Aldermen "pinch their noses" and approve $1.1 billion borrowing plan | WBEZ
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Aldermen "pinch their noses" and approve $1.1 billion borrowing plan

Later this summer, the city of Chicago will lean heavily on a massive borrowing package as it attempts to dig its way out of its dire financial situation. The City Council signed off on borrowing $1.1 billion in general obligation bonds Wednesday, without any further discussion.

“I think most of us pinched our noses,” Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) said after the vote. Reilly said the city inherited a mess from a past administration, and called the borrowing the “best of the worst options.”

“Certainly no one wants to be pushing obligations further down the road, but the alternative is a massive tax increase that I’m fairly certain the citizens of Chicago can’t shoulder all at once,” he said.

The mayor’s office argues that without this borrowing, the city would be forced to pay around $900 million to the banks because of the recent credit downgrade by Moody’s. The package is also expected to pay down past judgments, settlements, 2 years of interest on the bond, and convert some of the city’s variable rate debt to fixed rate.

But three progressive aldermen  Scott Waguespack (34), John Arena (45) and newcomer Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35)  voted against the mayor’s plan, as they said the mayor’s office should also be putting forth a revenue proposal.

“The best way to pay people back is not to borrow money, it’s to generate revenue. It’s to come up with a plan,” Rosa said. “Let’s lead with revenue, let’s not lead with borrowing.”

Two aldermen, Alderman Ed. Burke (14) and Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11), abstained from voting.

In other council news:

  • Longtime Ald. Ed Burke (14) is proposing an ordinance that would force Chicago airports to provide lactation rooms for nursing mothers. The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), is a quicker Chicago version of state legislation that’s on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk that would require breastfeeding accommodations at airports statewide by 2017. In a statement, Burke said mothers “should not have to wait” that long.
  • Navy Pier patrons will soon be able carry take their mixed drinks both inside and outside the major tourist attraction. The City Council approved a measure that would allow open containers of alcohol both indoors and outdoors at the Pier, so long as they’re purchased on site.
  • Ginger Evans was confirmed as the city’s new Aviation Commissioner. Evans came from Washington, D.C., where she most recently served as vice president of engineering at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. She replaces Rosemarie Andolino.

Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ’s city politics reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian.

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