As budget speeches go, Mayor Emanuel’s recent address to the City Council was more or less true—with one glaring exception.
It came when the mayor alluded to the fiduciary debacles of the Daley years that led to this moment where he was socking it to us with a $588 million property tax increase.
“We in this room today did not create our current challenges,” the mayor said. “The seeds of our financial crisis were planted many decades ago and were not addressed for far too long.”
Sorry, Mr. Mayor, but I’m going to have to call you out on that baby.
The council was packed with people who had a hand or two in those debacles, starting with Alderman Ed Burke, who as finance chair steered every single bad deal, including the dreaded parking meter sale, through committee.
In case you forgot about Burke, Mayor Rahm—he’s the white-maned dude in the front row looking at pictures of cowboy hats on his cell phone while you’re orating. Thanks to Ted Cox of DNAinfo for breaking the news about that.
And we can’t forget Alderman Patrick O’Connor, who was Mayor Daley and Mayor Emanuel’s floor leader.
Nor can we forget about the dozen or so aldermen who would have gone along with anything Daley requested, even if he told them to go to the corner of State and Madison and drop their drawers.
Finally, there’s Mayor Emanuel himself.
No, he wasn’t in the City Council during the Daley years.
Instead, he wasted his first four years in office trying to make our financial obligations disappear by forcing the unions to make pension concessions they’d never voluntarily make in a million years.
The result was years of litigation, a teachers strike, bad blood with labor, and higher bills as the mayor kept putting off this day of reckoning by borrowing more money.
Which is exactly what Mayor Daley did.
That was the old Mayor Rahm, who was trying to position himself as a player in the national Democratic Party by bashing unions and balancing our budget with a local version of trickle-down economics.
And now that it’s pretty clear the courts won’t let him dictate pension cuts to the unions, we get the new Mayor Rahm, stepping forward to solemnly say it’s time we do the right thing and pay our bills.
To guilt trip the aldermen into approving the property tax hike (and garbage collection fee), he invokes the images of fearless firefighters risking their lives to pull helpless people from burning buildings.
“These police officers and firefighters have met their obligation to us,” the mayor declared. “Now we as a city must meet our obligation to them.”
This is Rauneresque in its shamefulness.
It was just a few years ago that this very same mayor was marching into firehouses to tell the rank and file he had no choice but to cut their pensions.
One firefighter—what up, Sam Holloway!—stood up to him. The mayor backed off. The firefighters union endorsed him. And, voila, here he is almost teary eyed as he describes their heroic dedication to duty.
Hey, Mr. Mayor—they were also risking their lives and saving people from burning buildings when you were trying to cut their pensions.
Just to be clear, Mayor Emanuel’s not completely giving up on his war against unions. He’s trying to pay the obligations to the teacher’s pension fund by forcing the Chicago Teachers Union to take a 7 percent pay cut.
Obviously he and his handlers have decided they can’t fight all big three unions—firefighters, teachers, and cops—at once. Basically, he’s decided to duck a fight with the boys and pick on the girls.
Thus he’s taking a page from Governor Rauner, who took a page from Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Rauner and Walker exempted cops and firefighters from their union bashing, while demonizing the teachers.
At this point I must remind you that the actual property tax will be much higher than $588 million, once you take into consideration the TIF property tax surcharge that the mayor conveniently keeps off the books.
Speaking of budget scams Mayor Emanuel learned from Mayor Daley.
I know, I’m one of those people who’s been saying the mayor has no choice but to raise money to pay off our obligations. But there’s nothing like a hefty property tax hike to turn me into the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
It brings to mind the convocation from Tuesday’s budget address in which Pastor John Hannah of the New Life Covenant Church paraphrased a couple of passages from the Bible.
“He that is great among you must become servant of all,” the pastor said. “Pray for those who have rule.”
Pastor Hannah, it looks as though the rulers are about to stick the servants with the bill.