WBEZ | Chicago City Council http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-city-council Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Madigan drops property tax mandate in pension bill http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is removing a controversial provision from a Chicago pension bill that would have required the City Council to raise property taxes in order ease the city&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion pension crisis.</p><p>The move to strip the property-tax language in the bill came late Monday, just a few hours after Gov. Pat Quinn signalled he would not back a proposed property tax hike that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing in order to bolster the ailing pension funds for Chicago laborers and municipal workers.</p><p>&ldquo;Working with legislative leaders, bill sponsors, the Governor, and our partners in labor, we have addressed their concerns and can now move forward to save the retirements of nearly 60,000 city workers and retirees in Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement late Monday afternoon.</p><p>But the removal of the property tax language doesn&rsquo;t mean Emanuel&rsquo;s tax hike proposal is going away. That plan, which would bring the city $750 million in revenue over the next five years, still seems to be central to the mayor&rsquo;s plan to pump more money into the city&rsquo;s pensions.</p><p>The difference is that state legislators, who must approve changes to Illinois pension law, don&rsquo;t have to worry about being blamed for raising Chicago property taxes during an election year. The bill&rsquo;s original language mandated that the City Council raise property taxes to pay for pensions. The latest version allows the city to use &ldquo;any available funds&rdquo; to make its annual payments.</p><p>Speaking at an event Monday morning, Emanuel said he is not trying to hang a potential property tax hike around legislators&rsquo; necks.</p><p>&ldquo;It was never anybody&rsquo;s intention to have Springfield deal with that,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s our responsibility. But I do believe to actually give the 61,000 retirees and workers the certainty they deserve, you need reform and revenue. And we&rsquo;ll deal with our responsibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel said he will continue to &ldquo;address people&rsquo;s concerns&rdquo; about the pension plan, though he would not speak directly to its fate in the City Council, which would also need to approve any property tax hike.</p><p>To placate public worker unions who had wanted a dedicated revenue stream, Madigan&rsquo;s changes also beef up the penalties if City Hall wriggles out of paying its pension contributions. The bill directs Illinois&rsquo; Comptroller to cut off state funding to the city indefinitely if it doesn&rsquo;t pay its pension tab, and it gives pension funds the right to sue City Hall in order to get their money.</p><p>The new bill would also guarantee that retirees who make $22,000 or less in annual benefits would get a cost-of-living increase of at least 1 percent each year. Prior proposals set the annual increases at the lesser of 3 percent or half the rate of inflation. Right now, city laborers and municipal workers get a guaranteed annual benefit increase of 3 percent, which builds on the previous years&rsquo; increases.</p><p>The changes to the mayor&rsquo;s proposed pension fix came just hours after Gov. Pat Quinn slammed Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve gotta come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue,&rdquo; Quinn said at an unrelated press conference. &ldquo;But if they think they&rsquo;re just gonna gouge property taxpayers, no can do. We&rsquo;re not gonna go that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn, a populist Democrat who is seeking re-election in November, has made property tax relief central to his 2015 state budget proposal. And while he shot down Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, the governor did not offer an alternative source of revenue for Chicago pensions.</p><p>&ldquo;I think they need to be a whole lot more creative than I&rsquo;ve seen so far,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>State legislators could consider the new amendment as soon as Tuesday.</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 Quinn quiet on mayor’s pension plan, questions property tax hikes http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is raising questions about whether he would support a plan to bolster Chicago&rsquo;s underfunded public pensions by raising property taxes, telling reporters today that property taxes are already &ldquo;overburdening&rdquo; state residents.</p><p>State lawmakers are now debating <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Femanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHVMds9AwIwUN5U23ljh0rlrgfAPg">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan</a> to prop up city&rsquo;s pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. Central to that is a proposal to raise property taxes by $50 million each year for five years, which would ultimately net the city $750 million. The mayor also is calling for city workers to chip in more money toward their retirement benefits, and he wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s blueprint, which he said would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion public pension crisis, first needs approval from the state legislature and the governor, because all Illinois pensions are governed by state law.</p><p>Quinn on Thursday would not say whether he would sign the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Fbillstatus.asp%3FDocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26GA%3D98%26DocTypeID%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26SessionID%3D85&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCEIli0kRUcM8Np1l1LxGkpZmWDg">Chicago pension bill</a> if it landed on his desk.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that bill is, frankly,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters in Chicago. &ldquo;I think it has all kinds of different descriptions. They&rsquo;re, I guess, looking at it in Springfield. When they have something put together we&rsquo;ll look at it. But I wanna make it clear: I believe in reducing the burden of property taxes in our state.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn would not detail any specific concerns he had with Emanuel&rsquo;s pension plan. But he returned repeatedly to the talking points he has been using to push his own 2015 state budget proposal. &ldquo;The bottom line in our state is we have to reduce our reliance on property taxes and we have to invest in education,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>The governor&rsquo;s 2015 budget would make permanent a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fincome-tax%2Ftemporary-tax-hikes-dont-always-stay-way&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHDXygwYKimhgniQZB0Efijo86f_Q">income tax hike</a> enacted in 2011, while guaranteeing all Illinois homeowners a $500 property tax refund. The governor is hoping that will allow municipalities around the state, boosted by trickle-down state income tax revenue, to lower local property taxes, which Quinn thinks disproportionately favor wealthy areas.