Emanuel Budget Plan Relies On Higher Fees, Police Station Closures
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Updated 10/11/11 – 5:08 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveils the city’s 2012 budget proposal Wednesday, with plans to raise several fines and fees imposed by the city, while avoiding any tax hikes to balance a $636 million shortfall.
The mayor also plans to call for closing three police district stations and merge five police detective areas into three areas.
The budget is set to be released at a special meeting of the City Council at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, aldermen who’ve been briefed by the mayor’s budget office have said the mayor is keeping his pledge of no new taxes, but taxpayers won’t be spared from being nickel-and-dimed by increasing fees and fines.
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Others will be upset about the closing of police stations. The mayor’s budget also calls for 500 city workers to lose their jobs and another 775 vacant positions to be eliminated.
The mayor also plans to close three police stations, consolidate the five current Chicago Police detective areas into three, and to merge Police Department and Fire Department headquarters — along with several police and fire functions. He did not brief the aldermen about any of that.
“It will give our new superintendent an opportunity to brief with the aldermen, in regards to closing of stations, restructuring the police system, why he’s maybe eliminating various positions or titles or things of that nature,” Austin said. “I think that he wants to be able to do that himself.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the police districts that would close are:
• Wood District, 937 N. Wood St.;
• Belmont District, 2452 W. Belmont Ave.;
• and Prairie District, 300 E. 29th St.
Those districts have low crime levels and old, inefficient and outmoded facilities, according to the mayor’s office. The officers assigned to those stations will be transferred to other districts.
Although no specific detective area headquarters have been named as the ones that would close, the Belmont District station is also where the Belmont Area Detective headquarters is located.
Mike Shields, President of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, said the city’s police union has not been briefed on the station closure plans. He said the union first learned about the plans from news reports on Tuesday.
“It wasn’t released to us. Our members are going to be impacted, yet we were the last people to be told,” Shields said, adding that something like this has happened before with City Hall. “It continues to happen at all city agencies, not just Chicago Police.”
Aldermen got their first look at the mayor’s budget plan on Tuesday, in a series of three briefings – complete with Powerpoint presentations – that were long on policy, but short on actual numbers. They also were not briefed on plans to close police stations and detective areas.
As for the higher fees and numerous cutbacks in the budget plan, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said, “We all have to feel the pain. Maybe our services have gotten too big in the first place.”
Asked what parts of the budget plan might raise some eyebrows, Ald. Will Burns (4th) said, “I think it will depend on what part of the city you’re from and what sort of issues are important to you.”
Aldermen were asked not to comment on specifics of the budget, but CBS 2 has learned that the mayor’s budget will include declaring a $60 million surplus in tax increment financing funds.
The plan also calls for starting grid-based garbage collection – rather than the current ward-by-ward system – sometime next year.
The budget also relies on a number of fee increases – including higher city sticker fees for SUVs, higher fees for loading zone and valet parking permits, and an extra “congestion fee” for parking in downtown garages during rush hour.
And, in an effort to squeeze every last drop out of water fees, meters at places like car washes will be strictly monitored.
The city’s library system – still being modernized and expanded – will also take a hit, with shorter hours at Chicago libraries. All Chicago Public Libraries would remain open, but with shorter hours. Emanuel stopped just short of confirming that move on Tuesday.
“(New York City Mayor Michael) Bloomberg, who I have a lot of respect for, they closed libraries,” Emanuel noted on Tuesday.
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Emanuel said that anyone who knows how to eliminate a $600 million budget deficit without controversy should submit plans to the city’s website.
“We’re going to balance a budget that’s … 20 percent out of whack, but we’re going to do it without controversy?” Emanuel said. “You don’t have to go online, call me. Okay? I’m really interested in the idea.”
The mayor said his budget plan will make the tough choices needed to put the city’s fiscal house in order.
Some aldermen were already balking at certain proposals on Tuesday.
“I’m not in favor of the grid system,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th). “That’s something that I’m definitely not in favor of and we need to basically look at that, because we cannot jeopardize, you know, the cleanliness of our wards.”
Beale said he would need assurances that a grid-based system would work before switching the entire city’s garbage collection off of the current ward-based system.
Aldermen could be further piqued by the mayor’s office leaking his police cuts to a favored reporter on Tuesday before telling them.
One alderman went so far as to remind Emanuel that it takes 26 votes to pass his budget plan.