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Want a Marshall Plan for Chicago after the pandemic? Abolish TIFs to pay for it

$1.2 billion could be used to deliver emergency public services and support to our poorest and most disinvested communities of color.

Chicago City Hall
Chicago City Hall
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

You call for a Marshall Plan for America and for Chicago to rebuild from the coronavirus.

The CivicLab knows where we can get $1.2 billion in public dollars right now to fund that plan for Chicago.

We call on the Chicago City Council to abolish the Tax Increment Financing Program (TIFs) and to liberate the remaining $1.2 billion sitting in those accounts right now. There was $1.5 billion, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot grabbed $300 million for her 2020 budget.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

We call for those TIF funds to be used to deliver emergency public services and support our poorest and most disinvested communities of color. This is an altogether fitting use of those funds, as TIFs have been lavished on the Loop and wealthy developers for decades.

We particularly demand that the two super-TIFs created in haste in April 2019 to subsidize the Lincoln Yards and Project 78 developments be cancelled, and no public funds be diverted for those projects which are located in affluent white parts of the city.

Our arguments for abolishing TIFs is online at www.endtifsnow.org.

The federal government is not going to help us here.

We must use all our resources right now to save lives in Chicago.

Tom Tresser, vice president, COO, and co-founder
CivicLab Chicago

Foster children need our help

Congress’ $2 trillion dollar bailout is good for some, but not for all. One group noticeably absent is foster kids. But then again, they have no lobby and no advocates.

Foster children have three times the rate of physical abuse and 28 times the rate of sexual abuse. Fifteen percent of children entering foster care are abused within the first year. One-third will be sexually, physically or emotionally abused while in the system.

In my 30-plus years of law practice I have seen the suffering of these kids firsthand.

With schools closed, there are no teachers to report a child’s black eye. No counselors, mentors, coaches or others to report abuse. To make matters worse, home visits have been eliminated and replaced with phone calls. Does anyone think that a caregiver who has just beaten a child is going to self-report?

With this pandemic, children who are abused are further isolated and have no way to communicate effectively with their social workers.

These kids need our help, and they need it now. It is crucial that our state social workers be considerably more vigilant with checking on these kids. Immediate policy changes should be implemented by all state departments of children and family services, including:

  1. Doubling the number of “visits.” Social workers can’t go to the home, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to check in an additional time or two.
  2. Meetings should be by video conference, not by phone. Child psychologists uniformly recognize the importance of visual cues that a victim of abuse often gives.
  3. Each caseworker should have a dedicated phone number the child can call in case of emergency.
  4. Counseling related to coronavirus isolation should be offered for the entire family. These are psychologically hard times, and people often feel trapped, isolated or anxious. Providing increased counseling to the entire foster family or DCFS family is an absolute must.

Foster care abuse is a national epidemic that will grow during this pandemic. Certainly, a small portion of the $2 trillion can be dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable children in our society.

Jay Paul Deratany, attorney, the Loop