WBEZ | Chicago Mayer Rahm Emanuel http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-mayer-rahm-emanuel Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Emanuel pension deal would raise property taxes, trim benefits http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948 <p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/142758537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true"></iframe><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s plan for fixing part of the nation&#39;s worst municipal pension crisis is now in the hands of state lawmakers &mdash; and it&#39;s likely just the first of many from cities across the state seeking legislative help for their employee retirement funds.</p><p>The Democratic mayor&#39;s proposal comes just months after the General Assembly finally tackled a plan &mdash; challenged in court &mdash; to deal with its own $100 billion pension problem. But Emanuel hasn&#39;t yet addressed shortfalls in the city&#39;s fire and police pension programs, a problem that nearly every large city in Illinois faces.</p><p>Chicago has the worst-funded public pension system of any major U.S. city, a distinction that could threaten its attempts to position itself as a modern transportation hub and a place for high-tech development.</p><p>Emanuel announced he had reached a deal with several municipal and laborers unions to cut in half a $19.5 billion pension debt over 40 years in accounts that cover more than 50,000 employees and retirees. The agreement would raise property taxes by $50 million a year over the next five years, ultimately bringing in $750 million over that time. It would also require higher contributions from employees and reduce the annual benefits retirees receive.</p><p>Less than a year from facing the voters for re-election, Emanuel&#39;s plan is politically risky.</p><p>&quot;Voters did not elect me to think about my political future,&quot; Emanuel said in a statement Tuesday. &quot;They elected me to think about Chicago&#39;s future.&quot;</p><p>He suggested the effort with the unions could be a template for solving $10 billion in police and fire shortfalls, but didn&#39;t suggest specifics, including how the city can meet a required $600 million balloon payment to police and fire funds next year.</p><p>And despite Emanuel&#39;s claim of widespread union support, a coalition of labor groups representing firefighters, police officers, teachers, nurses and other city workers called We Are One Chicago all but promised a lawsuit if lawmakers OK the plan. A similar group has filed a lawsuit over the state plan.</p><p>In Springfield, Republicans were noncommittal, saying they wanted to see the details and who would have to pay for the plan before they signed on. Democrats, who control supermajorities in both legislative chambers, already begun drafting language for the necessary bills in the House.</p><p>Other cities wrestling with their own pension shortfalls are watching.</p><p>&quot;Chicago drives things throughout the state and it also gets the majority of funding from Springfield and Washington, D.C.,&quot; Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said. &quot;A healthy Chicago means more scraps for the Peorias, Rockfords, Danvilles of the state.&quot;</p><p>Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and House leader on pension issues, predicted lawmakers would deal with the current Emanuel plan by itself, but that when it comes to police and fire funds, Chicago and the state&#39;s other large cities will be coming to Springfield for help.</p><p>Aurora, the state&#39;s second-largest city, is among municipalities struggling with police and fire obligations, including state financial penalties to take effect in 2016 for cities that do not make sufficient contributions to those pension accounts. That amounts to an increase of more than $1 million annually for Aurora, which has reduced its operating expenses and laid off employees in recent years, Mayor Tom Weisner said.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not sustainable. Without some reform, there&#39;s going to be cities that basically, I believe, will be going under,&quot; Weisner said. &quot;I&#39;d be hard-pressed to find a community whose leaders are not in favor of pension reform for public safety employees.&quot;</p><p>According to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, a legislative budget analyst, police and fire pension funds in cities outside Chicago have deteriorated significantly in the past two decades. Police funds, for example, were 75 percent funded in 1991, while they were only 54 percent funded &mdash; $4.4 billion short &mdash; in 2010.</p><p>The commission points out that assets in that time have tripled, but liabilities have increased even more. Springfield Mayor Michael Houston said police and fire funds were hit hard by the financial downturn of 2008 and, over the years, legislatively approved enhancements to pension benefits that did not come with money to pay for them.</p><p>&quot;While we can lobby for changes, it&#39;s up to the state Legislature to make changes,&quot; Houston said.</p><p>If the state approves Emanuel&#39;s plan, &quot;it has the potential to create a path for the mayor to address his police and fire pension fund, which will also need to be addressed by downstate police and fire funds,&quot; said Laurence Msall, president of the Chicago-based Civic Federation.</p><p>But he cautioned that the two systems are different. Chicago is unique for having a separate fund for municipal employees and laborers. In other cities, those jobs are covered by the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which is generally in good shape in cities across the state because of stricter contribution requirements and less-generous benefits.