New City Budget Addresses Violence and other Challenges

New City Budget Addresses Violence and other Challenges

Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented his 2017 budget to the City Council on Tuesday morning.

The new budget reflects his multiple plans to help fix Chicago violence. This proposal caused concern for some because they were not sure how the city was going to pay for such plans.

Emanuel plans to hire hundreds of police officers, modernize the city’s 3-1-1 system and build a new police building to house training for officers.

“Today I am presenting to you a budget unlike any other we have seen in recent memory,” Emanuel said to the Council. “It is a budget free of an immediate pension crisis, free of the black cloud of insolvency threatening the retirements of city employees and the financial future of Chicago.”

Emanuel plans to cover these new plans by charging shoppers a new plastic-bag tax, raising meter prices near Wrigley Field and charging delivery trucks with a new loading-zone charge.

Emanuel also added a new tax on water and sewer service that increases bills by more than 30 percent over four years. This plan was approved by aldermen last month, which included a $239 million increase. The hope is that this money will help fix the pension program.

Cutting the Deficit 

Emanuel highlighted the fact that he is cutting the deficit in this new budget and has attempted to make a more sustainable budget.

“We have stopped raiding the rainy day fund just to keep the city afloat,” Emanuel said.

Updating the Police Department

One of his main focuses in the budget was the safety plan he developed to stop Chicago violence. This plan called for the hiring of 970 new police officers in the next two years. The 2017 budget reflects this by showing $40 million for salaries and benefits this upcoming year.

“Now, let us find the courage to confront another hard and bitter truth,” Emanuel said. “When teenagers gun each other down for no reason, when neighborhoods and residents live in fear of gangs, when people in one part of Chicago ignore, avoid, or drive around another part of Chicago, we as a city must step up to confront this challenge.”

He also wants to create a “modern” training facility for the department to help combat violence.

“With this budget, we are focused on building the strong and vibrant neighborhoods that residents of Chicago deserve and upgrading the services that residents of Chicago rely on,” Emanuel said.

Modernizing the City

One of those services is updating the 3-1-1 system. The new “Mobile 3-1-1” will be up and running by 2019. This will allow residents to report and request services right away.

However, Emanuel is not using tax dollars to pay for this new police-training center and the modernization of the city. Instead, he is using money from the sale of city land to a real estate company.

Helping the Youth

He also focused on the mentor program he had discussed when he unveiled his plan to hire more police officers. They are providing mentors for 7,200 young men in 20 violent Chicago neighborhoods.

“You know as I do that when we give Chicago’s young men and women that chance and that choice, more often than not they will choose the right path,” Emanuel said.

Paying for the Plans

A large portion of his budget, $25.4 million, relies on new fines and fees that Emanuel has proposed. Another portion of the budget, $82.3 million, is expected to come from growth in the city, sales tax, city-permit fees and vehicle-sticker fees.

Approving the Budget

This budget should have no problem getting approved, as his 2016 budget was filled with new taxes, $755 million to be exact, and passed.

23rd Ward Ald. Michael Zalewski expressed concern with the bag taxes, which gives 5 cents to the city and 2 cents to the store, but he did say retailers will probably be on board as they receive a portion of the money.

“I want to discuss it with (retailers), but it looks like it can be a budget we can all live with,” Zalewski said. “Not an easy (budget), but it looks fair.”

Emanuel did thank taxpayers in his address to the City Council members and he did acknowledge that they are taking a hit.

“The ones who truly deserve our thanks are the taxpayers of Chicago,” Emanuel said. “They, like city employees, have stepped up to solve the pension challenge. I want to assure Chicago’s taxpayers that they are not alone in their sacrifice.”

Overall though, Emanuel felt this budget is “rising to meet the challenges because it is free of past burdens, so we can look to the future together and act together with confidence.”

By Jessica Lynk