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The [Thursday] Papers

A city council property tax hike notebook.

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Here's my favorite moment from Wednesday's city council meeting, as reported by the Tribune:

"[F]reshman Ald. Deb Mell, who was given a leg up on winning election by getting appointed by Emanuel to replace her long-serving father Dick Mell, scurried out of the council chamber after the vote. Chased down by a reporter, Mell pulled out a typed statement explaining her vote.

"Can I just give you this?" she asked.

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Oh.

My.

God.

That.

Is.

So.

Great.

Sure, it's no "I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit," nor a "most aldermen are hos," but what it lacks in color, it makes up for in sheer layers of density.

Consider how Mell (whose infamous brother-in-law sits in a Colorado prison cell) thought it might actually be okay, and how she was ready with a typed statement to pull out (of where? her purse? her pocket? a folder? An editor should have asked) in case she didn't make the clean get-away she clearly planned ahead for and was in the process of attempting.

Deb Mell, dual political science and history graduate, everybody!

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Mell wasn't the only scaredy cat afraid to publicly defend their vote.

Meet Ald. Chris Taliaferro, a former Marine.

Taliaferro, 29th, declined after the meeting to discuss his no vote with a reporter. "Let me talk to you later," he said when asked to explain his vote.

Now, it's true that Taliaferro said during his campaign that he was "I am committed to making your voice heard," not his, but still.

*

Maybe it wasn't the press that aldermen were afraid of but Rahm's media minders - yes, we have that in the Soviet Republic of Chicago. Here's one now!

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Back to the Trib:

"Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, the longtime chairman of the Finance Committee, seemed to flub the punch line on a very old joke - one some folks may not consider so funny - about Moses and the Ten Commandments.

With Ald. George Cardenas, 12th, talking about prayers for an answer to the city's pension woes, Burke said it reminded him of the one about Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai to deliver good news and bad news to his followers. Here it is as recounted by Burke to much laughter from his colleagues:

"They said, 'Moses, Moses, Moses, tell us what is the good news.' And Moses said, 'I've got the good Lord down to just 10 commandments. 'Oh, they said, that's wonderful, wonderful Moses, thank you. What's the bad news?' And Moses said six and nine are still in there.'"

The sixth commandment is "Thou shalt not kill," and the ninth is, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." As usually told, the punch line is "Seven is still in there." The seventh commandment is "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

Neither Moses nor Burke's wife, who is a state supreme court justice, were available for comment.

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"Ald. Proco 'Joe' Moreno, 1st, got fired up as he accused colleague Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th, of hypocrisy for opposing the spending plan.

Moreno took exception to a property tax break being given to a business in the 35th Ward following Ramirez-Rosa's speech calling for the city to rely more heavily on corporate taxes rather than raising taxes on homeowners.

"I just wanted to point out that this vote on this budget was big, obviously a huge deal, and it was mentioned in the 35th Ward, my esteemed colleague that we should be going to large corporations and getting higher taxes," Moreno said. "They are supporting a $5.5 million tax break today. So, again, let's keep this real. You're going to be against it, fine. But the hypocrisy of voting against this budget because we're not raising taxes and supporting $5.5 million in tax breaks today is unconscionable."

Ramirez-Rosa sat quietly at his seat about 15 feet away as Moreno went off.

First, supporting taxes on corporations is not mutually exclusive with corporate tax subsidies, even to someone like me who opposes the latter. It's actually the status quo and not at all at odds with Moreno's Democratic party, which tends to support (at least rhetorically) higher taxes on businesses while not at all against economic development incentives, from Barack Obama to Pat Quinn. In fact, I don't recall Moreno, who keeps trying to impress upon everyone that he's a progressive, coming out against Rahm Emanuel's corporate incentives.

Second, I'm not clear on what Moreno is talking about - and I wish the Tribune would have explained. What tax break is he talking about? Let's go to Twitter.

He's mad that Ramirez-Rosa isn't a better leftist?

*

Is he talking about himself? Moreno's been my alderman from the first day he took office, so I know a little bit about this. Let's just say he doth protest too much.

*

Ah, the no viable solutions/alternatives card.

