ALBANY PARK — Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) has been one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's most reliable supporters in City Council, but on Wednesday she was one of 14 aldermen to vote "no" on a record $589 million increase in property taxes.
It was Mell's first vote against the mayor since taking office in July 2013. Emanuel appointed her to the position following the resignation of her father, long-time 33rd Ward boss Dick Mell, and she narrowly won the job outright in March capturing only 17 votes above the 4,086 needed to capture a majority.
During a hard-fought campaign against challengers Tim Meegan and Annisa Wanat, Mell had labeled her opponents the "tax twins" and repeatedly stated her opposition to a property tax increase, a fact constituents reminded her of at a recent town hall meeting.
Mell took to Facebook to explain her decision on the budget vote:
"Ultimately, my opposition to this budget centers around the impact these fee and tax increases will have on working class residents in my ward," she said.
"I’m concerned about the young family that has purchased their first home, the senior citizen living on a fixed income, the small business owners who are struggling to stay afloat, and the renters who are finding it more difficult to make ends meet in this great city."
A "great number" of residents had contacted her expressing their concerns about the property tax hike, she said.
"While opinions about how to move the City forward are certainly mixed, there is one common theme — the people of Chicago aren’t convinced this city council has exhausted all other avenues to generate revenue before levying the largest property tax increase in Chicago’s history. On this point I am in agreement.
Residents reacted with a round of "thanks."
"Thank you for keeping your word, listening to residents, and standing up to the mayor," wrote one constituent on Facebook.
From another: "Your constituents appreciate our Alderman paying attention to our interests, and representing us in the Council rather than rubber-stamping the Mayor's agenda."
Wanat, who had marshaled a last-minute email/call/text campaign to urge a "no" vote on the budget, called Mell's action a "good day for democracy."
Posting to her blog, Wanat wrote:
"There was every reason to believe [Mell] would vote 'yes' and she voted 'no' because people like you stood up and demanded to be heard.... If you wrote Mell — please write again and thank her for listening to her constituents."
Voices were heard in the 33rd today! https://t.co/wBtWWHkmBz— Annisa Wanat (@a_wanat) October 29, 2015