While as many as seventeen aldermen have been leaning against voting for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2016 budget and property tax increase this morning, following a series of intense negotiations over the last week, strong opposition has been whittled down to about half a dozen Council members. Another half dozen members have been holding on to make a decision until the last minute, mostly waiting to squeeze out some last concessions from the Mayor.
Speaking off the record to Aldertrack, aldermen expressed no doubt the Mayor’s budget will pass, despite a fever pitch of constituent calls to oppose the property tax increase and new garbage fee. Better to get some political goodies in return for a “yes” vote than to just register a protest vote, over a dozen aldermen told Aldertrack yesterday.
But freshman Ald. Derrick Curtis (18) spoke for many: aldermen don’t have much of a choice. “Right now, it’s the only option we have. It’s either be part of the problem or part of the solution, and I’d rather be part of the solution,” he said.
Two big concessions are expected in tomorrow’s budget vote: first, a resolution endorsed by the Mayor calling for passage of a city property tax rebate plan if Springfield does not pass an exemption by April, and second, to lump the vote for the property tax, corporate budget, management ordinance and revenue ordinance into a single motion with a roll call vote.
Typically, the budget is broken into a number of roll call votes, but by lumping the ordinances into a single motion, aldermen avoid scrutiny on each item and are provided a cover of, “I had to vote for it.”
Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Joe Moreno (1) and Michele Smith (43), all loud opponents of the property tax hike, have each introduced city property tax rebate ordinances, with dozens of co-sponsors.
Council members also told Aldertrack that votes were swayed from “no” to “yes” this past week by the creation of a senior exemption for the garbage fee, compromises on the ridesharing ordinance and what one aldermanic staffer called, “the most inclusive budget I’ve ever seen,” after noting how many amendments were allowed in the last week.
Indeed, in a sharp break from previous years, Mayor Emanuel has been practically obsequious with aldermen, soliciting their ideas at almost every step. While the budget plan is still very much Mayor Emanuel’s, old hands agree this budget process is unlike any they have ever experienced.
Still, as late as last night, aldermen were personally meeting with the Mayor to obtain more concessions, including promotion of development in their wards, capital spending on neighborhood high schools and assurances that Chicago Public Schools will not increase their property tax levy in the next year.
While the city budget is just about a done deal, CPS’ budget problems still loom in the background, since it passed with a $480 million hole that needs to be filled by a state government unable to even satisfy its own budget needs.
Many aldermen agreed CPS’ money problems will be the Council’s next crisis to address, either through an ordinance, or by just trying to calm an angry electorate.