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Actually, Moreno is not fine with anyone opposing this budget, just like he has not been fine with anyone opposing any Emanuel budget. Every single year he is the biggest critic of Emanuel budget critics.

Tru dat.

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I, for one, am not going to stand here! Gentlemen!

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Back to Moreno's specific charge against Ramirez-Rosa:

I'm not dismissing this, despite the source, tone, context and political motivation. I actually want to know more. Unfortunately, the Trib (nor anybody else, as far as I can tell) doesn't bother to enlighten us. It does seem, however, that we're not getting the whole story from Moreno. Retweeted by Ramirez-Rosa's chief of staff:

In what way is Moreno mischaracterizing the car dealer tax break, please.

Bwaahahahahahaha! Maybe look into that, Flannery!

*

Moreno should be attacking the mayor - or are corporate tax breaks okay as long as you vote for the property tax increase that will pay for them?

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I don't doubt that Ramirez-Rosa could be a big hypocrite. I just wish I knew the facts. Sadly, they do not appear to be forthcoming.

First, you're taking advice from Carrie Austin, which is questionable in itself but also, she's the mayor's budget chairman. Dude.

(Austin: "I came from a sick bed to make sure this budget is passed." Then you don't count hedz very well - it was a 22-vote margin.)

Second, in what world is being the better man not defending yourself and setting the record straight? I'm left with the impression that Ramirez-Rosa is already twice the hack that Moreno is - and maybe that's why Moreno's so mad! He certainly feels some sort of political threat; only room for so many phony hipster progressives in the chamber. And maybe Moreno sees a bit of himself in the new guy and there's some insecure self-loathing going on, because nothing exercises Moreno more than his being called out for the fauxgressive that he is.

*

Moving on. Rahm:

"We have made reforms and, yes, sometimes we have done less with more, but sometimes we've taken that more and put it to where it has never been before.

Less with more to where it's never been before. Got it.

*

Coverage:

"The roll call on the budget itself was 36-14. But the roll call on the tax, fee and fine hikes to pay for it was 35-15. The difference? Freshman Ald. David Moore, 17th, was the only City Council member to vote for Emanuel's $7.8 billion spending plan but against the $755 million package of revenue to fund it.

After the vote, the South Side alderman told the Tribune that he voted no on the revenue package because '98 percent' of his constituents opposed the $9.50-a-month, per-unit fee for city trash pickup at single-family homes, duplexes, and three- and four-flats. Moore would have rather seen the property taxes increased even more to raise the $62.7 million that's expected to come from the garbage fee, he said.

The split vote was reminiscent of the tally on former Mayor Richard M. Daley's 2008 budget, which came with a $275 million package of tax, fee and fine hikes that included an $86.5 million hike in city property taxes. When that $5.9 billion spending plan was approved, the vote was 37-13. But the vote on the property tax hike was 29-21, according to Tribune archives.

According to Tribune archives? How in the world is that necessary? Is it in question? City records are good enough? It's a nitpick, but it's so damn odd. Also, you know what you can do instead of using such a weird attribution? Provide the damn link!

From that article, by the way:

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), who opposed the budget, said the city has to examine its spending closely.

"It's unclear to me whether the city can continue to afford to have the generous pension system that it has," Preckwinkle said. "When our most reliable source of income goes entirely to debt service and pension, I think we're in trouble over the long haul."

And:

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) supported the budget, but she agreed the city has to get a handle on spending in the coming years.

"If we don't show some restraint in the future, the taxpayers are going to rebel," Hairston said.

Moreno wasn't in the council at the time, but if he was he would've ripped those voting No. Which, back then, included progressive turncoat Joe Moore:

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said the tax increases would weigh heavily on the poor and the working-class residents of the city. He said an administration hit with a number of scandals in recent years, from a rigged hiring process to the Hired Truck program to inspectors taking bribes, had done little to earn the tax hikes.

"Nothing has eroded public confidence in our local government more than the constant drumbeat of criminal indictments and convictions of people who have enriched themselves at public expense," Moore said. "And nothing has made the public more cynical than the endless string of broken promises to end business as usual in city government.

Well, you can't spell Moreno without Moore.

