WBEZ | chicago budget http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-budget 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 Big bark, small bite for speed cameras so far http://www.wbez.org/news/big-bark-small-bite-speed-cameras-so-far-109485 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/speed cameras WBEZ Alex Keefe_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s growing network of speed cameras so far has issued more than a half-million warnings to lead-footed drivers, but it brought in just a tiny fraction of the money that Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration had expected in 2013, according to new numbers released this week.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance says the cameras, situated in so-called &ldquo;children&rsquo;s safety zones&rdquo; near city parks and schools, issued nearly 574,000 warnings through last week.</p><p>But a combination of installation delays and lenient enforcement meant to give drivers a break resulted in just 17,901 actual tickets and $337,452 in revenue for City Hall last year, according to numbers obtained by WBEZ through the Freedom of Information Act.</p><p>That&rsquo;s two percent of the roughly $15 million take the city <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/leadfoots-beware-chicago-install-new-speed-cameras-week-108888">had predicted</a>.</p><p>State lawmakers okayed Chicago&rsquo;s speed camera program <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/ill-lawmakers-approve-chicago-speed-cameras-93919">back in 2011</a>. But the project faced long installation delays and the first cameras didn&rsquo;t actually <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/leadfoots-beware-chicago-install-new-speed-cameras-week-108888">go live</a> until this August.</p><p>Aside from the delay, Finance Department spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said the rollout &ldquo;has been designed to give motorists opportunities to change their behavior.&rdquo;</p><p>Through Jan. 5, the city issued roughly 487,000 warnings during each camera site&rsquo;s 30-day grace period, designed to give drivers time to slow down. It also generated 86,587 &ldquo;freebie&rdquo; warnings, issued once to each driver after a grace period ends. All told, Quinn said that would have generated $17 million worth of tickets so far.</p><p>&quot;We wanted to roll the program out in a thoughtful manner that wasn&#39;t tied to revenue, but instead safety,&quot; Quinn said in an email to WBEZ. &quot;Additionally, the program has been implemented to give motorists every opportunity to change behavior.&quot;</p><p>The 2013 shortfall from the speed cameras was covered by better-than-expected hotel, sales and personal property replacement tax revenues, Quinn said.</p><p>Emanuel is still banking on the new speed cameras to bring in between $65 and $70 million in 2014, despite the dramatically low take last year.</p><p>The speed cameras work a lot like the city&rsquo;s existing network of red light cameras: Speeders who get their car photographed automatically receive a ticket in the mail.</p><p>For now, the city has only been issuing fines to the fastest speeders - $35 for those caught going 10 mph to 11 mph over the posted limit, and $100 for those caught cruising faster than that.</p><p>The Emanuel administration announced it would go a bit easier on speeders after early speed camera data,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893"> first reported by WBEZ</a>, suggested City Hall could be in for a windfall.</p><p>The city Department of Transportation says it will eventually lower the speeding threshold so that anyone snapped driving between six and 10 mph over the limit will get the $35 ticket, but it has not publicized a timeline for when it plans to crack down.</p><p>Some critics of Emanuel&rsquo;s speed camera plan, including several Chicago aldermen, have maintained the system is more about making money for a financially strapped city than protecting kids. But the administration and its backers point to a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893">steep drop</a> in speeding at existing sites to say that the cameras are doing their job.</p><p>There are currently 48 speed cameras up and running at 22 sites around the city. Of those, 31 cameras are now issuing fines, while 17 are still issuing grace period warnings. Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has said it&rsquo;s aiming to install 105 speed cameras at 50 locations early this year.</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> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 10:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/big-bark-small-bite-speed-cameras-so-far-109485 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 Chicago speed cameras catch 234K leadfoots in opening weeks http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5f27a295-a526-eab2-207c-4398f3e0b89b">New data show Chicago&rsquo;s nascent speed camera system is already lightening the city&rsquo;s lead feet, but the numbers are also prompting critics to wonder whether City Hall is in for a massive revenue windfall at taxpayers&rsquo; expense.</p><p dir="ltr">Cameras in nine so-called &ldquo;safety zones&rdquo; near four Chicago parks logged 233,886 speeding violations between Aug. 26 and Oct. 9, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request.</p><p>The cameras are not yet churning out actual tickets, but had they been, those nine alone would have generated nearly $13.9 million worth of citations in just 45 days, according to WBEZ&rsquo;s analysis. For now, the cameras are generating only warnings to give drivers time to learn where the cameras are - and tap the brakes - before getting walloped with fines.