The skyline of Chicago is one of the most beautiful skylines in the world. It’s one of the first things visitors notice whether their traveling by air, by water or by ground transportation. The modern architecture of today perfectly aligned with the timeless architecture of Wright, Burnham and Sullivan glistening along our gorgeous Lake Michigan shoreline. The delicate manicured trees running down Michigan Avenue, the beautifully curated public art gracing the frame of the city backdrop as tourists navigate through traffic visiting Millennium Park— taking pictures in front of the ‘bean’ Is deeply inhaled. It is a wonderful sight to take in because it captures the soul of the city. And Chicagoans feel a sense of pride when describing the city to non-residents.
The cosmetic make-up of the City of Chicago is like a tight, sculptured face that has had a few too many lifts and Botox injections—sooner or later what’s underneath the facade will fall apart. Over the years, the city, known as the ‘City that works,’ budget has had many contractual changes to appease everyone from the Chicago Teachers Union to the Fire and Police pensions. It has become a very bad facelift. While patching the aging programs to continue looking good the inner erosion was pushing the splendid city to near financial ruin. Things were steadily breaking down.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel in his second term has presented the 2016 City of Chicago Budget Recommendations, which includes $170 million in savings and reforms will save the city over the next 5 years up to $600 million. It may be hard to take but it had to be done. None of us like taxes. We don’t like our taxes increased, so the question becomes, ‘Where will the money come from?’
Leaders have to bite the bullet and bear the backlash of any choice they make which will come under scrutiny. So Mayor Emanuel has thrown back his head butting it forward to push through one of the worse financial deficits ever.
So, let’s review what this means to people who reside and pay taxes in the city of limits of Chicago:
$544 million property tax increase over the next four years.
This means the City of Chicago must meet its obligations to both the Police and Fire pensions and the only way to pull monies is to increase taxes on property owners. It also can mean life or death for residents in emergency responder situations. No pay, no play.
Breakdown for property owners: $318 million (2015), $109 million (2016), $53 million (2017) and $63 million (2018).
Establish a $9.50 monthly fee per household for garbage pick up Although, residents are billed within their property taxes for garbage pick-up, the City is breaking down the fee to individual homeowners and residential properties with over 3-unit apartment buildings. Seniors will be protected that are on a fixed budget by a 50 percent discount. This doesn’t mean much for an already struggling monthly income and an unapproved State budget.
Increasing the fees for building permits to raise $13 million.
This will increase the wait time for building permits. All new construction projects or renovations should be prepared to dig a little deeper in their pockets for fees.
Access new rideshare and taxi fees that will create $60 million in 2016– the rideshare industry will be responsible for more than 80 percent of this revenue.
The excitement of not paying those drastic commercial taxicab fares was a relief for many discovering the benefits of Uber and Lyft. Riders will be charged an additional tax to each ride almost making it just as much as calling a Yellow or Checker cab.
Create a new tax on e-cigarettes that will discourage youth from vaping. The tax will generate $1 million in revenue in 2016 with a portion dedicated to support community health services.
Any cigarette smoker will tell you increasing the taxes does not prevent reduction of smoking. For young vapers on the rise, if they can find the funds for the latest sneakers, Lolla tickets or hottest Apple watch—then they will ‘vap’ to their heart’s desire.
The tax will include both $.25/ml of e-liquid and $1.25/container of e-liquid.
We can throw daggers at Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the huge and financially discomforting budget proposal but it’s the hot mess that was left behind from Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration. It has been a constant ‘elephant’ in the room but one that our city council incumbents are also responsible for supporting over Daley’s 23-year reign.
For many Blacks, the decline in our residency has been a blueprint put in place before the tall housing projects of Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylor homes met their destruction. As we muddle through every bad hiccup from the last administration’s decision to pimping off our Indiana Skyway Toll Bridge, to the 75-year parking meter contact handled by the firm in, which he/Daley is currently an investor. We are deeply up the creek.
This 2016 budget will also include funding for the Chicago Police Department to hire professionals to fill administrative roles in order to deploy 319 officers back to the street to fight gun violence. Out of the 319 police officers:
- 154 officers are currently assigned to districts on administrative duties
- 60 officers will be assigned to Area Saturation Teams giving Area deputy chiefs discretionary resources to help combat violent crime.
- 105 officers will be evenly distributed and assigned to areas that have high crime and issued straight time to cut down on overtime as District Impact Officers.
- Between January 2015 and September 28 there have been 2,271 shooting victims and 389 homicides due to violent crimes.
At press time, the top three communities most affected by gun violence: Austin (36 homicides), Englewood (24 homicides), Garfield and North Lawndale are tied (22 homicides).
The problem remains how many of the officers assigned to predominately African-American areas are Black? How many minority officers have the Chicago Police Department hired in the last four years since Mayor Emanuel have taken office? In the budget proposal, the District Impact officers will also foster community engagement among residents. This has been the main complaint by the Black community that feel the lack of connection between them and CPD. Although, familiarity is important placing officers that can relate culturally and understand the ‘lay of the land’ can bring down heighten tension.
The education and youth component is outlined throughout the budget proposal as it lists the City investing an additional $1.5 million in afterschool programs, which brings the total investment to $16 million. The increase has doubled since 2011 when Emanuel took office serving 27,000 youth in various programs throughout the city. With youth programs being the latest victim slashed in the Illinois State budget cuts, it is vital that these programs continue and the City of Chicago has included this into the 2016 Budget Proposal.
- $50 million overall in programs for youth social services
- $15 million to support preschool programs
- $15.5 million invested to support the summer jobs for 25,000 youth
This is a good program for the summer but questions have been raised at the short length of time for many young adults seeking employment to assist in financial independence in their junior and senior year of high school.
$2 million investment over the next 5 years for school-based health centers (SBHC) for students. Only 13 out of 30 locations provide healthy beyond students. By 2019 the City will be adding 5 more locations.
Will there be a consideration for mental healthcare facilities to be a part of the new budget? In 2012, the City closed six mental health clinics most of, which were in Black communities. The increase in the number of Cook County jail inmates is due in part to the lack of mental health treatment according to Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart.
Some of these programs will also be supported by philanthropic grants and City funds in order to support the needs of many Chicago youth. In the 2016 budget proposal, 15 Chicago Public Library Early Learning centers will be added across the City but no breakdown provided as to where they will be placed.
Although, there are key points in the 2016 Budget Proposal presented by Mayor Emanuel which break down the obvious concerns of where monies are being pulled from in order to chip away at a $456 million deficit, it is not clear how beneficial this budget will be for residents that are currently struggling trying to turn a dollar out of fifteen cents.
“With this budget, we will build on our progress in charting a new course for Chicago’s future and secure the retirements of our police and firefighters in a way that does not hurt those who can least afford it,” Mayor Emanuel said.
As it stands now, the City’s 2016 Budget Proposal lists everything from eliminating 150 vacant positions ($14.1 million), sale of excess City-owned land ($4.8 million), Debt and revenue collection from new auditors ($23.4 million) and getting rid of the old IT, hosting and mainframe system that has plagued departments ($3.9 million) that would bring them up-to-date. Decreased healthcare funding for City of Chicago retiree benefits will also be phased out saving the City $30 million.
No matter how you see it or break down the benefits and the woes—Chicago residents will eat the costs. The city’s beauty and cultural diversity truly separates us from other cities around the world. Although, the City of Chicago will hold dear in many hearts – this next chapter in history of the City that works will carry a deep hole in our pockets.