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s Springfield allies put his plan into legislative form on Tuesday, shortly after he outlined it for reporters. The bill passed a key House pension committee on Wednesday, but is still awaiting a debate before the full House.</p><p>The State Senate, meanwhile, adjourned for the week on Thursday without taking up the plan.</p><p>The blueprint Emanuel outlined earlier this week aims to pump more money into the two pension funds for more than 56,000 city workers -- one for city laborers and the other for municipal workers, including administrators and skilled tradesmen.</p><p>By 2020, Emanuel&rsquo;s plan would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fexperts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGzLcw0b8YPzM-h-NQSYombAlYX5g">archaic math</a> the city has been using for decades to calculate how much money to chip into its workers&rsquo; retirements. Experts say that is a primary reason the pension funds have been shorted for decades, leading to their current dire shape. Instead, the proposal in Springfield would slowly ramp up contributions from the city, before switching over to a self-adjusting funding formula.</p><p>If the city tries to skimp on payments -- or skip them altogether -- <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Ffulltext.asp%3FDocName%3D09800SB1922ham004%26GA%3D98%26SessionId%3D85%26DocTypeId%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26DocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26Session%3D&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL9MZWqOZTKPul1CQW64R2_sAHpA">the current proposal</a> allows the pension funds to take Chicago to court, or even garnish City Hall&rsquo;s share of state grant money.</p><p>But the stabilization of the pension funds would also come at a cost for taxpayers and city workers.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, which would still need approval from the City Council, would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $58 more in property taxes each year for the next five years, according to the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Current and retired city workers would also kick more into their pension funds, but get less out of them. Employee contributions would jump from the current 8.5 percent of each paycheck to 11 percent by 2019.</p><p>But the mayor also wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year. Retirees in the municipal and laborers pension funds currently see their retirement benefits grow at a 3 percent compounded annual rate. The mayor wants to cut that down to a flat 3 percent, or half the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. And retirees would see no benefit increase in 2017, 2019 or 2025.</p><p>Several of Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful city workers&rsquo; unions quickly came out against the mayor&rsquo;s plan, arguing it violates a part of the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Fcommission%2Flrb%2Fcon13.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHYjOR9TNeMJMsYGbhWyAumt2lbbA">Illinois Constitution</a> that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes the unions for police, firefighters and teachers, whose members all have their own woefully underfunded pensions systems that would not be affected by Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal. What&rsquo;s more, the mayor&rsquo;s plan does nothing to stave off a state-mandated spike in the city&rsquo;s contributions to its police and fire pensions next year, which will cost nearly $600 million.</p><p>The jump in required payments was designed to finally bring the city&rsquo;s police and fire pensions into the black, after decades of City Hall shorting the funds. But Emanuel has threatened that such a huge, one-time increase would force drastic budget cuts or steep property tax hikes.</p><p>A spokesman for venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November election, said in a statement that Rauner disagreed with the mayor&rsquo;s proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;Bruce has always maintained that true pension reform requires moving towards a defined contribution style system and believes that should also be part of the solution for Chicago,&rdquo; said campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 Mayor's borrowing authority hiked by council http://www.wbez.org/news/mayors-borrowing-authority-hiked-council-109644 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP168520649673_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago aldermen today gave Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration its final okay to borrow up to $900 million dollars to pay for city equipment, capital projects, and legal settlements, and to refinance old debt.</p><p>The City Council also approved another $1 billion in borrowing for Midway Airport, and agreed to double the city&rsquo;s short-term borrowing limit from the current $500 million to $1 billion.</p><p>The borrowing plans all passed on a 43-4 vote, with no debate.</p><p>Alderman John Arena (45th Ward) said he voted no because the Emanuel administration did not give specifics on exactly how the newly borrowed money would be spent.</p><p>&ldquo;Unless we have a real debate on this, a real dialogue, and get real information from the administration in real time -- and enough time to make an educated vote -- then I&rsquo;m gonna continue to vote no on these types of things,&rdquo; Arena said after the vote.</p><p>Also voting against the borrowing plans were 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack and 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti. Ed Burke, the alderman of the 14th Ward and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee that held a hearing on the borrowing plans, abstained from voting.</p><p>Though the city got the council&rsquo;s authorization to issue up to $900 million on bonds, the Emanuel administration will likely issue about $650 million, said city Finance Department spokeswoman Kelley Quinn. About $349 million of that would help pay for legal settlements, capital projects, and so-called &ldquo;aldermanic menu&rdquo; accounts that aldermen use at their discretion to fund projects in their wards.