Emanuel reverses on library cuts, SUV city sticker hike

November 4, 2011 7:22:49 PM PDT
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backed off some of his recommendations, and the Chicago City Council will not go to war with him over the 2012 city budget.

"If everybody gives a little, nobody has to give too much. I heard what the aldermen had to say," Mayor Emanuel said Friday.

The mayor said a letter signed by a majority of city council members was part of the reason he decided to adjust several of his budget recommendations, which include a partial reversal of his plan to drastically reduce the hours for public libraries. Emanuel is restoring more than $3 million to Chicago libraries.

"When school is out, which is 19 weeks here in the city of Chicago, libraries will be open starting at 9 o'clock throughout every neighborhood," Emanuel said.

The letter was signed by 28 of the 50 council members.

Mayor Emanuel also restored funding for cleaning graffiti and tending to vacant lots. He now recommends that free water service for churches and not-for-profits will be 80-percent phased out as opposed to happening all at once. In response to aldermanic and city clerk concerns, Mayor Emanuel backed down on a plan to raise vehicle stickers for heavier SUV and vans; instead, the cost for lighter vehicles will go up $10 a year to make up the difference.

"To have someone to hear the concerns that we have in regards to our constituency, that's a little different for us," Ald. Carrie Austin (34 Ward) said.

Alderman Brendan Reilly (42 Ward) also praised the first term mayor's approach to negotiating with council members...as he took a backward shot at Emanuel's predecessor Richard M. Daley.

"There was not a healthy exchange back and forth between the administration and my colleagues, there was a very dictatorial top-down approach to budgeting," Reilly said.

Emanuel said his spending plan revisions would not affect his goal to reduce next year's $635 million deficit or his long-term effort to change the way Chicago spends its tax dollars.

"The core principal of making a fundamental break with the past, not accepting the status quo as given, that won't be compromised," Mayor Emanuel said.

The city budget process continues next week with other alderman still concerned about cuts to mental health centers as others urge the mayor to use tax increment financing district surpluses to deal with deficits.

The tone is definitely different at city hall this year. It's a two-way conversation and that's always a good sign.

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