CITY HALL — Council progressives challenged the city Friday to take the public-pension crisis in its own hands, urging Chicago to honor its pension agreements and find "new sources of revenue."
The Progressive Reform Caucus issued a statement calling on the mayor and the council to form a pension panel to deal with the crisis.
"To organize this process, we recommend that the council convene a special panel which includes the representatives of the city’s employees as well as fiscal agencies, fund managers and elected officials, to create a plan to dig out of this mess and ensure a secure retirement for all city employees at all levels," the statement read. "This plan must include identifying new sources of revenue that do not rely on the property tax. This discussion must involve the public."
The statement added that it would be "immoral to cut pensions."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has blamed growing budget deficits in city government and Chicago Public Schools on the need for pension reform in the General Assembly.
Yet the progressives countered that standing pension agreements should be honored. It blamed the crisis on previous city governments, without mentioning former Mayor Richard M. Daley by name, saying, "The city’s past strategy has been to delay payments to the fund to keep that cash available for other expenses. However, the longer you delay, the deeper the hole you dig."
The statement was signed by Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd), Leslie Hairston (5th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Toni Foulkes (15th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nick Sposato (36th) and John Arena (45th).
"If there was ever an issue on which the mayor and City Council members need to work collaboratively and listen attentively to public input, this is it," the statement read. But it did not specifically cite any possible new sources of revenue.
Twice this month, the council's Committee on Workforce Development and Audit scheduled meetings on the "fiscal condition of city pension funds," but both were canceled.
Pension reform is expected to figure prominently in Emanuel's budget address when he delivers his 2014 budget proposal to the council on Wednesday.
The Mayor's Press Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.