</p><p>But some financial watchdogs have raised concerns about the other roughly $301 million in borrowing, which will be used to restructure debt. At least some of that -- up to $130 million -- could be used to push upcoming debt payments off into the future. That means the city saves money with smaller payments in the short term, but ends up paying more in the long-run.</p><p>The city will likely issue $550 million of the Midway Airport bonds for upgrades to runways and taxiways, Quinn said.</p><p>The short-term credit extension doubles the amount of so-called &ldquo;commercial paper&rdquo; the city can borrow. It is often used to cover city operations.</p><p>The first bond issue, set for March, will mark Chicago&rsquo;s first test of the municipal bond market since July, when Moody&rsquo;s Investors Service <a href="https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-downgrades-Chicago-to-A3-from-Aa3-affecting-82-billion--PR_278069">hit the city</a> with a triple downgrade of its bond rating, citing the city&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329">massive pension problems</a>.</p><p>Much like a person with a bad credit score, governments with low bond ratings have to pay higher interest rates when they borrow money.</p><p>Emanuel defended his borrowing requests after Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting as the usual course of government business.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s typical efforts to invest in our streets, our sidewalks, light poles -- all the other infrastructure that improves our neighborhoods,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Emanuel added the city&rsquo;s budget problems are deep enough that it will take time to dig out of them.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe" target="_blank">Alex Keefe</a>&nbsp;is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Feb 2014 16:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayors-borrowing-authority-hiked-council-109644 Experts say Chicago has a public pension system set up to fail http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329 <p><p>Illinois lawmakers may have approved a fix for the state&rsquo;s pension crisis. But Chicago is still facing a massive spike in required pension payments to help bring its own funds up to speed.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s four pension systems &mdash; for police, firefighters, laborers and municipal workers &mdash; were short by a whopping $19.5 billion at the end of 2012. That does not include the ailing pension fund for Chicago teachers, which has its own $8 billion shortfall at the end of the last fiscal year.</p><p>Increased benefits for city workers, early retirement offers and market downturns put pressure on the city&rsquo;s four pension funds in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But pension experts, labor leaders and politicians also point to a more fundamental problem &mdash; a quirk of state law that experts say may have set the system up to fail.</p><p>Retired Chicago firefighters George Beary, 70, says he wasn&rsquo;t making a lot of money when he started at the fire department back in 1967. But he still remembers the words of consolation he got from one of his officers in the fire academy.</p><p>&ldquo;When we got on the fire department, we were taken care of from the time we walked through those big red doors, to the time they haul your ass outta church to go in the ground,&rdquo; Beary recalled. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re covered. Exact words.&rdquo;</p><p>But for Beary, they don&rsquo;t ring as true today.</p><p>He and a group of fire department retirees - they call themselves &ldquo;oldtimers&rdquo; - sipped coffee and munched on donuts one recent morning at the Chicago Firefighters Local 2 Union hall, on the city&rsquo;s South Side.</p><p>Altogether, Chicago&rsquo;s four pension accounts were just 36 percent funded at the end of 2012. But the one for firefighters and paramedics is the worse off by far.</p><p>For every dollar it owes in benefits, it has just a quarter in the bank.</p><p>&ldquo;See the gray hair? That comes from worry,&quot; said retired Capt. Peter Qualizza.</p><p>He&rsquo;s one of roughly 4,100 beneficiaries in the firefighters&rsquo; pension fund which some experts project could go broke in less than a decade.</p><p>&ldquo;So everyone here has gray hair,&rdquo; Qualizza said, drawing laughs from the other retirees sitting around a long conference table. &ldquo;Some of &lsquo;em color it, some of &lsquo;em don&rsquo;t, okay? But everyone of us has gray hair because we&rsquo;re concerned about the future.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Chicago&rsquo;s unrealistic pension math</strong></p><p>The roots of Chicago&rsquo;s pension troubles go back decades, long before Qualizza and the other oldtimers starting going gray.</p><p>At issue is the so-called &ldquo;multiplier&rdquo; equation by which City Hall calculates how much money to chip into its pension piggy banks each year. It may sound complex, but the math is simple: City Hall bean-counters take the amount that workers in each fund paid into their pensions from two years prior, then they multiply that by a number that&rsquo;s set in state law.</p><p>As a matter of state law, Chicago&rsquo;s pension math is set by Springfield legislators. But the unique multiplier number for each of the four funds hasn&rsquo;t increased since 1982.</p><p>&ldquo;This is really one-of-a-kind in my experience,&rdquo; said actuary Jeremy Gold, who studies public pensions all over the country. &ldquo;There are no other public pension plans that I am aware of...that pays the way Chicago pays.&rdquo;</p><p>Gold says the fundamental problem is this multiplier doesn&rsquo;t change with the times. That means the money going into each fund stays relatively flat, regardless of whether retirees get richer benefits, stock markets crash or the system is burdened by thousands of early retirements, as it was under former Mayor Richard Daley in 1998 and 2004. (Daley declined WBEZ&rsquo;s interview request.)</p><p>The relatively static funding level is akin to offering to pay your grocer the 1982 price for a gallon of milk.</p><p>A 2010 <a href="http://www.chipabf.org/ChicagoPolicePension/PDF/Financials/pension_commission/CSCP_Final_Report_Vol.1_4.30.2010.pdf">report</a> commissioned by Daley found this inadequate funding was the main reason Chicago&rsquo;s police and fire pension funds have taken a such dive in the 2000s. The report blamed benefit increases for the dire condition of the laborers&rsquo; and municipal workers&rsquo; funds, though the inadequate funding has made it harder for them to recover.</p><p>&ldquo;At this point, after having been in place for 30 years, it no longer bears any relationship to the realistic cost of providing these benefits,&rdquo; Gold said.</p><p><strong>Pension problems that go back decades</strong></p><p>In fact, the problem is much older than that.</p><p>In his downtown office, fire pension fund secretary Tony Martin flips through a massive, shopworn book containing notes from pension board meetings going back more than a century, from 1887 to Dec. 18, 1931.