</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-205k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893#map"><strong>MAP: Where are the new speed cameras?</strong></a></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">And Chicagoans already seem to be riding the steep learning curve city transportation officials had hoped for: Speeding violations have dropped an average of 50 percent at the four sites since Aug. 26, data show.</p><p dir="ltr">Those numbers surprised even Scott Kubly, the Chicago Department of Transportation official who&rsquo;s in charge of the fledgling speed camera program.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The fact that there&rsquo;s that many warnings that have gone out is an indication of how big a speeding problem that we actually have in Chicago,&rdquo; Kubly told WBEZ Thursday.</p><p dir="ltr">Some drivers could begin finding speed camera tickets in their mailboxes after Oct. 16, when the 30-day grace period for the Gompers Park cameras on the North Side runs out. Tickets for the other three speed camera sites - at Marquette, Mckinley Garfield Parks - hit the mail Oct. 21. Drivers photographed going between six and 10 mph over the posted limit will get a $35 fine. Get caught cruising any faster than that, and the fine jumps to $100.</p><p dir="ltr">In order to &quot;ease the transition,&quot; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s administration said in a Friday press release that the city would only issue tickets to drivers caught going faster than 10 mph over the speed limit. It&#39;s unclear how long that will last.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration estimates the city will make between $40 million and $60 million from speed camera tickets next year, when Chicago government is facing a nearly $339 million budget shortfall. But the high number of speed violations so far - and the big potential for revenue - has reignited criticisms that the program is more about making money than protecting kids.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I can not deny that, if those cameras are there, people are gonna slow down,&rdquo; said 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, who voted against allowing the speed cameras. &ldquo;But call it what it is. Don&rsquo;t try to sell us on the safety of children and parks and schools.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">If speed camera violations continue at their current rate, the city&rsquo;s take could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars a year. And dozens more cameras are on the way: The city is aiming to have a total of 105 installed at 50 locations by early 2014, Kubly said.</p><p dir="ltr">Alderman John Arena, 45th Ward, who voted against the original speed camera plan, suggests the administration is low-balling its revenue projections, while overestimating the deterrent effect on drivers.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re still gonna get caught in the net,&rdquo; Arena said. &ldquo;I think $100 million is easy for the system.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Emanuel&rsquo;s administration is sticking to its earlier projections as it bets on a dramatic dropoff in speeding - between 75 and 90 percent - as drivers begin finding tickets in their mailboxes.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Our number one goal is to slow traffic down, so if we never collect a dime on this, it&rsquo;s successful,&rdquo; Kubly said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s absolutely not a cash grab. It&rsquo;s all about making our roads safer.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Each new camera the city installs will have a month-long grace period before it starts churning out tickets, and afterward, drivers get one freebie written warning after the cameras are online. The city also plans to put up 20 so-called &ldquo;speed indicator signs&rdquo; that tell drivers in real time how fast they&#39;re going, which also slows down traffic, Kubly said.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We wanna make sure that, no matter where you are in the city, if you&rsquo;re near a school or a park, that you feel like there could be a camera there,&rdquo; Kubly said. &ldquo;And the idea is to create a culture in which abiding by the speed limit is the understood way to drive and the norm.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Kubly said the program is already having &ldquo;amazing&rdquo; success: Speed cameras photographed 7,397 violations on Sept. 10, the first day all nine cameras were up and running. By Oct. 3, violations had already fallen to 3,833.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then, the city has installed more cameras at Douglas, Legion, Washington, Humboldt and Major Taylor parks, as well as Prosser Vocational High School, according to a CDOT spokesman.</p><p dir="ltr">Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Note: Calculations and figures in this story have been corrected and updated to reflect new data and information provided by the City of Chicago.