JEFFERSON PARK — Ald. John Arena (45th) said a property tax hike might be inevitable to fill the looming budget gap created by the city's pension crisis, while Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido ruled out a tax hike completely in the last debate of the hotly contested 45th Ward runoff election.
The debate that aired live Monday night on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" was the third and final runoff debate between Garrido and Arena, who also debated twice during the first round of voting that featured four candidates.
Arena said a property tax hike would be the "very last thing I want to consider" but said it had to be "on the table" and part of the discussion about how to cover the $550 million pension payment that the General Assembly has ordered the city to make to its police and fire pension systems by 2016.
Garrido said he would not vote for a property tax increase under any circumstances.
"We keep going to our property tax owners over and over again," Garrido said. "That needs to stop."
Heather Cherone expects another close race on April 7:
Garrido reiterated his support for a proposal to use half of the $1.7 billion in the city's Tax Increment Financing District funds to make that payment and avoid an immediate crisis.
Arena said wealthy Chicagoans and corporations must pay their fair share to help resolve the pension crisis.
Garrido said he would focus as alderman on basic city services, which he said Arena had failed to deliver, and do more to reduce the racket from jets using O'Hare Airport's new east-west runway that has blanketed Jefferson Park and parts of Portage Park, Forest Glen, Gladstone Park and Old Irving Park in the 45th Ward.
The two long-time political foes also tussled over Garrido's party affiliation. Garrido, who ran for Cook County Board president in 2010 as a Republican, said he was running for alderman as an Independent.
Garrido said party affiliation was irrelevant in a nonpartisan race.
Arena said Garrido has campaigned "as whoever people want him to be ... a Republican when it is convenient and an Independent when it is not."
"He just tells people what they want to hear," Arena said.
Arena said his biggest accomplishment as alderman was the ongoing revitalization of the Six Corners Shopping District where dozens of new businesses have opened up in the past two years after decades of what Arena called "stagnation" and "decline."
"Six Corners is back on track," Arena said.
In 2011, Arena beat Garrido by 30 votes, and many election observers expect the race to be just as close once all the votes are counted on Election Day, April 7.
Registration and early voting will take place through Saturday at 50 locations around the city. Voters must show two forms of identification to register, and one to vote, officials said.
Voters in the 45th Ward have cast 2,698 early votes — the second highest vote total of any Chicago ward, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
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