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American Dream Betrayed

City Hall Budget Crime Scene Expanded To CBOT

Community leaders, joined by Ald. John Arena (45th), rallied against Mayor Emanuel's budget proposal Wednesday, citing cuts to city services and expanded fees for city residents at a time when a $240 million surplus will remain in the city's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) coffers. With many of Chicago's families facing a harsh economy, organizers believe the budget asks those with less to sacrifice more.

"Chicago needs jobs, not layoffs," said Charles Brown, a member of Action Now. "It's a crime for the city to be cutting programs while United Airlines and the Mercantile Exchange get $45 million of our money."

Coalition members taped yellow crime scene tape across the entrance to City Hall to make their point.

Critics believe that the TIF program disproportionately benefits wealthy areas while ignoring neighborhoods in need. According to documents on the city's TIF website, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) was awarded $15 million in October 2009. Chicago's TIF website also shows, United Airlines was awarded a total $31.3 million in TIF money in two different deals in September 2009 and October 2007.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of a 20% TIF surplus by the mayor does not go far enough.

Maria Heuramo, leader with Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, stated, "Our communities are suffering. The 99% has shared in the sacrifice time and time again. What about downtown LaSalle Street, Mr. Mayor?"

According to an analysis of the Census' American Community Survey estimates, Brighton Park has 40.6% more people making less than $25,000 than people who live in downtown TIF districts. From this same Census report, 51.1% of Brighton Park residents graduated from high school versus 89.9% of residents living in downtown TIF districts.

"Mayor Emanuel has decided to propose a budget that allows business as usual for downtown developers and the corporate elite. Our tax dollars should go to our children, not languish in downtown slush funds," said Sara Echevarria, a former teacher at Clemente High School. "There are record number of teachers having to manage classes with thirty, even forty children, making it harder for our kids to learn. How is that good management?"

Community organizations want the mayor to do what is right and make sure taxpayer money comes back to serve taxpayers. Last month, these same organizations worked with 17 aldermen to introduce the Responsible Budget Ordinance. The legislation calls for a 50% TIF surplus to return to fund city and county services, education, libraries, and parks.

"I signed onto that ordinance because TIF money has been sitting in those accounts for years," Arena said.

Last week, 28 aldermen sent a letter asking Mayor Emanuel to consider alternatives to lessen the damage to Chicago's families. "We have brought those alternatives to the fifth floor and we have not heard back on everything that we have put in front of them," Arena said.

One of the areas long attacked in recent budgets has been the city-run mental health clinics. Gale Davis, an advocate for mental health services and leader with Southsiders Together Organized for Power asked,"If you can find $15 million for CME, how dare you say you can't find $3.3 million to keep our clinics open?"

Because of Chicago's handout to the CME, and the CME's current lobbying for new corporate tax loopholes, residents marched down LaSalle Street from City Hall to the Board of Trade. They marched in solidarity with Occupy Chicago, and rallied outside the trading pits.

"The Chicago Mercantile Exchange made $316 million dollars in the last quarter, but want taxpayers to give them even more," said Grassroots Collaborative Director Amisha Patel. "The city gave them $15 million to put in golden toilets, the State is considering giving them $100 million in tax breaks, and the community gets left in the cold. Mayor Emanuel has the chance to put people over corporations, and keep Chicago working. We hope he does right, stands with the working families of Chicago, and passes a Responsible Budget."

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See also:
* Medill Reports: Protesters Declare City Hall A Budget Crime Scene
* Progress Illinois: Chicagoans Declare City Hall, CBOT As Crime Scenes
* WGN-TV: City Hall Protests Over 2012 Budget Proposal

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ABOUT THE GRASSROOTS COLLABORATIVE

Community and labor groups present are organized by the Grassroots Collaborative, a coalition that forced Mayor Daley to use his first and only veto with the Big Box Ordinance, which sought higher wages for workers employed by stores such as Walmart and Target. More recently, the Grassroots Collaborative organized the People's City Council Meeting held on July 7, 2011 that brought together 19 aldermen and 1,600 community leaders in support of a progressive city agenda.

Grassroots Collaborative is Action Now; American Friends Service Committee, Great Lakes Region; Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation; Brighton Park Neighborhood Council; Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; Chicago Teachers Union; Enlace Chicago; Illinois Hunger Coalition; Service Employees International Union, Local 73; Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois Indiana; Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on November 10, 2011


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