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pension_chart_for_al.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pension_chart_for_al.jpg" style="height: 247px; width: 400px; float: right;" title="Sources: WBEZ analysis of data from the Chicago Firemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund, Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund, Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund and the Laborers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund" /></a></div><p>Martin finally lands on a<a name="chart"></a> yellowed, typewritten letter the firefighter&rsquo;s pension board sent to state lawmakers on Wednesday, May 4, 1927.</p><p>The letter&#39;s author is complaining about the way Chicago funds its pensions - about a system that&rsquo;s awfully similar to today&rsquo;s multiplier - and the board is asking state lawmakers for relief.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s amazing!&rdquo; Martin said. &ldquo;We never really dealt with the structural issues of these pension funds.&rdquo;</p><p>Martin says the stock market boom of the late 1990s only masked those structural issues - especially for police and fire pensions. But he says the chronic underfunding means investment losses hit them even harder during the Dot-com bust and the 2008 recession.</p><p>Now, the pensions are forced to sell off the very assets they&rsquo;re supposed to be investing.</p><p>&ldquo;Basically what&rsquo;s happening is the money that&rsquo;s coming in from firemen today and the money that&rsquo;s coming in from the city today, is going out the door today,&rdquo; Martin said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not saving for tomorrow.&rdquo;</p><p>The rate at which the city&rsquo;s pension funds are cashing out investments has more than tripled since the year 2000, according to a WBEZ analysis. Last year, the four funds liquidated more than $1 billion.</p><p>The more the funds liquidate, the less money they can make on investments, which could lead to even more liquidation in order to have enough money to pay out to retirees. Pension experts say this is a dangerous cycle - kind of like eating yourself to avoid going hungry.</p><p>This whole situation makes Tony Martin angry - and he says it should make taxpayers angry, too.</p><p>&ldquo;They should be outraged that we&rsquo;re even in this situation,&rdquo; Martin said. &ldquo;It should have never gotten to this point. And who is to blame?&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Blame everybody</strong></p><p>The structural funding problem with Chicago&rsquo;s four pension systems is not entirely responsible for the current crisis, experts and observers say, but it left the funds ill-equipped to deal with the market downturns of the early 2000s.</p><p>And political deals between City Hall and labor unions burdened the system even more.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re looking for who to blame, it&rsquo;s everybody,&rdquo; said Dana Levenson, who served as Chicago&rsquo;s Chief Financial Officer from 2004 through 2007.</p><p>Levenson says even Daley&rsquo;s partly responsible, when he agreed to benefit increases and early retirement offers in order to ease budget pressures on City Hall. Levenson says it would have been hard to justify short-term pain, such as property tax hikes or layoffs, because the problem hadn&rsquo;t yet reached the crisis point.</p><p>&ldquo;By nature, we are all crisis managers,&rdquo; Levenson said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t necessarily want to do anything that is going to solve a potential crisis when that potential crisis is way off in the distance.&rdquo;</p><p>After all, the pension funds for city laborers and white-collar workers started the new millenium in pretty good shape. They had so much money the city stopped paying into the laborer&rsquo;s pension fund, and cut back payments to the municipal fund.</p><p>In hindsight, this was a bad idea, said Henry Bayer, who heads up the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees, a union representing about 3,500 city workers.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, if this were going on in the private sector, there&rsquo;d be employer&rsquo;s going to jail,&rdquo; Bayer said.</p><p>But along with those cutbacks in funding in 1998 came benefit increases - increases the union fought for, even though they heaped more future debt onto the pension funds.</p><p>Although he wasn&rsquo;t directly involved in the negotiations, Bayer defended the deal.</p><p>&ldquo;These folks getting these pensions have no social security,&rdquo; Bayer said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re a world-class city, and we can&rsquo;t afford a pension system for people that served the public?...I don&rsquo;t accept that.&rdquo;</p><p>Finally, in 2010, Illinois lawmakers tried to rectify these decades of underfunding by <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago/daley-calls-general-assembly-change-police-firefighter-pension-plans">forcing City Hall</a> to dump more money into the police and fire funds - about $590 million more in 2015 - a payment Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Chicago simply can&rsquo;t afford.</p><p>&ldquo;Should Springfield fail to pass pension reform for Chicago, we will be right back here in the council early next year to start work on the city&rsquo;s 2015 budget -- a budget that will either double city property taxes or eliminate the vital services people rely on,&rdquo; Emanuel told aldermen during <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel-warns-pension-cliff-2014-budget-speech-108993">this year&rsquo;s budget speech</a>.</p><p>Emanuel says Chicago needs a break from its state-mandated spike in pension payments. He says there is no Plan B.</p><p>And exactly what Plan A looks like is still unclear.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Sun, 08 Dec 2013 11:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329 Emanuel to raise cable TV tax to balance budget http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/emanuel-raise-cable-tv-tax-balance-budget-108984 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000048217955-envwyq-crop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cable TV customers could end up paying more as part of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan to help balance a nearly $339 million budget deficit next year.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s administration hopes to bring in $9 million in 2014 by raising the city&rsquo;s amusement tax by two percentage points on cable television providers, from four percent to six percent, according to mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn.