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O'Connor Blasts Napolitano on Pensions in Negative TV Ad

EDISON PARK — Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) accused Chicago firefighter Anthony Napolitano of not having a plan to deal with the city's looming pension crisis in the first television commercial in the 41st Ward runoff.

Titled "Zlich," the 30-second commercial uses a sound effect of crickets chirping when a deep-voiced announcer describes Napolitano's plan to address what the ad says is the city's "$17 billion pension debt."

The commercial contends Napolitano opposes "important reforms" and his "do-nothing approach" will lead to a "massive property tax increases or a bankrupt pension system."

Napolitano said Thursday said the "disgusting" advertisement is a move by a "desperate" candidate who doesn't have a strong record.

"It is completely the opposite of what I've been campaigning on since day one," Napolitano said. "It is so disgusting and an absolute lie."

Napolitano said he expected the ad to backfire on O'Connor, who is seeking a second term representing Norwood Park, Edison Park, Edgebrook and O'Hare on the Chicago City Council.

Napolitano has frequently voiced his support for a large Vegas-style casino Downtown to bring in new revenue for the city, and also wants the city to sell the vacant and abandoned land it owns to swell the city's coffers.

Napolitano said he also favors using some of the $1.7 billion in the city's Tax Increment Financing District funds to address the "major crisis" created by the pension shortfall.

"But the schools need that money, too," Napolitano said.

The city should ask the state Legislature to delay its order that the city make a $550 million pension payment to the city police and fire pension systems by 2016, Napolitano said.

Napolitano, who served as a police officer for five years before joining the fire department in 2005, said he would never vote to raise property taxes.

"I'm worried about these pensions," Napolitano said, vowing to protect them. "This is my pension and the pension of everyone I know."

Napolitano followed his father and many other relatives onto the police force.

The ad cites Napolitano's answers to a questionnaire by the Sun-Times. Napolitano said he did not "support restructuring the pension systems, inevitably reducing benefits, to put the funds on sound financial footing." Instead, Napolitano said another source of revenue should be found to fund the pensions.

O'Connor won 47.7 percent of the vote on Feb. 24, below the 50 percent mark she needed to eclipse to avoid a runoff. Napolitano, who was a Chicago Police officer for five years before joining the Fire Department, won 42.5 percent, according to results from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The alderman's campaign ad credits O'Connor with "working to reform the system while honoring promises to teachers and first responders while stopping massive tax increases."

O'Connor declined a request for an interview Thursday from DNAinfo Chicago.

In a statement released by her spokesman, Tim Nazanin, O'Connor endorsed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's efforts to renegotiate pension agreements with dozens of employee unions. State courts have yet to rule on whether those renegotiated agreements are constitutional.

"We must work together and ask everyone to give a little so that no one has to give too much," O'Connor said in the statement. 

O'Connor said she would "work with labor on changes and keep everything on the table including revenue from a casino."

In a debate with Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia on Tuesday, Emanuel vowed to earmark all of the revenue from a Chicago casino for the city's pension liabilities.

Voters can register in person at the election board office at 69 W. Washington St. until Monday.

Registration and early voting will take place at the elections board office or at 50 other locations around the city. Voters must show two forms of identification to register, and one to vote, officials said.

Early voting will take place Monday through April 4. Election Day is April 7.

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