</em></p><p><strong><a name="map"></a>Map of locations of Chicago&#39;s new speed cameras&nbsp; </strong><em>(Updated Oct. 10, 2013)</em><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/legend.PNG" style="float: left;" title="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div> <style type="text/css"> #map-canvas { width:620px; height:900px; } .layer-wizard-search-label { font-family: sans-serif };</style> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?sensor=false"> </script><script type="text/javascript"> var map; var layer_0; function initialize() { map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('map-canvas'), { center: new google.maps.LatLng(41.83188268689178, -87.721698912207), zoom: 11 }); var style = [ { featureType: 'all', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { saturation: -99 } ] } ]; var styledMapType = new google.maps.StyledMapType(style, { map: map, name: 'Styled Map' }); map.mapTypes.set('map-style', styledMapType); map.setMapTypeId('map-style'); layer_0 = new google.maps.FusionTablesLayer({ query: { select: "col1", from: "1jB8zYONZanMZHu5gGMIb9vJKtm-LRSrG7lSyXlY" }, map: map, styleId: 2, templateId: 2 }); } google.maps.event.addDomListener(window, 'load', initialize); </script><div id="map-canvas">&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 10 Oct 2013 14:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893 Dozens of Chicago fines and fees going up in new year http://www.wbez.org/story/dozens-chicago-fines-and-fees-going-new-year-95126 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-26/parking lot_flickr_aracelli aroyo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Come the first of the year, Chicago's city hall will start collecting more for water, hotel stays and weekday downtown parking. In addition, drivers caught drunk, soliciting a prostitute, carrying a gun or playing loud music will also pay more.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin-left: 40px;"><strong>READ THE ORDINANCE:&nbsp;</strong><em>The city's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/extras/2011-December/2011-12-22/SO2011-8863.pdf">2012 revenue ordinance</a> spells out the changes. Crossed-out words were deleted this year, and underlined sections were added.</em></p><p>Before aldermen voted unanimously in November to approve a bunch of tax and fee increases, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sold them by talking about what city residents would get in return.&nbsp;For example, he said a doubling of water and sewer fees over four years would help pay for rebuilding "1,000 miles of water line...water main, 750 miles of sewer, 140,000 catch basins."</p><p>An extra two dollars for weekday parking at some garages is supposed to go to remodel 'L' stations "and build a new rapid bus transit station, expand bike lines and other efforts to address congestion in the downtown area," Emanuel said.</p><p>And a portion of the one percentage point increase in the hotel tax, city budget director Alex Holt said, will go to "advertising and to working with the tourism industry to attract more business to Chicago and to attract more conventions."</p><p>While aldermen expressed reservations about the fee increases in Emanuel's budget proposal, you didn't hear them complain about the increased fines for bad behaviors.</p><p style="margin: 0.6em 0px 1.2em; padding: 0px;">For example, Chicagoans caught driving while drunk, in addition to whatever the judge doles out, will face a doubling of the car impound fee, from $1,000 now to $2,000 - plus towing and storage fees. Same goes for carrying a gun or illegal drugs, or soliticiting a prostitute from a vehicle.</p><p style="margin: 0.6em 0px 1.2em; padding: 0px;">And if any of those offenses occur within 500 feet of a park or school, the fine jumps to $3,000.</p><p style="margin: 0.6em 0px 1.2em; padding: 0px;">The costs of some less-villainous offenses will also increase. If you blast music really loud from your car, the penalty will be between $500 and $750, instead of the previous fine of $500. And while the fine for homeowners letting the weeds grow above an average height of 10 inches used to be between $500-$1000 per day, it's now $600-$1,200.</p><div><p style="margin: 0.6em 0px 1.2em; padding: 0px;">The Emanuel administration estimates these increases and others will bring in close to $15 million extra for the cash-strapped city in 2012, making them a relatively tiny portion of the mayor's plan to close an estimated $636 million budget deficit.</p><p style="margin: 0.6em 0px 1.2em; padding: 0px;">Those taxes, fees and fines - and others - jump on January first.</p></div></p> Mon, 26 Dec 2011 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/dozens-chicago-fines-and-fees-going-new-year-95126 Analysis: Rubber Stamp? City Council's unanimous vote for Emanuel's budget http://www.wbez.org/story/analysis-rubber-stamp-city-councils-unanimous-vote-emanuels-budget-94118 <p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel passed his first big test before the city council on Wednesday. Aldermen signed off on his budget in a unanimous vote, while heaping praise on Emanuel for his plan to close a $636 million deficit.</p><p>WBEZ's Melba Lara talked with reporter Sam Hudzik about the budget and its easy passage.</p></p> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 23:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/analysis-rubber-stamp-city-councils-unanimous-vote-emanuels-budget-94118 Venture: National interlibrary loan for e-books? http://www.wbez.org/content/venture-national-interlibrary-loan-e-books <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-14/nook library_Flickr_Orbmeiser.