Majority of aldermen call for budget changes

November 2, 2011

By Jennifer Brandel and Alex Keefe

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(WBEZ/file)
Mayor Emanuel's proposed budget cuts the city's library hours down and $7 million dollars from the 2012 budget.

A majority of Chicago's aldermen are calling for changes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2012 city budget. They say his proposed budget cuts would hurt public safety and quality of life.

Twenty-eight of the city's 50 aldermen signed the letter to Mayor Emanuel.  They say his plan to cut library hours would cause too many layoffs and negatively effect patrons who rely on the library.

"We're hearing it loud and clear, all across the city, from the West Side to the East Side to the North Side to the South Side," said Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd). "Everybody's complaining about the cuts."

Fioretti said cutting library hours, as mayor Emanuel has proposed, would hurt kids and people who use the internet to search for jobs.

In addition to the library cuts, the 28 aldermen voiced other concerns.

The current budget proposal also consolidates 12 mental health clinics into six, and privatizes some health services. Aldermen say public clinics are vital for Chicago's neediest and must be protected.

Other concerns include the $10 million cut from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. That would eliminate fire and police dispatcher positions - and, aldermen say, endanger public safety.

The bloc says they also "have reservations" about the proposed near doubling of the fee for city stickers on SUVs. But aldermen recognize that the 2012 budget won't avoid cuts entirely, said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th).

"'Cause somethin' have [sic] to give. And we're rational enough to understand that. But we just wanna see if we can balance the burden out a little bit more," Burnett said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Emanuel said he remains open to changing his proposed budget, as long as alderment identify other cuts or revenue sources to offset the ones they don't like.

"I hear them. It doesn't mean I agree. But it doesn't mean I disagree," Emanuel said. "And as I always said, not all signatures on a letter are created equal."