To Shine A Light on TIFS!Phase 2 – Expand • Add three wards to add geographic diversity • Add one suburban township • Create maps to show districts • Reveal all parties and organizations who have received TIF funds from those TIFs inside ward • Publish results on line and in tabloid form (using Chicago Reader as model) • Train, expand team of Citizen Journalists to gather information CivicLab 51
  • “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” - James MadisonCivicLab 52
  • Tom Tresser – 312-804-3230 – tom@civiclab.com http://www.civiclab.us - http://tifreports.com @civiclabchicago CivicLab 53