Emanuel: City Can’t Afford Old Ways Of Doing Business

Updated 10/12/11 – 5:42 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — “We can start shaping our city’s future or let it shape us,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said as he unveiled a budget that will close three police stations, double water rates, and raise several other fees.

The mayor also called for a program to replace the aging water pipes under the city, in a project that will create thousands of jobs.

Mayor Emanuel said the budget must be “honest,” and “one that focuses on current needs while investing in the future.”

His budget address won praise from aldermen for being up front about the city’s financial problems.

“For the first time in 10 years we’ve had an honest discussion about our budget situation,” Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said after Emanuel’s budget speech.

The mayor pulled no punches in laying out a plan of shared sacrifice.

“To everyone who has not paid their fair share: Ladies and gentlemen — the free ride is over,” Emanuel said in his budget speech.

He singled out non-profits that used to get free water, but also announced an increase that will boost average water bills from $400 to $800 a year over the next four years.

“Even with this proposed plan, Chicago rates will remain among the cheapest in the Great Lakes region,” he said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore has reaction from aldermen

The budget proposal does not include sales or property tax hikes to plug the $635 million deficit, and will cut the employee head tax that has been long maligned by business owners, so as to keep jobs and business in the city.

“With the global demand for jobs, time for debate is over,” Emanuel said. “No longer will Chicago tax the creation of jobs.”

But the budget will call for higher hotel taxes, a “congestion premium” on parking at downtown garages during rush hour, doubling water fees and raising the price of a city sticker for SUVs and trucks from $120 to $135.

The mayor also confirmed that the budget will include the closure of three police stations.

Emanuel pointed out that as part of his campaign promise to place more police officers on the street, every district received additional officers, and the districts with the most crime received the largest increases, “as it should be.”

But the Police Department can no longer be a sacred cow that is immune from city budget considerations, Emanuel said.

“For decades, our public safety functions were walled off from budget cuts and other changes that would have made them more effective,” Emanuel said. “The reason was politics, pure and simple.”

Previous reports indicated that the police stations that would close are the:

• Wood District, 937 N. Wood St.;
• Belmont District, 2452 W. Belmont Ave.;
• and Prairie District, 300 E. 29th St.

Emanuel only referenced the Belmont District in his address, pointing out that it is the station that serves his neighborhood.

“If I didn’t think this would improve public safety, I wouldn’t do it,” he said.

But combining 25 districts into 22 – and moving officers from old police stations into newer facilities nearby, is worth the savings, Emanuel said, because “after all, it’s beat officers who fight crime, not bureaucrats and buildings.”

The biggest saving comes from eliminating previously budgeted but unfilled police positions. More than 1,300 vacant police positions are being eliminated to save $82 million.

But Emanuel did promise to hire about 100 new officers next year.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields, on his way to a meeting with Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, said he planned to say that “There are not enough Chicago police officers. It impacts police officers, but it also impacts the safety on the streets of Chicago.”

Given that the department is also losing 500 officers through retirement, Ald. Ed Burke (14th), a former police officer and powerful chairman of the City Council Finance Commmittee, said he has “great confidence” in McCarthy to keep the city safe.

“If he believes he can police the streets and keep the citizens safe, with that number of personnel, then so be it,” Burke said.

In addition, the Police and Fire departments will operate out of a combined headquarters, and will begin working jointly for several public safety functions, including terrorism, bomb threats, and arson. Chicago will be the first large city to combine the Police and Fire departments into one public safety unit, Emanuel said.

Further, the five police investigative areas and detective units will be cut to three – north, central and south, Emanuel said.

Some aldermen questioned Emanuel’s plan for higher hotel and parking taxes and other revenue moves, but most said Emanuel’s first budget plan hits the city’s problems head-on.

“I think that the mayor has put forth a lot of ideas, opened it up to the public for ideas and to the aldermen and I think he’s done the best that he can with it,” Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said.

But Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) wasn’t buying it when officials told him his ward would have more police protection after the Wood District on the West Side closes down.

“You might have more police officers coming out of that district, but you’re also going to have a much larger geography to serve,” Maldonado said.

City Clerk Susana Mendoza – whose office handles the sale of city stickers – came out against the increase in sticker fees for SUVs from $120 to $135, pointing out that owners are SUVs are already charged more than owners of other vehicles. Most passenger vehicle owners pay $75 for a city sticker.

“Let’s go after the scofflaws, let’s go after those people who are not paying their fair share and let’s ask them to pay more,” she said. “What’s more lucrative for us, a $15 increase in an SUV fee or an $80 dollar increase in a ticket for those who didn’t purchase their sticker. I think the math speaks for itself.”

Meanwhile, fees and fines will rise primarily for those who “put communities at risk,” Emanuel said. Fines for drunken driving will double, as will fines for transporting an illegal firearm. Fines for carrying an illegal firearm near a school or park will triple.

In addition, owners of vacant or overgrown lots – whether individuals or banks – will have to pay to clean them up.

It will also cost more to park downtown under the new budget, at least during the week. A downtown congestion premium of $2 per day will be assessed on weekdays only, and will go toward upgrades at existing CTA ‘L’ stops, a new rapid transit bus station, and bike lanes.

And drivers of small or standard cars will not see an increase in their city sticker fee of $75, those who drive heavier cars or trucks will see a hike from $120 to $135. That money will go toward filling 160,000 potholes in 2012, Emanuel said.

The increase in water rates is mandated, Emanuel said, because 1,000 miles of water pipes that run under the city are 100 years old or older, and replacement cannot be delayed.

Emanuel said he does not support privatization of the Department of Water Management, as some have suggested, but “that does not mean we are off the hook.”