</p><p>Concertgoers and sports fans would see no change in the nine percent amusement tax tacked on to those ticket prices, or the 5 percent tax on mid-sized venues, Quinn said.</p><p>The city had granted cable television companies a five percent exemption from the amusement tax in order to let them compete against satellite TV providers, which aren&rsquo;t subject to the tax. Emanuel wants to cut that exemption down to three percent, effectively hitting cable TV companies a two percent tax hike.</p><p>It&rsquo;s unclear how much that might cost the average customer, Quinn said, if cable companies decide to pass on the cost to consumers.</p><p>About $2 million of the amusement tax money next year will go toward expanding the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;Night Out in the Park Program,&rdquo; for which the city puts on concerts and screens movies in parks around Chicago.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a></em></p></p> Tue, 22 Oct 2013 13:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/emanuel-raise-cable-tv-tax-balance-budget-108984 Despite clashes with city hall, corruption watchdog sails toward reconfirmation http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-clashes-city-hall-corruption-watchdog-sails-toward-reconfirmation-108926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/joe_ferguson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A panel of Chicago aldermen quickly voted on Tuesday to reappoint the City Hall watchdog to another four-year term, despite his previous public clashes with Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration.</p><p>The unanimous vote by aldermen on the Budget and Government Operations committee sets up Inspector General Joseph Ferguson for a final confirmation vote at Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting.</p><p>Alderman Brendan Reilly, 42nd, said any bad blood between the Inspector General and the mayor&rsquo;s office should not be a mark against Ferguson.</p><p>&ldquo;If he&rsquo;s disagreeable with the mayor or the City Council, that suggests to me perhaps he&rsquo;s doing his job,&rdquo; Reilly said after Tuesday&rsquo;s vote.</p><p>Ferguson was not present at Tuesday&rsquo;s meeting, when it took aldermen all of six seconds to sign off on his reappointment. A spokeswoman for Ferguson, Rachel Leven, declined to comment on the vote.</p><p>Emanuel <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590" target="_blank">announced last month</a> that he would re-appoint Ferguson, with the understanding that the former federal prosecutor-turned-corruption fighter would leave his post next summer. Legally, Ferguson&rsquo;s reappointment would allow him to stay on for the full four-year term, but he has said he plans to &ldquo;move on to other things.&rdquo;</p><p>The mayor had earlier insisted Ferguson must reapply for his job when his term runs out at the end of November, but Emanuel changed his mind after the two men met, face-to-face, in late August.</p><p>Since being appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2009, Ferguson has greatly expanded the role of his office. Instead of solely attacking fraud and corruption by city workers, Ferguson has also tried to beef up his role as a fiscal watchdog during a time when Chicago has faced historic budget deficits.</p><p>But Ferguson&rsquo;s also hasn&rsquo;t been shy about issuing reports critical of how Emanuel carries out some&nbsp; signature policies - or about calling out the mayor&rsquo;s administration when it doesn&rsquo;t cooperate with investigations.</p><p>In July, the Inspector General <a href="http://chicagoinspectorgeneral.org/publications-and-press/press-releases/igo-precluded-from-auditing-citys-grid-based-garbage-collection-system/" target="_blank">published a report</a> detailing how one Emanuel deputy abruptly left a meeting when auditors tried to ask him about the city&rsquo;s new ward-by-ward trash collection, which the mayor says will save $18 million a year. Emanuel later said said the system was still being rolled out, and wasn&rsquo;t ready for an audit.</p><p>The two offices have also clashed about whether the IG&rsquo;s office should be kept out of the city&rsquo;s political budget-making process, and whether Ferguson should be allowed to enforce his own subpoenas in investigations. The subpoena fight eventually wound up before the Illinois Supreme Court, where justices ultimately ruled that the inspector general must rely upon the mayor&rsquo;s lawyers to legally enforce subpoenas, even if the subpoenas were part of a probe into the mayor&rsquo;s office itself.</p><p>Ferguson&rsquo;s final confirmation seems likely on Wednesday, said 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin, the chair of the Budget Committee. But Austin hopes Ferguson will engage the City Council more often during his second term, instead of leaving aldermen to hear about his reports first from the media.</p><p>&ldquo;Since his appointment comes in my committee, I think that we should have had - or should have been having - regular dialogue,&rdquo; Austin said Tuesday. &ldquo;But he vets everything in the public, as opposed to vetting anything with me at all. So I have [an] issue with that.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Al Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him at <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Oct 2013 15:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-clashes-city-hall-corruption-watchdog-sails-toward-reconfirmation-108926 Emanuel sticks with plan to phase out retiree health care payments http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-sticks-plan-phase-out-retiree-health-care-payments-108881 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rahm budget round table WBEZ Alex Keefe.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Despite a federal lawsuit, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he will move forward with a plan to phase out taxpayer-funded health care subsidies for tens of thousands of retired city workers starting next year.</p><p>The cost-cutting move is expected to save the city about $18 million in 2014, when City Hall is staring down an estimated $338.7 million budget hole.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s oldest retirees would get to keep their subsidies of up to 55 percent, thanks to an earlier federal legal settlement. But about 21,100 retirees and 9,100 spouses and dependents would see their city-paid subsides reduced, until those payments are zeroed out by 2017.</p><p>&ldquo;As I told everybody, we&rsquo;re gonna deal with the hard truths and not run away from &lsquo;em,&rdquo; Emanuel said Wednesday after a public roundtable with small business leaders.