Taxpayers give Emanuel advice at town hall meeting

August 29, 2011 8:19:54 PM PDT
Mayor Rahm Emanuel held the first of two town hall meetings on how to deal with the city's budget deficit.

Hundreds turned out for Monday night's session, which was contentious at times.

One woman presented the mayor with a multi-page plan that she claimed would put every Chicagoan to work. Others berated him for cutting city jobs and services.

"We have been coming some smoke and mirrors on the budget and avoided taking control of our own future as a city. We have to take control. That moment of reckoning is here," said Emanuel.

It's going to be a bad news budget, and the people it effects let Mayor Rahm Emanuel know what they think of his money saving ideas.

"I don't have insurance. I don't have money to pay my bills. I don't think you understand," said Maria Randazzo, a laid off traffic control aide.

The mayor fought back, falling back to a now familiar refrain that the Daley administration only balanced its budget with tricks.

Fifty one percent of locally generated money comes from the city's shares of sales and income taxes; 18 percent from property taxes; 20 percent from fines and fees; and 11 percent from one time fixes like the parking meter deal.

Now Emanuel's got a $635 million hole.

"I'm under no illusions that it's not going to be difficult," he said.

The mayor's aides screened, selected and, in many cases, asked the questions submitted Monday night. But some citizens did speak.

"If there are shots in my neighborhood, we want somebody deployed," said one citizen.

"You are right. If an officer is tied up on a lower level priority, then they are not available to respond to your shots fired call. The system is kind of broken," said Supt. Garry McCarthy, Chicago police.

On lengthening the school day, Emanuel said he offered teachers more money for a longer day, they turned it down, so he'll add 90 minutes anyway.

"I can guarantee one thing. If we don't change what we are doing, you are going to get more of the same," said Emanuel.

Emanuel repeatedly said he was willing to make tough choices to save any amount of money. But when asked about cutting the size for the City Council, Chicago's hard charging mayor essentially said that would be too hard for the relatively small savings. He has to present a balanced budget to the City Council by mid-October.


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