Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel budget proposal leaves aldermen to consider if their constituents can afford a more expensive Chicago.
Emanuel sold his budget to aldermen Tuesday as “tough,” and a plan that carries “political risk.”
“But there is a choice to be made,” Emanuel explained, “either we muster the political courage to deal with this mounting challenge or we repeat the same practices and allow the financial challenges to grow,” he said.
The 2016 budget proposal contains many of the details the mayor’s office leaked out in the weeks leading up to the address: Nearly $600 million in property tax hikes for police and fire pensions and school construction, and a $9.50 monthly garbage collection fee for small apartment buildings and single family homes. It also contains $170 million in savings and efficiencies, like eliminating vacant city positions, according to estimates from the mayor’s office.
During his fifth budget address as mayor, Emanuel used familiar rhetoric to paint Chicago as a thriving, innovative city, whose bright future could be dimmed unless aldermen make some politically courageous decisions.
“Now is the time, this is the council, let us commit to finishing the job,” Emanuel said.
Without property tax revenue for police and fire pensions, Emanuel said the city would have to cut needed city services like recycling, and layoff thousands of police and firefighters.
But while some aldermen contend the budget shouldn’t be described as an either or situation, many council members are still unsure as to if they’ll support one, or all of, the mayor’s budget proposals.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6) said he was on board with the mayor’s plan to increase property taxes, adding that he had hoped the city would have increased them earlier, and incrementally.
“I’m confident that my constituents will understand, I mean [there’s] a difference between understanding and being happy, they’re not gonna be happy about it, but they will understand and acknowledge that we have to right a financial ship that’s been going awry for many, many years now,” Sawyer said.
But whether this vote would leave aldermen with a positive legacy in the history books, as Emanuel expressed, was up for debate.
“It’s great rhetoric for him,” said Ald. John Arena (45). “But I guarantee if I were to vote for this, and in four years decide to run for mayor, then there would be mailers just like he threw at his challenger this time.”
Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian