Chicago Budget: Mayor Emanuel Gets Pushback, and Gives

After criticism from the public and a healthy number of aldermen, the mayor cuts back on some of his cutbacks and spreads the sticker-fee pain a bit.

Rahm Emanuel chicago mayor

 

Long after the out-of-town pundits weighed in on our beleaguered city’s budget (Thomas Friedman: “In laying out his new budget last week, Emanuel summed up what it means to be a progressive in this age of austerity”; David Brooks: “a flurry of initiatives in all directions"), the actual work of governing continues. Today, Emanuel faced some of his most heavily criticized initiatives—criticized in particular in a letter signed by 28 aldermen—and backed off.

* He backed off on his plan to substantially increase city-sticker fees on SUVs (and, as it turned out, heavier sedans), as Dan Mihalopolous explains. Instead, everybody’s getting an increase. Which will spread out the unhappiness, but given that the initial idea was based on a total misunderstanding of the science behind road wear, I’m at least happy that the fees are conceptually better. I know that good science isn’t exactly the point of taxation schemes… but my OCD is assuaged for now. Mayor Emanuel has the people-who-are-picky-about-physics vote on lockdown.

* Library layoffs are out, library hour cutbacks are reduced.

* The Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools called a truce over the hastily cobbled-together plan to extend the school day and to win over individual schools into extending it. For more on where things stand, Carol Felsenthal has an excellent two-part interview with CTU’s Karen Lewis.

* Emanuel also put more money back into Streets & San and moderated his plan to charge non-profits for water use.

* And this is after the city’s homeless-outreach vans were added back into the budget for the winter, though the cuts to social services are still pretty steep.

What I find interesting about all this is that for all the talk about dead fish and Rahmbo and whatnot, in practice the Emanuel administration has been politically fairly cautious, for better or worse.

 

Photograph: Chicago Tribune

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