Aldermen: Budget Meeting Crucial Before Enacting Mayor's Proposed Cuts

Twenty-eight Chicago aldermen signed a letter (embedded below) to Mayor Rahm Emanuel demanding a meeting with Budget Director Alex Holt to reexamine the mayor's proposed cuts to the city's libraries, health care, police and fire dispatch and graffiti removal budgets in their wards. Emanuel could pass his first $6.3 million budget proposal with as many votes as the letter has signatories.

The aldermen are also expressing opposition to the mayor's proposed $60 hike on sticker fees that would affect more than 184,000 larger passenger vehicles, often teased as a measure targeting "soccer Moms," according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Freshman Ald. John Arena (45th) told the Sun-Times the letter's purpose was to build a bridge of open communication between the mayor's office and the City Council.

"This is a letter to the mayor asking for him to come to the table and have a conversation -- not it being, 'My way or the highway,'" Arena told the Sun-Times before elaborating on the aldermen's position. "What are our priorities as a city? Libraries and public health generally affect the lowest economic strata. There's been a clear outcry that we should protect those things."

The letter was sent off in advance of a public hearing Wednesday where aldermen can offer amendments to the mayor's current budget proposal before the final vote Nov. 16, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th) told the Tribune that the mayor's proposed reduction library funding by $10 million has emerged as a primary concern among his constituents. The cut would reduce hours and staff at library branches citywide. Arena told the Tribune that the proposed hikes in water and sewer fees and property taxes for Chicago Public Schools is "starting to add up for families already struggling in Chicago neighborhoods."

Arena and other members of the City Council's Progressive Caucus are proposing a plan to offset the cost of maintaining library funding by doubling the size of the tax-increment-financing surplus (from 20 to 40 percent), and using the $94 million in annual revenues from a telephone bill surcharge to avoid police and fire dispatch cuts, the Tribune reports.

Sources told the Sun-Times that Emanuel is expected to restore library and forestry cuts, and may modify the proposal to cut off free water services to hospitals, universities and other non-profits. The City Council's Budget Committee is scheduled to meet Monday to consider budget amendments in advance of the final vote Nov. 16.

Aldermen joining Arena and Sposato in signing the letter to Emanuel were: Joe Moreno (1st), Robert Fioretti (2nd), Pat Dowell (3rd), William Burns (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), John Pope (10th), Toni Foulkes (15th), JoAnn Thompson (16th), Lona Lane (18th), Willie Cochran (20th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th), Jason Ervin (28th), Deborah Graham (29th), Ariel Reboyras (30th), Ray Suarez (31st), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Emma Mitts (37th), Tim Cullerton (38th), Mary O'Connor (41st), Michele Smith (43rd), Tom Tunney (44th), James Cappleman (46th), Harry Osterman (48th) and Joe Moore (49th).

Read the letter in full: