Views in brief

October 31, 2008

Cutting services and stealing our money

MANY THANKS to Adam Turl for his insightful article on Chicago's public transit woes ("Making the riders pay"). To his excellent points about the underfunding of public transit, I would add only one: the financial drain caused by Chicago's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts.

Under the TIF system, property taxes within a designated geographical area--a TIF district--are effectively "frozen" for up to 23 years. Revenue from property tax increases within TIF districts do not go to Cook County's general fund. Instead, they are diverted into a de facto slush fund, controlled by the mayor. Currently, Chicago has approximately 140 TIF districts. This, in a city covering just 228 square miles.

The amount of money lost each year to TIF districts is staggering. According to the office of Cook County Assessor David Orr, Chicago lost $600 million to TIF districts last year alone. That is $600 million that did not go to public schools, public safety and public transit.

Where do the bulk of TIF funds go? To subsidize upscale real estate development--i.e., gentrification.

The TIF system has been Mayor Daley's most powerful weapon in his decades-long campaign to convert the "City of Big Shoulders" into the "City of Grande Lattes."
Dennis Fritz, Chicago

Vote for Obama and build the movements

REGARDING "WHY I'm not voting for Obama": I really appreciated this article, but as someone who is still learning about socialist politics, it left me with more questions.

Initially, I had planned on not voting at all, hoping that this would send a message that having such a low voter turnout means that something is seriously wrong with our options.

Recently, I decided to vote for Barack Obama, because I figure, why not? A lesser evil is still the better option.

Although I would prefer to vote for a third party, I find myself in the same trap as others who see that voting for a third party takes away from the Democratic vote and may potentially lead to a Republican win. My guess is that the only way to really solve this problem is to change the voting system, rather than hoping that people will suddenly vote 50 percent for a third party (that is, at least until there are movements strong enough to make this a possibility).

Here's where I'm confused: My assumption was that no matter who wins, we will continue to discuss alternatives to our current system and that we'll continue to "patiently build social movements, socialist organization and practical action."

I understand how putting all efforts into voting for Obama and waiting for him to wave his "magical wand of change" takes away from building movements--but I don't see how voting, but still building socialist organization, does so.
Iris Chamberlain, Seattle

No more "lesser evilism"

REGARDING "WHY I'm not voting for Obama": Thank you, Todd Chretien, for writing this article.

Its articulation of the greater need to build democratic institutions that serve the interests of people, rather than to vote for the "lesser of evils," should be read by every American.

I've been trying to argue this and related points for at least 28 years (about the time I joined the Green Party), and lots of others I've discussed politics with agree. Alas, either their values are worn paper-thin, or they're just resigned, and most of my associates wouldn't even discuss the importance of supporting third parties and building change outside the two-headed corporate party during the current "election" circus.

To me, voting for a continuation of the conditions that have rendered this nation a despicable, imperialist, still-racist, reactionary culture is the very definition of insanity.

We'll just have to keep trying to stay sane. Thank you for doing your part.
Peter Warner, Fort Bragg, Calif.

Boeing engineers facing a struggle

THE UNION that represents 24,000 engineers and technicians at the Boeing company are facing many of the same difficulties the machinists encountered in their initial stages of bargaining.

Our agreement ends at midnight on December 1, 2008, and no real progress has been made. Thus, it is becoming another great concern for many in the Puget Sound area. I hope you have time to inquire further as to what is transpiring and report on it.
Frank Guglielmo, from the Internet