</p></p> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948 Chicago Public Schools to get TIF surplus, but impact for schools unclear http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/chicago-public-schools-get-tif-surplus-impact-schools-unclear-109137 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000062567170-td8plg-t500x500.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago schools are in line to get a small infusion of cash from City Hall that parents and activists say could help offset significant school budget cuts made over the summer.</p><p dir="ltr">But it remains unclear how much individual schools will see.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he planned to again declare a more than $49 million surplus on money sitting in the city&rsquo;s 151 tax-increment financing (TIF) accounts. A TIF surplus would be distributed to the city&rsquo;s taxing bodies according to state law, with about half of the total amount going to Chicago Public Schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago&rsquo;s massive network of TIF districts is expected to reap nearly $376 million next year. In a TIF district, any increase in property tax revenue caused by an increase in property values is funneled into a special fund designated for economic development projects. That means revenue growth is diverted away from local taxing bodies, though unused surplus money is supposed to be returned to them at the end of each year.</p><p dir="ltr">Currently, the mayor&rsquo;s administration decides how much money to surplus, and the City Council must sign off on the declaration. However, some independent aldermen want to change that.</p><p dir="ltr">At Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting, members of the Progressive Caucus say they plan to invoke a procedural move to bring an alternative proposal on TIF surpluses to the council floor for debate and a vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Their ordinance, which has been bottled up in a committee for months and prevented from going before the full council, would would automatically trigger a surplus declaration from TIFs that took in more than $1 million last year. Members of the caucus say the ordinance would generate a larger surplus than Emanuel is proposing.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How much money is tied up in TIFs?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There are currently 151 TIF districts in the city of Chicago that collectively have about $1.7 billion to use toward economic development. Of that, about $1.53 billion is &ldquo;encumbered&rdquo; - that is, tied up with current projects - according to Alex Holt, the city&rsquo;s budget director.</p><p dir="ltr">That leaves about $170 million to $180 million that could potentially be released as surplus back to city agencies, Holt said. But, as she explained to WBEZ last week, the city sees a need to do some additional subtraction, leaving a projected $49 million surplus for 2014. Here&rsquo;s the city&rsquo;s math:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">$40 million next year goes toward paying down bonds for the Modern School Across Chicago program, a massive school building effort, and can&rsquo;t be surplused</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">$35.1 million is subtracted for TIFs that have had no revenue or may have declining revenue</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">$11 million remains in TIFs that have balances of less than $1 million</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">$37 million is reserved for single-project TIFs and future obligations</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">After that, the city is left with about $49 million in unused TIF money to surplus, Holt said. The public schools would get about $24 million in additional revenue. On Friday, Emanuel signed an executive order that will annually declare at least 25 percent of unused TIF money as a surplus.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in an e-mail that the district has not yet determined where it would spend the additional revenue. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Schools do benefit from TIF money through new construction and capital upgrades. The mayor&rsquo;s budget office says 35 percent of TIF spending in 2014 will go to school capital projects. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ &nbsp;has repeatedly requested a breakdown of all current TIF-funded projects, but CPS has not yet provided it.</p><p dir="ltr">However, in a string of recent press conferences, Mayor Emanuel has announced a handful of new school buildings and additions&mdash;some at the city&rsquo;s most affluent and selective schools&mdash;which will be funded with either TIF money and state construction grants.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Long-term solution or quick fix?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The administration has been saying TIF money is not a panacea for the district&rsquo;s budget problems. CPS faces a structural deficit driven largely by jumps in required pension payments after years of neglecting to adequately fund its pension system.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Even with...the surplus that some people have called for, those things don&rsquo;t begin to plug the budget gap that either the CPS or city have been seeing,&rdquo; Holt said. &ldquo;When you look at CPS with a billion dollars&rsquo; worth of budget gap that they&rsquo;ve had to address, the dollar amounts are really just too small to accomplish that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But for parents and activists, every dollar counts. Kate Bolduc sits on the local school council at Blaine Elementary and is the co-founder of a coalition of local school councils advocating for adequate funding from CPS.