Finance Committee OK’s Mayor’s Revenue Plan, With One Change
The Finance Committee met before the full City Council meeting yesterday to approve the 2016 Revenue Ordinance Chairman Burke held in committee the day before, citing a need for “further modifications.” Two aldermen, Roberto Maldonado(26) and John Arena (45), asked to be recorded as “no” votes.

Only one change was made to the revenue ordinance since Tuesday’s meeting. Chairman Burke asked the Law Department to draft “clarifying language” adding more Council oversight in how CPS spends a $45 million dollar property tax levy. Mayoral officials have said the capital improvement tax levy would address overcrowding and pay for repairs and upgrades at city schools. Aldermen have called it a blank check.

The new provision would require representatives from the Board of Education to provide regular reports detailing how money will be spent. Aldermen could also file a resolution objecting to any of the planned expenditures. The amendment passed by voice vote.

Ald. Arena also introduced an amendment requiring rideshare companies obtain a city-issued chauffeur’s license, (a Class B TNP license) if they want to pick up passengers at O’Hare, Midway, Navy Pier or McCormick Place. The amendment applies to all “transportation network providers”, or TNPs, but since medallion taxi cabs are already required to pay for the license, this amendment is specifically targeted towards Uber, Lyft and other rideshare drivers. To qualify for the license, a driver can’t have any outstanding debt owed to the city, or unpaid child support.

Ald. Maldonado says he sees a lot of Uber cars without Illinois plates, and asked how the Council could address that. “[Those drivers] may not have a driver’s license from the state of Illinois. To me, that brings up a very serious safety issue,” he said.

Chairman Burke and Budget Director Alex Holt said they would discuss the issue with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Until then, Ald. Beale’s amendment will be held in Finance Committee. “We still have time, we’ll be meeting again next week. I think Alderman Maldonado has pointed out some issues that seem reasonable to me,” Burke said.

Amendments Introduced In Full Council Meeting
Several amendments to the Mayor’s budget plan were introduced at yesterday’s abbreviated City Council meeting, which functioned as a procedural gathering to defer and publish the Mayor’s budget. Minor changes can be made before the official budget vote next Wednesday, October 28.

Progressive Caucus aldermen are behind most of the amendments introduced to the full Council yesterday. They want to double the minimum fee for sidewalk cafe permits to $1,200 and link the fee determination to current property tax values, end end the exemption of Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera tickets the city’s 9% amusement tax. Another proposal ends the amusement tax exemption for horse drawn carriage rides.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) introduced an ordinance with Progressive Caucus co-sponsors imposing a storm water stress fee, an idea floated by the Progressive Caucus weeks before the Mayor’s budget proposal was released. Other cities have imposed the fee to ensure buildings pay more for their large parking lots, which tend to prevent rainwater from seeping into the ground, taxing the city’s sewer system and sometimes leading to flooded basements.

Ramirez-Rosa’s ordinance would create two new payment formulas to be factored into a person’s water bill; one for single-family residential homes, and another for all other properties. To determine fees, the Department of Water would first have to find a median residential unit square footage. The city would aggregate the stormwater management cost for all single family homes, and then divide it by the total number of single family homes. Single-family homes would then be assessed by that amount.

A similar formula would apply for all other properties, but then the amount of impervious surface would be factored in so that non-single-family properties with larger impervious surfaces, such as parking lots or wide roofs, would end up paying more. Ramirez-Rosa estimates single-family sewer fees would go down as a result, while fees for large parking lot owners surfaces would go up.

311 Privatization 
It was been widely reported yesterday Mayor Emanuel is backing down from his proposed privatization of the 311 system after more than half the City Council blasted the plan. But throughout the day the Mayor and his staff made no official statements about a plan that was never officially proposed anywhere other than in a few lines of his September budget speech.

Before yesterday’s full City Council meeting, Ald. Toni Foulkes (16) told reporters the plan was taken “off the table” after they sent a letter to Emanuel from 36 aldermen and AFSCME, the union that represents 311 operators. “We understand the tremendous fiscal challenges the city faces and appreciate your efforts to address those challenges,” the letter says. “But outsourcing 311 risks damaging an effective city service for very little, if any real savings and pressing this proposal now only serves to distract us from the serious budgetary issues facing our city.”

The Mayor floated the idea of privatizing the city’s main call line for addressing non-emergency related services during his budget address. Since then, he has repeatedly said the City can’t afford to pay the $40 million dollars needed to upgrade the aging system, first put in place in 1999. Yet, no proposed ordinance nor his official budget document makes no mention of the privatization plan.

The official city budget includes no changes for all 311 call center positions for the coming fiscal year. When the Mayor was asked about the 311 plan at his post Council press briefing, his answers were vague. Even the Progressive Caucus, of which Ald. Foulkes is a member, stopped short of saying the fight was over in a press release yesterday afternoon, calling it an “apparent decision to table its proposal” from the Mayor’s office. 

“Obviously we are in the process where the alderman contribute their ideas and I listen to all ideas, but I believe fundamentally in what I laid out,” he said. “I’m not going to negotiate publicly.”

One aldermanic staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Mayor’s aides had privately assured aldermen the privatization wouldn’t move forward, and aldermen leaked the news to reporters so that the mayor wouldn’t back down.