</p><p>&ldquo;[We] are gonna make changes over a three-year period of time as the healthcare landscape is also changing,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The city is expected to spend about $103 million on health care subsidies by the close of 2013, according to Kelley Quinn, a spokeswoman for Emanuel&rsquo;s budget office. Next year, payments would drop to about $85 million as the city begins the three-year phase-out. That&rsquo;s if the plan survives a challenge currently playing out in federal court.</p><p>Workers hired between Aug. 23, 1989 and July 1, 2005 would see their city subsidy drop from 55 percent to 41.25 percent. Payments for workers hired after that will drop to between 30 percent and 37.5 percent, depending on how long the employee has worked for the city.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s office is refusing to reveal how much the city subsidies will shrink during 2015 and 2016.</p><p>About 4,000 of the city&rsquo;s oldest retirees will get to keep their city subsidy of up to 55 percent for the rest of their lives.</p><p>After the city phases out its retiree health care subsides, Emanuel&rsquo;s office says retired workers who aren&rsquo;t eligible for Medicare will have the option of buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called &ldquo;Obamacare.&rdquo;</p><p>A Chicago lawyer filed a class action lawsuit in September arguing that Emanuel&rsquo;s move violates a part of the Illinois Constitution that states pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel is set to introduce his 2014 budget proposal to the City Council on Oct. 23. He has ruled out raising property, sales or gasoline taxes, but has not closed the door on other possible tax hikes.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 09 Oct 2013 14:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-sticks-plan-phase-out-retiree-health-care-payments-108881 Protections for renters in foreclosed buildings take effect http://www.wbez.org/news/protections-renters-foreclosed-buildings-take-effect-108756 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/signs.jpg" style="height: 284px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Albany Park Neighborhood Council members gathered Tuesday to publicize the Keep Chicago Renting ordinance, passed in June by the Chicago City Council. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Tenant advocates cheered Tuesday as new Chicago protections for renters in foreclosed buildings took effect. Their challenge now, they say, is spreading the word about the ordinance.<br /><br />&ldquo;The banks will be fighting it,&rdquo; said Diane Limas of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, a group that worked for years to pass the measure. &ldquo;They will try to figure out every way to throw families out in the streets. But the best way to fight back against the banks is to make sure every renter knows their rights.&rdquo;<br /><br />The ordinance, known as Keep Chicago Renting, won City Council approval in June. It requires the foreclosing entity to provide a building&rsquo;s tenants with a rent-controlled lease until selling the property &mdash; or pay them a &ldquo;relocation assistance&rdquo; fee of $10,600 per unit. The goal is to keep renters in their homes and keep the buildings from standing vacant and attracting vandals, squatters and thieves.<br /><br />Last year there were 4,346 foreclosures on Chicago apartment buildings encompassing 11,932 units, according to the Lawyers&rsquo; Committee for Better Housing, which pushed for the ordinance. The committee says half of those foreclosures were filed by five companies: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and Deutsche Bank. Banks filed about 11 percent of Chicago evictions in the last half of 2012, the committee adds.<br /><br />Groups representing bankers, realtors and landlords say the ordinance will backfire. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to be a disincentive for investment in multi-units from a wide range of financing sources,&rdquo; said Brian Bernardoni, senior director of government affairs and public policy of the Illinois Association of Realtors. &ldquo;Any time you have a lack of investment, there&rsquo;s going to be a lack of rehab, a lack of sustainable affordable housing and preservation of affordable housing units.&rdquo;<br /><br />Tenant advocates point out that the measure applies only to the first owner after the foreclosure auction. From there, any party that buys the building is free to evict the tenants without the relocation fee.<br /><br />As aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration worked on the measure this spring, the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association warned that the rent cap would violate the Illinois constitution. Questioned Tuesday, neither the mortgage bankers group nor the Illinois Bankers Association answered whether they were planning a court challenge.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Sep 2013 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/protections-renters-foreclosed-buildings-take-effect-108756 Despite disagreements, Emanuel to reappoint City Hall watchdog http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP987948130184.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Despite months of public disagreements with his City Hall watchdog, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will reappoint Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to another term, the mayor&rsquo;s office confirmed Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">The announcement is an about-face for Emanuel, who had earlier insisted that Ferguson must reapply for the job when his term runs out in November. But Emanuel apparently changed his mind following a face-to-face meeting between the two men on Friday.</p><p>&quot;Friday morning, I met with Inspector General Joe Ferguson and we had a positive and fruitful discussion,&quot; Emanuel was quoted as saying in a statement. &quot;I am pleased to accept the Inspector General&#39;s offer to stay on through next summer and complete the important work currently underway. I look forward to working with Joe to see the City to full Shakman compliance and end four decades of federal hiring oversight. The Inspector General and I share the same underlying goal: protecting the taxpayers of the city of Chicago. We both will continue to work tirelessly on their behalf.&quot;</p><p>A handful of Chicago aldermen have been calling on Emanuel to reappoint Ferguson. Even though city law would have allowed him do that, Emanuel had maintained that Ferguson must go through the same committee vetting process as any new inspector general candidate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Mayor and I had a very productive discussion and I thank him for agreeing to allow me to continue to work on wrapping up some unfinished projects, most notably achieving Shakman compliance and fully implementing the administration&rsquo;s ethics reform bill,&quot; Ferguson was quoted as saying in a statement to WBEZ Tuesday morning. &quot;I expect we can do that by the end of the summer and then I plan to move on to other things.