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We understand that it&rsquo;s only a short term solution but we&rsquo;ll take it,&rdquo; Bolduc said. &ldquo;We need it. We have students who are sitting in classes that are way too large. We have students missing out on technology, foreign language, music. Every dollar counts.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Bolduc said if a TIF surplus is declared and distributed directly to schools, it could have an significant and immediate impact.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If you do the math and you take $25 million divided by 400,000 students, we&rsquo;re looking at about $62 per student,&rdquo; Bolduc said. &ldquo;At Blaine, we have about 950 students, so Blaine would see maybe $60,000. That&rsquo;s a teaching position for us. So that&rsquo;s no small amount.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Experts say the fact parents and activists look to the TIF surplus and other TIF reforms speaks to how massive and unwieldy Chicago&rsquo;s TIF program is.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve created a monster in some ways,&rdquo; said Rachel Weber, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studied TIFs extensively and sat on Emanuel&rsquo;s TIF Task Force a couple of years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This program that started off as kind of an obscure way to fund specific kinds of economic development has become a general redevelopment tool, and anybody and everybody who&rsquo;s doing anything and wants some money is now looking to TIFs instead of just looking to the city to help them.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ and covers education. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>. Alex Keefe is WBEZ&rsquo;s political reporter. Follow him at <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">@WBEZpolitics</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 12 Nov 2013 15:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/chicago-public-schools-get-tif-surplus-impact-schools-unclear-109137 Who could beat Rahm Emanuel in 2015? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-05/who-could-beat-rahm-emanuel-2015-107415 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS565_By%20Bill%20Healy%20-%204-16-11%20-%20Rahm%20Inauguration%200027-scr.JPG" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="Rahm Emanuel (Bill Healy)" />It was just last week, right after the final announcement of the 50 CPS closings that protesters lined the sidewalks outside the meeting and chanted, &ldquo;Hey hey, ho ho, Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s got to go!&rdquo;</p><p>It may have looked like a turning point&mdash;citizens actually expressing their rage at the mayor&mdash;but a quick peek inside the proceedings would have revealed a different kind of evidence. Aldermen, especially African-American aldermen in whose wards Emanuel&rsquo;s closings will have a disproportionate and deleterious effect, meekly sought to save this or that school, bowing before the mayor&rsquo;s ferocious power.</p><p>Is there any chance, really, that Emanuel will go? He doesn&rsquo;t have the charm of a Harold Washington, or the common touch of a Richard Daley, but he has a war chest of about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/rahm-emanuel-campaign-mon_n_3102217.html" target="_blank">half a million</a> right now, and a unparalleled track record for fundraising for himself and others. He also has the weight of incumbency: the devil we know over the one we don&rsquo;t, and the ability to get tons of free air time just because.</p><p>There may be legitimate gripes against him&mdash;the school closings, of course, and the new proposed meter deal, and the lack of transparency, the utter lack of much-promised reform, the proposed DePaul stadium (!), the neutering of the city inspector, and the cronyism&mdash;but, er, a lot of folks think that&rsquo;s par for Chicago. Some actually revel in this kind of political behavior because, at the end of the day, Chicago is not Detroit.</p><p>So for &ldquo;Hey hey, ho ho, Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s got to go&rdquo; to echo with any possibility, the issues in and of themselves are only important to a certain extent.</p><p>Besides his own decision to move on&mdash;which isn&rsquo;t going to happen in 2015&mdash;the only thing that could eject Emanuel from City Hall is simply a stronger candidate.</p><p>And is there anyone at there who could do better than the last cache of characters, the Machine-fueled Gery Chico, the well-intentioned but ineffective Miguel del Valle, the embarrassing Carol Mosley Braun?</p><p>It&rsquo;s important to remember that Emanuel won with <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/24/948968/-Map-of-Chicago-mayoral-election-results-by-precinct#" target="_blank">55 percent of the vote</a>, that he actually did even better in the black wards with 59 percent, and that he swept the lakefront.</p><p>Who could make a dent in that kind of overwhelming support? I propose there are two, both well-known politicians, who could give Emanuel a fight.</p><p>The first, and the weaker of the two, is Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Gutierrez thought about running last time, and almost jumped in, but if he&rsquo;d won&mdash;unlikely then&mdash;he&rsquo;d have missed being a part of immigration reform in Congress, his signature issue for the last 20 years.