CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's budget director laid out plans to hire up to 1,100 new police officers by the end of next year Monday as City Council 2017 budget hearings got underway.
Budget Director Alexandra Holt said the $60 million in required funding for next year's first round of Police Department staffing increases would be covered by increased revenue from an improving economy, along with a few other new initiatives including a "user-paid loading zone" in Downtown business districts and an increase in "special-event pricing" for parking around Wrigley Field — which could be expanded to other entertainment areas.
Holt said whatever it takes to expand the Police Department, the money would be found.
"We need to because it's necessary and because that's what Supt. [Eddie] Johnson says he needs," Holt added.
Holt said next year the Department was budgeted to add 250 new officers, 92 new field-training officers, 100 new detectives, 37 new sergeants and 50 new lieutenants. In addition, the Department would fill 363 vacancies by the beginning of the new year, or about 70 percent of currently open Police Department positions.
According to Holt, the Department will add 545 new officers, as well as filling an estimated 475 positions opened through retirement, which she said was "pretty consistent with what our attrition has been over the last decade." To meet that demand, she said, 100 new recruits would be taken on in 11 of the 12 months next year.
In addition, the Department is also slated to add another 425 positions in 2018 to meet the 970 new officers set by Johnson and Emanuel.
Although the city expects some short-term gains by replacing older, more-well-paid officers with new recruits, Holt also said the city expected more tax revenue from an improving economy, as well as a previously announced proposal for a 7-cent tax on shopping bags. Holt said the city would pocket a nickel on each bag, with the merchant getting the other two cents, with an estimated gain in city revenue of $9.2 million.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), an original sponsor of the city's plastic-bag ordinance, took issue with that source of funding.
"I don't believe going backward to allow single-use plastic bags is the answer, even if you slap a tax on them," Moreno said. "We're trying to change behavior." He suggested a ban on all plastic bags, with a 10-cent tax on paper bags.
Chief Finance Officer Carole Brown also estimated gaining at least $13 million from a shift from merchant-paid loading zones to what she called "user-paid loading zones," in which meters would be installed for cars and trucks making deliveries and pickups.
Brown said doubling parking fees outside Wrigley Field for Cubs games and other events — beginning two hours before and extending an hour after — would make for "competitive parking with other parking alternatives," and would raise $2.4 million. That would actually go to the city's LAZ parking firm in the form of "true-ups" paying for losses in other parking, such as for construction and street fairs, but those savings would be passed along.
"Special-event pricing could be extended to other areas of the city," Brown added.
Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) defended the revenue additions, saying, "I'd like to see every dime going to public safety and putting more boots on the ground."
Holt said the 2017 budget would make "critical investments in public safety, mentoring and key neighborhood services." She designated $6 million for "proven mentoring programs" such as Becoming a Man and Working on Womanhood, initiatives already touted by Emanuel.
In addition, a $100 million Community Catalyst Fund would be established to spur investment in what she called the city's "most-in-need neighborhoods."
Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), though, questioned who would pick those neighborhoods and administer the fund.
"It's an investment, so we're expecting a return," Brown said. The $100 million would be "seed money" to get it started, with about a third of that expected to come from about 6 percent of the city investment funds administered by Treasurer Kurt Summers.
According to Brown, a seven-member oversight board would include her office, the treasurer, the Department of Planning and Development commissioner and four other mayoral appointees.
Ald. John Arena (45th) was dubious about what groups were already investing in "most-in-need neighborhoods," and what good adding additional investment in them would do.
Arena also pointed out that the mayor would, in effect, appoint all members of the oversight board except treasurer, an elected office.
Brown added that the fund would invest in agencies already investing in targeted areas, a proposal questioned by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).
"Why do we need another level of private bureaucracies and private management fees?" Waguespack said.
Brown said the city was trying to limit its liability as "there would be no protection per se for losses."
It was the first day of an annual two-week process of budget hearings, with elected officials and department heads to follow Tuesday, including Summers.
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