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Rahm's First Budget Win A Loss For Most Chicagoans

"Chicago aldermen are expected to pass Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $6.3 billion budget plan by a wide margin today," the Tribune reports.

It's a budget the media is declaring a "win" for Rahm instead of a loss for the city's most vulnerable citizens. Because the political implications for the boss man are always more important to the MSM than the real-life implications for real people.

For example, Rahm was able to "win" a fight against mental health advocates by simply ignoring them.

As for the city council, they're just happy that stepfather Rahm didn't beat them as badly as biological father Richie did.

"Ald. Joe Moore (49th), one of the more outspoken Daley critics, said he will vote in favor of Emanuel's budget partly because he engaged the council in the budget process more than Daley did," the Chicago News Cooperative reports.

Other aldermen find it convenient to ignore Rahm's deserved reputation for being one of the most vengeful bastards this side of . . . Richard M. Daley.

"[Ald. Walter Burnett] said he doubted that Emanuel would try punishing rebellious aldermen," CNC reports. At least Burnett is actually considering voting No.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer appears to be a No vote as well, unless his arm has been twisted in the 14 long days since this tweet.

That, of course, came the day after 28 aldermen sent Rahm a letter outlining their budget concerns. That uprising was brief and easily put down by Rahm with tweaks that hardly altered the underlying issues that gave rise to the letter.

But really, all that needs to be said about Rahm's budget was said by downtown alderman and former AT&T regional vice president Brendan Reilly.

"On the eve of a city council vote on an ambitious 2012 budget, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly reassured a business crowd at Palmer House last night the Rahm Emanuel administration will treat them better than did any previous mayor," Marina City Online reports.

Because they've been treated so shabbily up to now.

"I will not be serving as a rubber stamp for this mayor," Reilly said. "It just so happens that right now major policy goals are aligned between his office and mine. I happen to think he's done a lot of good on his work in trying to craft a fair budget."

Fair to whom?

Finally, the idea that Rahm isn't using budgetary sleight-of-hand the way Daley did was (pardon the pun) blown out of the water last week by the Reader's Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky.

"All summer long, in press conferences and at public hearings, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's budget refrain remained the same: no more accounting gimmicks and no new taxes," Dumke and Joravsky report.

"'We have been doing smoke and mirrors on the budget and avoided taking control of our own future as a city,' he said at a public budget hearing in Englewood in August. 'That moment of reckoning is here.'

"But the mayor who vowed to bring honesty to the budgeting process continues to rely on one of the oldest tricks of them all: the water/sewer fund sleight of hand.

"That's the one where the mayor says he's jacking up your water and sewer bill to pay for infrastructure and environmental protection - but then diverts millions of dollars a year to finance other city operations that have little direct connection to water, sewers, or protecting the lake."

Alderman Bob Fioretti was moved to tell the Dumke and Joravsky that "This budget is the biggest shell game I've seen yet."

And guess who the losers are?

"Water and sewer fees are among the most regressive of taxes, since everyone, regardless of income level, has to pay the same rate for a service no one can do without - as opposed to a sales tax on luxury items like, say, health club memberships or visits to the tanning salon, which Emanuel proposed during his mayoral campaign.

"Yet the city is becoming more dependent on a tax that many of its residents find increasingly hard to pay, especially in these tough times."

Oh yeah, Rahm's luxury taxes. The MSM forgot about those pretty quickly - just like Rahm's promise to not raise property taxes. Oops.

(And as long as we're on that link, whatever happened to "promising not to nickel-and-dime Chicagoans with tax increases to plug a budget hole at City Hall?" It just disappears from the discourse or is refashioned as a "dose of realism." Or maybe it's that Rahm's revenue generators are a burden on us far greater than nickels and dimes.)

Now the narrative is about Rahm eschewing budget gimmickry. That's why real reporting like this is so priceless:

"[T]he inspector general's office, which investigates City Hall corruption and budget shenanigans, gets about $2 million a year from your water and sewer bills - about a third of its overall budget. In other words, a budget gimmick will effectively pay for the watchdog against budget gimmicks.

[ . . . ]

"Similarly, another $8 million will go to the Department of Finance to pay for an assortment of expenses, including 'professional and technical services,' postage, and the rental and maintenance of computer equipment.

"Another chunk of money will flow to the Department of Innovation and Technology, which collects and posts city data online. That department is slated to get $5 million in water and sewer fees to pay for more 'professional and technical services.'

"And so on and so forth. If you want to track the water and sewer fund leakage go to page 330 of the budget and read for yourself."

Because most reporters and pundits in town don't appear to have done it for you.

-

Comments welcome.




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Posted on November 16, 2011


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