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Rahm Drops Demand To Spend $500K On Trees, Agrees To Use It To Fight Crime

By Heather Cherone | February 22, 2017 10:03am | Updated on February 24, 2017 11:40am
 Aldermen Ray Lopez, second from right, and Ricardo Munoz, second from left, speak with Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp, right, and chief lobbyist Maria Guerra Lapace, left, about the plan for $16.2 million left over from the property tax rebate program.
Aldermen Ray Lopez, second from right, and Ricardo Munoz, second from left, speak with Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp, right, and chief lobbyist Maria Guerra Lapace, left, about the plan for $16.2 million left over from the property tax rebate program.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel dropped his demand to use $500,000 from the money left unclaimed by the city's property tax rebate to plant 1,000 trees throughout the city in the face of unyielding opposition from aldermen who wanted to use it to fight escalating crime.

Instead, that money will be used to pay for new equipment needed to expand the Shotspotter program that detects gunshots to cover the entire Austin and Deering districts while also increasing the number of cameras keeping watch from the sky, Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp said.

In addition, Zopp said the mayor's office would commit to spending $1 million on violence intervention and jobs programs — whether or not the city's application for a $45 million grant to fund those programs is successful.

The full council approved the measure 35-10.

Matt McGrath, a spokesman for the mayor, acknowledged that Emanuel had changed his proposal after push back from aldermen.

“It's no secret that there were a number of views on specifically how to spend the unclaimed property tax rebate funding," McGrath said. "Ultimately, all of the proposals that were seriously discussed focused on investing the money into some form of public safety improvements — including our original proposal."

McGrath blamed Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for slashing funding for violence suppression programs like CeaseFire.

"We are not going to let the state of the hook and we will be working in the weeks ahead to identify at least $1 million of funding for this work — be that private, public or grant funding," McGrath said.

That wasn't good enough for several members of the council, including Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who noted that none of the money was actually earmarked by the legislation in front of the council on Wednesday.

"This is a slap in the face to the City Council," Munoz said. "It seems like you are tone deaf to the fact that these kids need something to do."

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) led the fight against the mayor's plan to spend the money on a host of programs, earning him the ire of Emanuel — and one of his famous expletives.

Lopez's plan wanted to use $7 million to expand the city's summer jobs program to year-round; earmark $5 million for counseling for teens and young adults; and use $5 million to expand the city's mentoring programs to fifth- and sixth-graders.

Lopez called the revised proposal from the mayor a "down payment" on the effort needed to fight violence in Chicago.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said the money should be allocated for violence prevention immediately.

"This can not wait," Hairston said.

If violence prevention programs had been in place, Ald. David Moore (17th) said an 8-year-old would not have been shot in his ward.

"We can do this," Moore said. "We can move this money around. You can't ask us to wait and walk on faith on this situation without putting some down payment on it."

Ald. John Arena (45th) said the fact that there have been two murders in Jefferson Park in the last two weeks should "ring a bell" about the need for emergency action.