City Council Approves Budget With Almost No Debate | WBEZ
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City Council Overwhelmingly Approves Mayor's Budget With Almost No Debate

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2017 budget plan easily sailed through the City Council with little debate Wednesday. The budget includes more police officers, more youth mentoring programs, a neighborhood investment fund and an additional tax on plastic bags.

Emanuel thanked the council after the vote, saying that while it might have been an easy vote for some aldermen, it "wasn't easy getting to this point." 

The revenue portion of Emanuel's budget received three dissenting votes. They were from Aldermen Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward; Ricardo Munoz, 22nd; and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th.

The $8.2 billion budget includes hiring 545 more positions at the police department next year -- including 50 lieutenants and 37 sergeants. The police department is slated to hire up to 970 new positions by 2018

The mayor has frequently touted the increase in funding for youth mentoring. Emanuel made this a priority in both his budget and a highly publicized address in September on steps his administration is taking to combat the city’s escalating gun violence. 

He promised to spend $36 million over three years on mentoring programs; some of that money will be provided by private or philanthropic groups. On a recent radio address, Emanuel said he would lean on the University of Chicago to help him select mentoring groups beyond Becoming a Man, a group he often praises for its work with young men. 

This budget was not as big of a political lift for the mayor, or alderman, as last year’s spending plan, which included a property tax hike, higher cab fares and a garbage collection fee. In a budget address this fall, Emanuel commended aldermen for making “hard choices” that helped put the city’s finances on a steadier path. 

But city taxpayers are not completely off the hook in the 2017 budget. The mayor is implementing a 7 cent tax on store-provided plastic bags, which the city estimates will bring in $12.9 million in revenue in its first year. The mayor’s financial team estimates the city will take in $9.2 million of that revenue, while they expect retailers will see around $3.7 million. The city implemented a partial ban on plastic bags last August. 

It will also be more expensive to park around Wrigley Field during Cubs games and other special events next year. The city will boost parking meter rates from $2 to $4 per hour starting two hours before a game or event and an hour after it ends.

The city is also putting $1 million toward a new municipal ID program, though the cards are not expected to be available until at least 2018. The 311 call center is also set to be modernized, allowing Chicagoans to eventually text or tweet their requests to the city and potentially track how quickly (or slowly) their request is getting resolved. 

The mayor’s 2017 budget also includes funding for a chief diversity officer after many aldermen in the council’s Black and Latino caucuses criticized Emanuel’s administration for not doing enough to hire more minority workers.But during budget hearings, many city council members expressed skepticism the position would make an impact on minority hiring. 

Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. You can follow her @laurenchooljian.

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