These days a lot of people are questioning the city's use of blighting and tax abatement as an incentive to attract new development. They say the current system is arbitrary and doled out at the whim of aldermen via the quaint practice of "aldermanic courtesy". They say areas not blighted are nonetheless still seeing "spot blights", where individual lots are being blighted by the Board of Aldermen, providing for ten- year abatements in otherwise improving neighborhoods. And then they point to studies showing the hundreds of millions of dollars being forfeited by the city in favor of these tax abatements.

Just now we are seeing another of these aldermanic turf wars unfolding. Alderman Coatar is proposing a TIF (similar to abatement, except that the developer uses new taxes to pay for project-related costs), for the second phase of Ballpark Village. Alderman Ogilvie pointed out that, years ago, Cordish said they could build Ballpark Village without subsidy. Coatar counters that only "new taxes" would go to the project; that the city's existing taxes would not be involved. Ah, yes. Wouldn't it be nice if somehow the city could actually realize those "new taxes"? Some aldermen are looking at a line in the sand.

What to do?