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>The city budget that Chicago aldermen are expected to vote on this week<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/morning-library-goers-lose-budget-plan-93783"> includes substantial cuts to the public library budget</a>--though not as deep as the mayor had originally proposed. </em><em>Meanwhile, libraries across the country have a new problem: With digital books exploding in popularity, some major publishers are making it more difficult for libraries to get electronic books on their virtual shelves, and to keep them there. Venture looks at a plan to help libraries create something like a national, online, inter-library loan system for digitized books. </em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-14/nook library_Flickr_Orbmeiser.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 449px;" title="(Flickr/Orbmeiser)"></p><p>To start with, you have to feel a little sorry for people who work at major publishing houses. Publishing a book these days isn't much harder than hitting "send"—almost anybody can do it-- so it's easy to understand why traditional book publishers feel edgy. Especially because total paper book sales have been dropping, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/discussion-future-e-books-93607">even as electronic book sales have been exploding</a>.</p><p>And some of those major publishers are trying to make sure public libraries and their patrons share some of their pain.</p><p>With digital books, publishers hope to "control the movement of the books," says Peter Brantley, who <a href="http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/PWxyz/?cat=1178">blogs about libraries for <em>Publishers Weekly</em></a>, and who runs <a href="http://www.archive.org/bookserver">the tech side</a> of a project called <a href="http://openlibrary.org/">Open Library</a>—which is part of a <a href="http://www.archive.org/">massive online library called the Internet Archive</a>. At the same time, says Brantley, publishers are "very worried that if a digital book goes out 'in the wild' that they won’t ever receive payment for it ever again."</p><p>So they restrict library access to ebooks. "Most publishers insist that libraries license the books, which means they don’t really own them," says Brantley, "and they put on very hard conditions sometimes about what libraries can do with those books.</p><p>For instance, early in 2011, HarperCollins, one of the six biggest publishers in the U.S., announced that a library's digital copy of a HarperCollins book would effectively self-destruct after it got checked out 26 times.&nbsp; Chicago's library commissioner, Mary Dempsey, was clearly ticked off. She told the Chicago <em>Tribune</em>, "This strikes at the heart of what we do.”</p><p>But frankly, HarperCollins was almost taking it easy.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-14/Milwaukee library_Flickr_random letters.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 396px;" title="(Flickr/random letters)"></p><p>"There are other publishers that refuse to provide their books entirely in e-book form for lending," says Brantley. That would be Simon and Schuster and MacMillan, also among the “big six" US publishing firms.&nbsp; "So we’re seeing for the first time libraries that are wholly unable to provide books to their communities in ebook form."</p><p>Then in early November, Amazon started, in effect, to compete with public libraries, when the company said that some owners of its Kindle e-readers could "borrow" any of 5,000-plus digital titles, including some current and recent best-sellers, for free.</p><p>Plus, Amazon’s huge network of users gives it information that, in turn, can make their system more attractive.</p><p>At that scale, says Brantley, you can offer readers some extra features—the kind of things that non-digital librarians have always done.&nbsp; "You can know what they’re reading, you can recommend other books to them, you can suggest to them that their friends are reading a specific title, and so forth," he says. "So there are huge benefits to having e-book platforms that operate on a scale far greater than any individual library.&nbsp; So this is a problem for libraries and a reason why I think libraries would have to band together in order to provide any competing service."</p><p>And here’s where Brantley says the Open Library project comes in: They want to help libraries team up to get digital mileage out of their existing paper books. Here’s how he says it works:&nbsp; "Libraries might provide access to their books, we digitize them, and then the library takes them off their shelf. So then we try to make that book available through a borrowing system--directly to the library patron, so the library patron would be able to check that book out digitally, instead of checking it out in print."</p><p>And the book becomes available for check-out to the patrons of any library system that joins the Open Library project.</p><p>But if only one library has sent in a particular book to be digitized, then there’s only one digital copy to loan out, nationwide. But then, maybe a second library sends in the same book.&nbsp; "So, what we can then do, is have them pull their print copy off their shelves, and then we say, OK, we’ve got two copies," says Brantley. "And so now we’re preserving the traditional level of access—one book, one lending.</p><p>So what they’re basically talking about—although Brantley doesn’t use this term—is a national, digital system for interlibrary loan, using a copyright exemption called fair use.&nbsp;</p><p>Under fair use, says Brantley, "I buy a copy of this book, I can then re-use it, I can lend it out to people without then having to re-pay the publisher or distributor each time I lend it. The whole library system is premised on this concept of fair use.&nbsp; It’s what makes libraries possible.&nbsp; And what we’re doing as a library is making a digital copy available on the same terms that we would a print copy."