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago inspectors general are appointed to four-year terms, so if Ferguson is reconfirmed by the City Council, he could conceivably stay on longer.</p><div>Some tension is to be expected between an inspector general, charged with rooting out government waste and fraud, and the politicians and bureaucrats he watches over. But the pitch of the feud between the city Inspector General&rsquo;s Office and the Fifth Floor has grown louder in recent months.</div><p dir="ltr">In July, the Inspector General&rsquo;s Office published a <a href="http://chicagoinspectorgeneral.org/publications-and-press/press-releases/igo-precluded-from-auditing-citys-grid-based-garbage-collection-system/">report</a> detailing how one Emanuel deputy stormed out of the room when auditors with the IG&rsquo;s office tried to ask him questions about the city&rsquo;s new ward-by-ward trash collection, which Emanuel&rsquo;s administration claims will save $18 million a year.</p><p dir="ltr">In April, Ferguson <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705">accused</a> the Emanuel administration of hampering its investigations by refusing to support changes to the law that would insulate the IG&rsquo;s office from the political budget process, and allow it to enforce its own subpoenas.</p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel responded by suggesting Ferguson had all the authority he needed to do his job well.</p><p dir="ltr">The fight over subpoena power climbed all the way to Illinois Supreme Court. In March, the justices ruled that only the mayor&rsquo;s administration may enforce subpoenas issued by the inspector general, even if the people or offices under investigation are in the mayor&rsquo;s administration.</p><p dir="ltr">But the recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/former-chicago-comptroller-charged-bribery-fraud-ohio-108437">indictment</a> of Chicago&rsquo;s former comptroller, Amer Ahmad, have spurred the two offices to cooperate. Ferguson is working with Emanuel&rsquo;s top lawyer to oversee a third-party review of Ahmad&rsquo;s time at City Hall, though the federal charges against him stem from his earlier job as Deputy Treasurer for the State of Ohio.</p><p dir="ltr">If Ferguson accepts the reappointment, he would need to be reconfirmed by a vote of the City Council.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 03 Sep 2013 09:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590 The data behind Chicago's gun crimes http://www.wbez.org/news/data-behind-chicagos-gun-crimes-108092 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chicagounderthegun.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&#39;s City Council&nbsp;unanimously approved two measures to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-updates-assault-weapons-ban-108086"><em>toughen </em></a>Chicago&#39;s gun laws on Wednesday, in an effort to tamp down gun-related violence.</p><div><table align="left" border="1" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="5" style="width: 620px; margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px;"><tbody><tr><td colspan="2" style="background-color: rgb(204, 204, 204);"><strong><a name="chart"></a>Chicago&#39;s shooting problem</strong></td></tr><tr><td style="background-color: rgb(204, 204, 204);"><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/ShootingsHeatMap.gif" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/ShootingsHeatMap.gif" style="width: 350px; height: 638px;" /></a></td><td rowspan="2" style="vertical-align: top; width: 255px; background-color: rgb(204, 204, 204);"><p>About this map:</p><ul><li><span style="font-size:10px;">Chicago&#39;s overall shootings, sans homicides, have dropped from <strong>4,176</strong> in 2002 to <strong>1,887</strong> last year. That&#39;s more than a <strong>54%</strong> drop.</span></li><li><span style="font-size:10px;">The areas that were the former location Chicago housing projects such as <strong>Cabrini Green</strong> and the <strong>Robert Taylor Homes</strong> have seen dramatic drops in shootings, however shooting activity has spread to adjacent areas.</span></li><li><span style="font-size:10px;">Shooting activity was more widespread on the North Side, but now is only really prevalent in Uptown and Rogers Park.</span></li><li><span style="font-size:10px;">The Near South Side, which includes the South Loop neighborhood has experienced a drop in shootings from a 2003 high of <strong>15</strong>, and now has about <strong>1</strong> annually.</span></li><li><span style="font-size:10px;">Areas with a lot of economic and real estate development such as West Town and Logan Square saw some of the greatest decreases in shootings.&nbsp;</span></li><li><span style="font-size:10px;">Logan Square dropped from <strong>91</strong> shootings to <strong>13</strong>, or <strong>85%</strong> from 2002 to 2012. West Town dropped <strong>75% </strong>from <strong>108 </strong>to <strong>27 </strong>shootings that same period.</span></li><li><span style="font-size:10px;">Areas such as Kenwood and Hyde Park are largely insulated from some of the South Side violence to its western boundaries, but crimes do occur there. The<a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/01/30/mayor-emanuel-gets-emotional-after-shooting-claims-life-of-teen/"> murder of Hadiya Pendleton </a>this year in Kenwood gained national attention.</span></li></ul></td></tr><tr><td style="background-color: rgb(204, 204, 204);"><strong><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/ShootingsHeatMap.gif" target="_blank"><span style="color:#ff0000;">Click to download this animated map &raquo;</span></a></strong></td></tr><tr><td colspan="2" style="background-color: rgb(204, 204, 204);"><p><em>Source: <strong><a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Shootings-between-2002-2012/w435-t7xh">data.cityofchicago.org</a></strong></em><br /><em>Crime data reflects only aggravated batteries (shootings) with a gun or firearm from 2002-2012. Homicide data as divided by guns vs. stabbings, etc., is not readily available before 2006, and was not included in this map.