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How should Emanuel close Chicago's $600 million budget gap?

Chicago's mayor on Monday will sit through the first of two public meetings on the city's budget. Rahm Emanuel must find a way to close a deficit estimated to top $600 million.

The meetings - Monday evening in the Englewood neighborhood and Wednesday evening in West Town - are not a new idea. Former Mayor Richard Daley held similar ones, and listened to Chicagoans suggest budget ideas, or just go on rants.

Public comments from a couple years ago ranged from "street flooding and sewer backup is still a major problem within our area" to "the boom box can be heard blocks and blocks and blocks away" to "the police just zip on through the neighborhoods, passing by, and thinking that impressed somebody."

What is different this year is that, in addition to the public meetings, Emanuel's office set up a website for people to post budget ideas, and vote on them.

Top ranked suggestions include cutting aldermen pay and expenses, as well as to stop providing security to - among others - former Mayor Richard Daley. Other popular ones include legalizing and taxing marijuana, and planting perennial flowers instead of annuals, to reduce city gardening costs.

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