A community meeting on the proposed restoration of the Village Theater at 6740 N. Sheridan Road will take place at:
MERTZ HALL-LOYOLA UNIVERSITY
1125 W. LOYOLA AVE.
TUESDAY, JUNE 3, 2008 AT 7:00 PM
The building's new owner, Anthony Fox, of ADF Capital, will be on hand to share his plans to restore the terra cotta exterior of the building, which houses a number of businesses. The current operator of the Village Theatre will be evicted, and Fox states that he hopes to operate the theater after restoration.
The proposal asks for $200,000 in TIF district funding. The property is part of the Loyola TIF district.
Personally, I love the Village Theater building, and I'm ecstatic that the new ownership intends to restore this beloved building. The Village is the last film house left in Rogers Park, and one of the last on the north lakefront. and the building with its broad brick plaza pretty much makes the corner of Columbia and Sheridan.
And $200,000 is not so much money, is it?
It's certainly not the worst use possible of funds made available to private entities by the devices of a program that should not even exist to begin with. What's $200K compared to the $2,000,000 grants to rental property owners and developers of overpriced condos along Sheridan Road,or, most of all, the tens of millions that are being used to fund the restoration and construction of the Mundelein College and other Loyola University buildings? At least the money earmarked for the Village Theater Bldg.will be used to restore a lovely old building that is a landmark of sorts, and for the benefit of businesses that make the neighborhood more attractive and livable.
It is just that the TIF should not exist to begin with. Chicago's 160 or so TIF districts constitute a massive diversion of present and future tax monies from urgent, unmet needs, notably our decrepit water and sewer infrastructure, and underfunded police and fire departments, as well as our public schools and transit.
Our politicians may not have noticed, but Chicago is nearly bankrupt, a circumstance most of its citizens couldn't have imagined 20 years ago, at the beginning of King Richard's reign. Chicago was an extremely well-run city with reasonable taxes, excellent police and fire protection, superior public transit, decent infrastructure,solid finances,and old neighborhoods that were steadily improving by means of private investment unaided by massive public grants to private developers, and far less at the mercy of the whims of politicians armed with TIF legislation and eminent domain rights.
Worse, there is no longer any rhyme or reason to the allocation of public money. All claims on our funds seem to have equal weight; the demand for, say, $20,000 to provide jugglers for a children's event is given weight equal to a public school's need for new textbooks, and a few million clams to renovate a fugly apartment building for the profit of its ownership, is given equal consideration with the need to replace a water main under a major artery before the street collapses and swallows a few automobiles, or provide our police with the manpower and tools they need to compete with the gangs for control of our streets.
Most of all, taxpayers are forced to subsidize strictly private projects whose benefits do not accrue to them, at the expense of necessary public services and public amenities available to everyone. The funds allocated to Loyola U. for campus buildings will benefit only those rich enough to pay nearly $35,000 a year in tuition and housing, to the detriment of public schools available to all citizens. The citizens are paying to subsidize big barn stores in which they might or might not shop, to the detriment of the business who are forced to subsidize their better-heeled competition through their taxes.
We can no longer pretend that we can afford this type of waste. We have too many unmet and really critical needs to fund, and very little time to meet them, before energy prices reach levels that will make it impossible to make basic repairs necessary to keep Chicago's massive street, water, and sewer networks minimally functional, let alone put into place the more efficient systems and vastly expanded public transportation we'll need for the city to be minimally safe and livable in another twenty years.
Instead of frantic, late campaigns to block this TIF or that, or efforts to funnel the money to useful purposes, we need to repeal the 1952 legislation that authorizes TIF districts, and start the process of rolling back most diversions of public money to strictly private purposes, beginning with the massive subsidies to large businesses that destroy true competition and foster the destruction of local business and retail networks; to the countless claims of public funds that drive property and sales taxes and impoverish the population as a whole while making life impossible for most of our small, locally-owned businesses, while starving our public services.