*

Greg Hinz in Crain's on Monday:

After all, hiking the property tax long has been the third rail of Chicago politics, a too-hot-to-handle matter that even Richard M. Daley at the height of his powers refused to try.

You don't have to attribute everything to the Tribune archives, but if your memory is that poor, you ought to at least check them.

*

Separately, the Tribune reports that "After weeks of discussion, debate and flat-out complaining by some, Ald. Patrick O'Connor told his colleagues it finally was time for Chicago to face up to its woeful condition. O'Connor, an alderman since 1983, said decades of financial mismanagement had brought them to the point where approving a budget stacked with $755 million in new taxes and fees was the lone remaining option."

O'Connor was Daley's floor leader during those decades of fiscal mismanagement, shepherding the mayor's budgets through the council. I've yet to hear him take responsibility. I've yet to hear Rahm Emanuel hold him accountable. In fact, when Rahm was still Barack Obama's chief of staff but considering a mayoral run, one of the first phone calls he made was to O'Connor - before embarking on a campaign against the "old ways" of doing things. Then he kept on O'Connor as floor leader. Why not go after that, Proco Joe Moreno?

*

O'Connor:

"Nobody wants to be told you're sick, you need to take medicine. You need chemo. You need an operation. This is an equivalent of a municipal illness. We don't have an option of saying, 'No.' We have the option of picking our choices to stay alive."

I'm confused: Who's sick, us or them?

*

"The mayor later applauded aldermen for 'voting to put progress for the city ahead of their own individual politics, and I think that's the highest thing of public service.'"

The way he put off raising property taxes until he got re-elected?

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Burke:

"It's been said a politician looks at the next election, a statesman looks at the next generation," Burke said. "Today the members of the body have a choice. They can look to the next election, or can look to the next generation."

Do statesmen scurry out the back door to avoid the press?

*

"[W]hile the council's Progressive Reform Caucus has staked out positions against Emanuel's spending priorities and urged him to rely more on special taxing district funds and other alternative sources of revenue to balance the books, only four of the group's 11 aldermen voted against the budget.

"Meanwhile, six 'no' votes came from white downtown and North Side aldermen not allied with the progressives, but representing areas where a property tax hike will have a bigger impact."

Statesmen.

*

"The mayor stressed he went four years without turning to a property tax increase calling it 'the last place I'm going to look.' Emanuel did, however, raise a whole host of other taxes and fees, and raised property taxes every year at Chicago Public Schools."

Speaking of which . . .

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The Sun-Times coverage of the budget vote was just atrocious, from letting the mayor get away with saying things like "There was no other choice. No one ever presented, anywhere, another choice," which, as Waguespack pointed out, is an outright lie ("Rahm Says 'No Other Choice'" is even the headline), to the way the piece is constructed to back those supporting the budget. For example:

The tax increases are needed to meet the city's pension obligations to its police officers and firefighters, Ald. John Arena (45th) pointed out.

When you use the phrase "pointed out," you are agreeing with the claim made by the speaker. Arena may be right, but the effect is to remake the claim as objectively true. Which, in context, it isn't.

(Twenty paragraphs later, the Sun-Times states that "Emanuel's property tax hike will only help police and fire pensions if Gov. Bruce Rauner signs legislation - approved by the Illinois House and Senate - that would give Chicago 15 more years to ramp up to 90 percent funding level for the pension funds.")

*

Speaking of Arena, he also said to Rahm:

"Mayor Daley favored the corporations far too much and frankly, so do you."

Paging Proco Joe!

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FYI: Moreno is one of several aldermen whom Aldertrack refuses to name whose Twitter feed magically fills with observations and comments from the council floor even when he is nowhere to be seen there. In this case, though, it appears those tweets really came from him - just when you might want to blame an aide.

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U.S. CEO Retirement Packages: Bigger Than Yours
"The figures are stunning, and cast a harsh and troubling light on soaring retirement inequality."

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The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report
"For the first time in over a year, Chicago will have to figure out a way to contain Adrian Peterson as well as the NFL did."

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BeachBook

*

Someone lied - Biden or Dowd. It matters.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Wednesday, October 28, 2015

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Statesmanlike.



Permalink

Posted on October 29, 2015


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