</p><p>Like Emanuel, Gutierrez has long-standing ties to the African-American community. He was Harold Washington&rsquo;s original tie-breaker in the City Council and has a long record of supporting progressive issues, especially in housing and employment. Like Emanuel, Gutierrez supports the rights of the LGBTQ community and has a long record, back to a time when giving that support as fully and passionately as he did actually had consequences. And like Emanuel, he is a dynamic and tireless campaigner.</p><p>Gutierrez would likely dent but not overwhelm Emanuel&rsquo;s lakefront support, give him a run for his money in the African-American community, and win Latino support&mdash;the fastest growing population in the city&mdash;by wide margins.</p><p>There are drawbacks to Gutierrez, like his ability to raise the necessary funds. There&rsquo;s also a question as to how many of those mealy-mouthed black aldermen might stick with Emanuel strictly out of fear.</p><p>But Gutierrez could be a formidable challenger.</p><p>My second proposed candidate, though, could win. And that&rsquo;s Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinckle. Preckwinckle won her current post with two thirds of the vote and majorities across the city&rsquo;s ethnic and racial majorities. It&rsquo;s hard to imagine she wouldn&rsquo;t beat Emanuel in the black wards, that her progressive positions on housing, wages, and guns&mdash;and her disagreement with with Emanuel on school closings (no surprise from a former teacher)&mdash;wouldn&rsquo;t find support among Latinos. Perhaps more importantly, Preckwinckle is popular on the lakefront&mdash;maybe not enough to beat Emanuel along the coast, but certainly enough to considerably diminish his support.</p><p>In either case, both Gutierrez and Preckwinckle couldn&rsquo;t run. Whomever takes on Emanuel needs a cleared field, and they need to start making their moves now.</p><p>What do you think of either Gutierrez or Preckwinckle to run against the mayor? Or do you have another candidate?</p><p><em>Follow Achy Obejas&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/achylandia" target="_blank">@achylandia</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 11:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-05/who-could-beat-rahm-emanuel-2015-107415 Daily Rehearsal: Joffrey welcomes NATO guests http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-05/daily-rehearsal-joffrey-welcomes-nato-guests-99379 <p><p><strong>- </strong><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>Of&nbsp;<em>Arcadia</em>,</strong></span></span> Ada Grey <a href="http://adagrey.blogspot.com/2012/05/review-of-arcadia-at-new-leaf-theatre.html">writes</a>,&nbsp;&quot;People should go see this show because it is fun, makes you want to learn more things, and is bittersweet.&quot; In more ways than one; fairwell New Leaf.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Strawdog returns to Prairie Avenue</strong></span></span> with their <a href="https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/9683022">yearly fundraiser</a>. Everyone who buys a $50 ticket has the chance to win an iPad except company members, for obvious reasons. If you miss your iPad opportunity, ply yourself with cocktails and appetizers, and of course, comfort yourself with this &quot;rare opportunity to step inside one of Chicago&rsquo;s most beautiful private homes, the historic William H. Reid House.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 pm</strong></span></span>, the <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/good-enough/Event?oid=6247889"><em>Reader</em>-recommended</a> <a href="http://www.erasingthedistance.org/what/artistic-season/"><em>Good Enough</em></a>, produced by Erasing the Distance, goes up at the Center on Halstead. &quot;This world premiere production features the stories of five remarkable women living with depression or bipolar disorder. Through waves of humor, anger, hope and pain, each woman navigates her own unique path toward discovering just what it means to be &#39;good enough.&#39;&quot; &quot;Each story ends with a triumphant victory over affliction (it&#39;s do-gooder art, after all), but the performers&#39; understated candor makes every moment ring true,&quot; writes Justin Hayford.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Joffrey%20Board%20Chair%20Jason%20Tyler%2C%20wife%20Yolanda%2C%20Rahm%20Emanuel%2C%20and%20Exec%20Director%20Christopher%20Clinton%20Conway%20%28Robert%20Carl%29.jpg" style="float: right; width: 300px; height: 200px; " title="Joffrey Ballet Board Chair Jason Tyler, wife Yolanda, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Joffrey Exec Director Christopher Clinton Conway. (Photo by Robert Carl)" /><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- The Mammals have extended their <a href="http://themammals.blogspot.com/2012/05/mammals-are-happy-to-announce-that-we.html"><em>All-Girl Moby Dick</em></a></strong></span></span> through June 9; the production is basically what you think it is from the title.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Chicago Mayer Rahm Emanuel</strong></span></span> and his wife&nbsp;joined NATO spouses at the Joffrey on Sunday, where they watched a &quot;short performance&quot;, which means that not even the arts could avoid this weekend&#39;s excitement. Guests received&nbsp;&quot;a limited edition, Picasso-inspired silk scarf based on designs developed for the ballet <em>Parade</em>.&quot; &nbsp;Relatedly (to dance), <a href="http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Dancin-up-a-joy-storm/37637.html">here&#39;s a very thorough look</a> at Hubbard Street Dance&#39;s 34th season wrap-up by Vicki Crain.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Mon, 21 May 2012 10:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-05/daily-rehearsal-joffrey-welcomes-nato-guests-99379