Mayor hosts series of town halls on budget

Tackling the city’s $635 million 2012 budget deficit is the least of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s problems, if the audience at his first of two public town hall meetings is any example.

Tackling the city’s $635 million 2012 budget deficit is the least of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s problems, if the audience at his first of two public town hall meetings is any example.

Apparently trying to win over residents who have been disappointed in his performance through the first 100 days on the job might be a much strenuous challenge.

During special town hall meetings held at Kennedy-King College Monday, a raucous and at times unforgiving audience greeted Emanuel as he addressed a wide range of questions, issues and concerns from the public.

Some members of the crowd booed Emanuel as he attempted to explain the process that led to ousting more than 70 city traffic aide positions this year.

At one point the mayor was even referred to as a “liar” and “you’re not poor” from audience members while in the middle of responses.

“I didn’t relish making the decision,” Emanuel said. “We’ve got some real problems we have to address.”

Emanuel will introduce the final budget to City Hall in October.

One of the few times Emanuel received praised during the two-hour meeting was when he said raising taxes wasn’t in the plan for Chicagoans in the near future.

“I’m not going to do that until we make the tough choices, the honest choices together about the city’s future,” he said. “When it comes to property taxes going up, no. When it comes to sales taxes going up, no.”

Of course, the city school board approved a property tax increase of $125 million (about $84 for each homeowner) for the city schools.

The mayor announced plans to slice the salaries for members of city boards and panels that he says would save $314,000.

The public also wanted to know about the possibility of reducing the size of the City Council, cutting the security details for alderman, loitering and extended school days for Chicago Public Schools.

Emanuel was also asked by a 20th Ward woman who wanted answers as to why cops infrequently respond to 911 calls of shots fired in her neighborhood.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy admitted sometimes too many calls flood the system, which makes it difficult for officers to respond to the scene promptly.

“The system is kinda broken,” McCarthy said. McCarthy said the problem is not that there are not enough police officers on the force, which the police union claims. “And if our officers are tied up on a lower-level priority, then they’re not available to reply to your shots-fired call.”

John Dulles, 52, of Englewood, said the city is not doing enough to address an area that features high unemployment, violent crimes and a plethora of abandoned properties.

“Englewood looks like a third world country,” Dulles said.

The frustrated resident is demanding Emanuel reinvest tax-increment-financing (TIF) into historically neglected West Side and South Side areas. Emanuel earlier had announced a TIF review.

Others like Department of General Services employee Jeannie Gayles suggested the mayor investigate why she and her co-workers are facing layoffs they conclude are unwarranted.

Gayles, of West Pullman, also said Emanuel has been unimpressive during his brief stint replacing longtime Mayor Richard M. Daley, breaking campaign promises along the way.

“His performance has been poor,” Gayles said. “He ran his campaign on not privatizing.

Now he is privatizing. I am not happy with him.”

Another town hall meeting is scheduled for tonight at Malcolm X College.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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