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></td></tr><tr><td colspan="2" style="background-color: rgb(204, 204, 204);"><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0AoxVpL8Zenp3dGVseEZVQlJHWWlHcDhHS2hSVXlIX1E&transpose=1&headers=1&range=A2%3AG4&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":null,"minValue":null,"logScale":false,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"logScale":false,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"bold":true,"color":"#000","fontSize":16},"booleanRole":"certainty","title":"Handguns vs. other firearms in 2012","animation":{"duration":0},"backgroundColor":{"fill":"#d9d9d9"},"domainAxis":{"direction":1},"legend":"in","theme":"maximized","hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindowMode":null,"viewWindow":null,"maxValue":null},"isStacked":true,"width":620,"height":291},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":true,"chartType":"ColumnChart","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></td></tr><tr><td colspan="2" style="background-color: rgb(204, 204, 204);"><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0AoxVpL8Zenp3dGVseEZVQlJHWWlHcDhHS2hSVXlIX1E&transpose=1&headers=1&range=A2%3AG5&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"bold":true,"color":"#000","fontSize":16},"booleanRole":"certainty","title":"Chart title","animation":{"duration":500},"legend":"right","hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"width":605,"height":226},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":true,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 2"} </script><br /><em>Firearm/gun data for homicides was not readily available, but media accounts would indicate that they are mostly caused by handguns.</em></td></tr></tbody></table></div><p>Whether or not the new restrictions will make a difference in Chicago&#39;s gun crime is yet to be seen.</p><p>One of the new laws clarifies which types of assault weapons qualify as banned, under &nbsp;the city&#39;s restriction of high-capacity magazines. &nbsp;Meanwhile, the vast majority of Chicago&#39;s gun-related crimes are committed using handguns.&nbsp;</p><p>The other new measure creates school safety or &quot;Safe Passage&quot;&nbsp;zones, defined as the area within 1,000 ft of a school.</p><p>&quot;We all have a role to play in building safe communities, and that includes keeping weapons designed for the battlefield off our streets and punishing those who carry or use weapons around school children with stiff penalties,&quot;&nbsp;Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.</p><p>The city&#39;s move follows the state&#39;s vote to&nbsp;legalize carrying concealed weapons&nbsp;last week.&nbsp;A federal appeals court found Illinois&#39; previous concealed carry ban unconstitutional. The state was the last in the U.S. to impose such a prohibition.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-police-confirm-500-murders-2012-104615">Depending on who you ask</a>, the city&#39;s homicide numbers can vary, but according to the RedEye, there were&nbsp;<strong>516&nbsp;</strong>homicides last year,&nbsp;<strong>441</strong>&nbsp;of them inflicted by guns. And while gun crimes and homicides have become almost synonymous in Chicago, the&nbsp;number of <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/2013-chicago-murders/timeline?mon=7">deaths</a> often masks the city&#39;s overall problem.&nbsp;</p><p>According to police data,&nbsp;the number of shootings&nbsp;<a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/2012-shootings/24f8-4jii">totaled&nbsp;<strong>1,887</strong>&nbsp;last year</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>The data also show assaults with guns &ndash; when a person is threatened with a weapon but not shot &ndash;&nbsp;<a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Assaults-with-guns-in-2012/sq6s-sdyy">totaled&nbsp;<strong>2,077</strong></a>&nbsp;last year.&nbsp;<a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Chicago-Robberies-for-2012/nbaj-2wmy">Armed robberies</a> alone topped&nbsp;<strong>5,389</strong>. There were&nbsp;<a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Sexual-Assaults-for-2012/4ji5-jzpn"><strong>1,334&nbsp;</strong>sexual assaults</a>, <strong>101&nbsp;</strong>of which were committed at gunpoint.</p><p>Where does unlawful possession or use of a gun fall under? Well, the city keeps tabs on weapons violations &ndash; arrests for using guns or other firearms unlawfully and/or&nbsp;possessing a banned weapon. That total rounded to&nbsp;<strong><a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/2012-Weapons-violations/jzkm-qabk">2,929</a>&nbsp;</strong>reported incidents.</p><p>As the City Council grapples with how to address assault weapons in a post-Newtown political setting, the legislation still doesn&#39;t seem to address Chicago&#39;s overall gun violence problem, or the issues that contribute&nbsp;to it &ndash; education, high unemployment and stagnant economic mobility.</p><p>The Chicago Police Department has repeatedly made the case that overall crime has been declining historically, which is true, but some of that decline can be attributed to the overall drop in the city&#39;s population the past two decades. Regardless, shootings in Chicago dropped from a 2001 high of<strong> 4,176</strong> aggravated batteries with a gun/firearm to<strong> 1,887</strong> last year.</p><p>Chicago&#39;s crime data does distinguish handguns from other firearms, but it doesn&#39;t specify whether the &quot;other firearm&quot; involved was an M16 assault rifle or, say, a hunting rifle.</p><p>Of the city&#39;s 5,389 armed robberies, only 98 of them were with a firearm not classified as a handgun. All of the city&#39;s sexual assaults at gun point were done with a handgun.</p><p>While automatic and assault rifles have been the focus of federal legislative efforts, Chicago largely has a handgun problem. And that handgun problem goes well&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/2013-chicago-murders/timeline?mon=7">beyond the homicide numbers</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>Last year&#39;s homicides totaled 516, with <strong>441 </strong>of those resulting in a death by gunshot. There were still <strong>11,886</strong> gun related crimes in Chicago that didn&#39;t end in a homicide.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">&mdash;Elliott Ramos is a data reporter and Web producer for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/ChicagoEl" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@ChicagoEl</a>&nbsp;email:<a href="mailto:eramos@wbez.org" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">eramos@wbez.org</a>.</em></p><p><strong><a name="map"></a>Gun Crimes in Chicago</strong><br /><em>The map below shows crimes in Chicago that involved guns. The homicide data was created and cleaned up by <a href="http://homicides.redeyechicago.com/">Tracy Swartz of the Chicago RedEye</a>. Obtaining homicide data often involves combining Chicago Police and Cook County Medical Examiner data to obtain location and cause of death. Such a data set is not released by the CPD or city via the public data portal and must be obtained&nbsp;</em>separately&nbsp;<em>and cleaned up manually. Sortable map template available via <a href="http://derekeder.com/searchable_map_template/">Derek Eder of Open City</a>.</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="1350" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/maps/gun-crimes/" width="960"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 12:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/data-behind-chicagos-gun-crimes-108092