When it comes to outdated and decaying water pipes, Emanuel said, “We are already paying the price in flooded streets, flooded basements, big sinkholes, broken axles, flat tires, and even sunken cars.”

The increase in water bills will still keep rates lower in Chicago than most other cities on the Great Lakes, and the project to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure will generate 18,000 good-paying jobs in the coming decade, Emanuel said.

The mayor is also asking the city’s Internet providers to install broadband conduit while the new water pipes are being installed.

The budget also eliminates free water service for non-profit organizations.

Changes are also coming to the city’s garbage collection system. The mayor has already opened the system up to “competitive bidding,” in which unionized private employees are now serving some areas of the city, and Department of Streets and Sanitation employees are serving others.

Now, for the sake of efficiency, Emanuel says the ward-based garbage collection system now in effect will be replaced with a grid-based system.

“No person designing a garbage collection system from scratch would base it on a political map. We’ve always done it that way because we could afford to. Fed Ex and UPS don’t do it that way,” he said. “But we can no longer afford to.”

Most aldermen seemed willing to let the Mayor call the shots, but not when it came to taking garbage collection away from their ward bosses.

The mayor wants to switch to a grid system for trash pickup, which aldermen have resisted for years because a ward-by-ward system gives them more direct control over garbage collection in their own wards.

“I stand ready to work with you to address your concerns, while still reforming the system,” Emanuel told aldermen in his speech. “But we cannot cling to a garbage system based on politics rather than cost.”

Cuts will also be coming to the city’s workforce. The budget slashes 510 middle or senior managers for a savings of $34 million, and cuts 776 vacant positions.

Libraries will also be affected. Branch libraries will have their morning hours cut on Mondays and Fridays for a savings of $7 million, but will remain open six days a week.

The Harold Washington Library Center and the Sulzer and Woodson regional libraries on the North and South sides, respectively, will maintain their seven-day schedules.

The budget also anticipates $20 million savings from the city’s employee wellness program, and $15 million from workers’ compensation reform.

While not mentioning his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, by name, Emanuel said a change from the city’s past fiscal policies was needed. He pointed out that the city had been in the red for its past 10 budgets.

“We’re going to start saving for Chicago’s future again instead of selling it short,” he said.

Aldermen will begin holding hearings next week with city department heads to go over each individual department’s budget plan before voting on a final budget before the end of the year.

  • Jim

    “double water rates, and raise several other fees.” = tax hike to me.

    • LOTD

      EXACTLY!!! W T F !!?? I already pay over $250 for sewer and water, just how much more do we need to pay! F these dem- @ s s h o l e s and their tax and spend plans! ENOUGH!!! Chicago and ALL of IL is fuked, PERIOD!

  • Chinlees

    What do you mean ” Old Ways” it sounds to me,t’s stick it to the to the people who live in Chicago . I own a SUV so let’s stick it to the SUV owners, so taxpayers of Chicago Rahm did it to us again.

  • CFLC

    Chicago, start paying for the sins of the Daley’s.



  • not a sheep

    the feds need to look into the pension fund mess,daley and his thugs need to go to jail! and the media needs to start asking these mobbed up chicago politicians the tough questions!

  • PG

    No news here that I wasn’t expecting. Politicians frequently run on the pledge of not raising taxes, but then they turn around and raise “fees”, so the effect is still the same. Government ultimately winds up with more money in its pockets, and the citizens have less money in ours.

  • Gee-reg

    Why not tax Daley for the use of his free car – driver -and gas ??

  • LOTD

    ” That money will go toward filling 160,000 potholes in 2012, Emanuel said.”

    How about it paying for the 6 man crews standing around all earning 60K + for such a high-skilled job?? Give me an f-ing break! They fill a pot hole and within days it crumbles and they get paid again to fix it, job security at it’s finest!

  • Mary

    Oh please, we’re supposed to believe this demRAT knows how to do anything that isn’t done the CHICAGO WAY? why would we? he was elected the CHICAGO WAY, owes the same ole boys daley owed.can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.

  • jAMES

    Why do we need all the alderman we have twice as many as any other large city. You can double up on their wards. Let them work for their money. You keep raising fees to cover the city budget but where do the people get the money to cover their budgets that the city keeps taking more and more of.cut city spending dont keep cutting services and raising fees for the hard working people of Chicago.Mayor, you get a C- FOR THE JOB YOU ARE DOING.

    • da truth,over by dere

      the media should look into the aldermens pensions,but then again they are bought and paid for, the media that is.

  • Dylan

    Take away the $1,200 per month per diem checks the alderman get on top of their overpaid salaries and benefits.

    We don’t need 50 alderman – 10 could do the job just fine IF they new what they were doing.

  • 77blkbrd

    If I was the mayor Id fire every one top to bottom no friends no clout one time felons who are doing right and true citizens who aren’t money hungry salary cap is 24k in any office any job title and start over no pensions no unions no attitude and now make Chicago work with respect and love to have a peaceful and beautiful city everyone could enjoy and not get robbed (because gun laws would be open to all ) and watch the attitude drop and people would have level of respect towards one another this is the only way this will work .

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/10/14/many-top-city-executives-up-for-raises-in-2012-budget/ Many Top City Executives Up For Raises In 2012 Budget « CBS Chicago

    […] Meanwhile, the budget slashes 510 middle or senior managers for a savings of $34 million, and cuts 7… Share this No comments // […]

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/10/25/burke-seeks-cab-fare-surcharge-to-boost-revenues/ Burke Seeks Cab Fare Surcharge To Boost Revenues « CBS Chicago

    […] budget last year was precariously balanced with parking meter reserves and other one-shot revenues. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first budget, by contrast, is loaded with cuts that include the closure of three police stations, the reduction […]

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