</p><p>Brantley says they’re pretty confident the legal argument is going to hold up, and so far—two years into the project—publishers haven’t raised a stink.&nbsp;</p><p>The implementation has just started getting off the ground, with about a thousand library systems nationwide participating so far.&nbsp; Chicago isn’t one of them yet. But we’ll see what happens after the City Council deals with Mayor Emanuel’s budget.</p></p> Mon, 14 Nov 2011 03:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/venture-national-interlibrary-loan-e-books Ads on city bridge houses - and where else? http://www.wbez.org/content/ads-city-bridge-houses-and-where-else <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-11/bridge house_flickr_el chubabracito.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago taxpayers might expect the city's massive budget deficit to result in tax hikes, fee increases or layoffs. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to sell advertising on city property could change the very look of the city.</p><p>Emanuel's office announced this week they've struck a 30-day deal with Bank of America to wrap advertisements around the two historic stone Wabash bridge houses in the Loop. Neither party would disclose how much money the agreement is worth.</p><p>But Emanuel is counting on $25 million dollars from that kind of marketing to help close a projected $635.7 million deficit for 2012.</p><p>And his proposal doesn't stop with bridge houses: A measure now before the City Council would give the Emanuel administration authority to market literally any asset owned by the city, physical or otherwise. Those assets could include parking meter pay boxes, vehicles, the city's website - even buildings, including police stations and City Hall, said Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott.</p><p>"We are not going to leave any stone unturned, in terms of trying to find value for our taxpayers, to protect the services for our citizens and really do what’s right here," Scott said in an interview with WBEZ.</p><p>Scott said the city came up with that $25 million target, in part, by talking with industry experts and looking at other city agencies that already sell ads, such as the Chicago Transit Authority and the Park District. Emanuel’s budget office says it doesn’t yet have a detailed break down of exactly what property it hopes to market, or for how much. Specific deals largely depend on demand, Scott said.</p><p>Former Mayor Richard Daley's administration pitched an idea last year for companies to pay the city for the right to decorate the Chicago River bridge houses around major holidays. The city contracted with Fresh Picked Media Corp., a Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company, to find potential investors. But the plan never went any where until the Bank of America deal.</p><p>Fresh Picked Media is still contracted with the city to broker its municipal advertising deals. It gets to keep 25 percent of the revenue from any deal.</p><p>Meanwhile Scott said her office is studying what other cities have done – say, London’s sponsorships of the 2012 Olympics, some privately-funded public bathrooms in Paris, or New York City's aggressive marketing program under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p><p>"What makes the city marketing thing compelling is when you marry those physical assets with the city’s brand, and its need to serve certain causes," said&nbsp; Joe Perello, who served as New York City’s first-ever chief marketing officer between 2003 and 2006.</p><p>He said municipal marketing, when it’s done right, is more than just slapping an ad on the side of a trash bin.</p><p>Take for example, a deal he cut in 2004 between New York City and The History Channel: The city got $3.5 million to restore some historic houses, as well as $15 million worth of free TV ad time to promote tourism. The network, meanwhile, got all the PR and good corporate karma that came with the partnership.</p><p>It worked because New Yorkers recognized the connection between The History Channel and historic preservation, Perello said.</p><p>"The relevance is incredibly important because folks don’t wanna be sold out. And they’re right not to want that," he said.</p><p>So how do you prevent Chicago from feeling like one big NASCAR race?</p><p>City officials say they’re looking to agencies such as the CTA, which prohibits certain types of ads: no booze, no tobacco and nothing too sexy or violent.</p><p>Chicagoans may have to put up with seeing more ads as they move about the city, Scott said. But the upside is that it will prevent the city from having to raise taxes or cut services, she said.</p><p>But there could be a hidden cultural cost, said Terry O'Reilly, a long-time ad man and host of the CBC's "Age of Persuasion," a public radio show about the advertising industry.</p><p>"There'll be great advertising and there’ll be bad advertising, but there is one thing for sure: There’s going to be more advertising," he said.</p><p>There is a cost to municipal marketing, particularly on city buildings, O'Reilly said.</p><p>"That is the downside to making that deal, is you’re going to – I don’t know if 'deface' is too strong a word, but you’re going to clutter up ... some long-standing visual beauty," he said.</p><p>Whether Mayor Emanuel's marketing plan moves forward is still in the hands of the City Council, though there seems to be little opposition. Aldermen could approve it when they vote on the mayor's 2012 budget proposal, which is expected to take place Wednesday.</p></p> Fri, 11 Nov 2011 13:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/ads-city-bridge-houses-and-where-else