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Aldermen Bemoan Painful Cuts But Okay Daley's Budget

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Aldermen Bemoan Painful Cuts But Okay Daley's Budget

Photo by Adrienne Bale.

The Chicago City Council is putting the final okay on Mayor Richard Daley’s budget for next year. Yesterday Aldermen passed the $5.9 billion spending plan by the overwhelming margin of 49-1. The vote concludes a painful budgeting process that includes fees, layoffs and cutbacks.

Going into this year’s budget, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley faced the biggest budget deficit he’s had to deal with in his entire time as mayor.

He said the economy is going through the worst financial crisis he’s ever seen.

Yesterday aldermen spent a lot of their time taking turns, finding their own ways of describing how bad the economy is, and how painful the budget is because of that.

MONTAGE: There’s no way to say it nicely/I think if Betty Davis was in this council, she’d say, ‘Hold on to your seats, this is going to be a bumpy budget'/A difficult budget/I classify this economy as being a bad news economy/What hit us this year was like a tsunami/A deep recession, which is first cousins to a depression...

The list of the things the city had to do to close its budget deficit and pay for everything next year is a long one.

The final budget combines departments, cuts services, and slows police hiring.

It eats up money from the new deal to lease Midway Airport.

Besides that there are hikes in the amusement and parking taxes, along with a bunch of fees, including a new controversial fee on dumpsters.

The city was able to cut down the number of layoffs from 1000, but in the final budget over 600 city workers will still lose their jobs.

The core message from most aldermen yesterday was that the budget made the best out of a bad situation—but there was still a lot to be unhappy about.

OCASIO: Most of the layoffs affect the people who do the work. The people who do the work and get paid the least.

Alderman Billy Ocasio was the only person who voted no.

He said the budget cut too many frontline workers and he disagreed with where the city decided to cutback on programs and services.

OCASIO: We find millions of dollars in private and public funds when it comes to places like Millenium Park, the 2016 Olympics, or Buckingham Fountain, but when it comes to finding public or private dollars for a woman’s homeless shelter, the city says it’s an on going process. We all know what that means. That means no.

Even though Ocasio was the only alderman to vote no, he wasn’t the only one to raise concerns.

SMITH: Don’t hurt me to do favoritism to someone else.

Alderman Ed Smith said how fair cuts are will depend how their implemented next year.

Smith said he’s willing to do his part and take heat from his constituents over service cuts—but all neighborhoods should suffer equally.

SMITH: When the snow comes, I want my streets plowed just as everyone else. When the wind comes and knocks town the trees and the limbs, I want mine picked up in a timely manner. When the sewers get plugged, I want mine unplugged just as everyone else.

Tough as it was, some aldermen said they were concerned the budget wasn’t tough enough.

PRECKWINKLE: I’m going to support the budget. Despite my concerns that your revenue projections are a little optimistic.

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle was one of a number of aldermen who said they don’t think the city is going to bring in as much money it says it will.

PRECKWINKLE: I hope and pray that you’re right and I’m wrong, and we’re not back here in June struggling with more budget issues.

But even with all the concerns, aldermen piled on the praise.

They called the budget painful—even ugly—but they praised Daley and his administration for making what most aldermen said were difficult decisions.

DALEY: I want to thank all the members of the city council for their support, and commitment. The ideas they offered, which improved the process as well as the budget.

After the vote, the mayor was a picture of gratitude—thanking aldermen, his staff, the unions and the business sector.

DALEY: Let’s take this victory right now. This is an economic tragedy going on in this country, it’s going to be much more significant. But at least we laid the foundation. We passed our budget.

The mayor was dismissive of the criticism that had come as aldermen discussed the budget—refusing even to address it.

DALEY: It’s alright. No, it’s alright. Anything else?

Daley did echo one of the concerns that had come up during the discussion. The mayor says he’s worried about how uncertain the economy is.

And because of that—even though this year was bad—he’s afraid of just how bad next year could be.

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