CITY HALL — The mayor promised Thursday to be "fully supportive" of aldermen who back his budget calling for an almost $600 million increase in property taxes, as well as other fees.
"I believe this is an important vote," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after Thursday's City Council meeting, "for charting a new course for Chicago's future."
He called it "a break ... from the past financial practices that got Chicago in the financial fix it's in today."
The mayor said he is "conscious of what I'm asking people to do, which is not just be an alderman, but to also vote for the interests of the entire city."
Aldermen have squirmed under the monumental increase in property taxes, and have been openly opposed to a new $9.50-a-month fee for garbage collection. Yet Emanuel has insisted it's necessary to bring pension funds to required levels.
"There are votes that define your tenure," Emanuel said. "I will support those who are willing to put the city's future in front of them and cast an 'aye' vote in favor of that.
"If they cast that vote, I'm going to be fully supportive of them so that I can play a role in minimizing 'the political risk,'" he added.
Yet Ald. John Arena (45th) said after the mayor's budget address on Tuesday that, if he voted for a record property-tax increase, he'd fully expect his ward to be flooded with fliers pointing that out during the next election cycle in 2019.
"In what way?" Arena said Thursday. "Support me how?"
Arena scoffed, "This is politics."
Arena and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) were both targeted by direct-mail negative ad campaigns in their re-election campaigns earlier this year by Chicago Forward, the Political Action Committee affiliated with Emanuel.
Waguespack said one flier pointed out he'd voted against property-tax rebates when they were previously proposed in 2010. "So I kind of expect similar mailers in the future," he added.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said it isn't just the city's financial practices that need to be reassessed. It's the political practices as well.
"I think that's the system Chicago has had for a really long time," he said. "You back the mayor, you rubber-stamp his proposals, and in return you can have a cushy re-election and hold on to your six-figure job.
"That's the system that has really set Chicago back all these years," he added. "We need a strong, independent City Council with council members who are less concerned about, are they the mayor's friend, and more concerned about, are they the friend of their constituents."
Emanuel dodged a question on whether it was essential to place his own political future on the line by declaring he'd run for re-election on the budget, saying, "If you were thinking about my political future, there were a lot of decisions you would never have made in my first term. But I thought they were in the city's interests."
"The budget as it's currently proposed, if we don't see more progressive revenue options, the mayor and anyone who votes for it will have a tough time, because people are tired of politics as usual," countered Ramirez-Rosa. "We have to have the courage to ask the wealthiest and even the political campaign contributors to pay their fair share."
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