The race for Chicago mayor dissolved into political theater Thursday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s supporters stood next to a pair of dollies filled with annual city audits as thick as phone books to poke holes in Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s rationale for failing to come up with a financial plan.
Garcia has punted the question of new revenues needed to solve Chicago’s $20 billion pension crisis and the $10 billion in unfunded liabilities at the Chicago Public Schools to a post-election commission that would report back in 90 days, if he wins the April 7 runoff.
He won’t even talk about asking more of taxpayers until he orders “performance audits” of every city department starting with the largest: the Chicago Police Department.
On Thursday, City Clerk Susana Mendoza joined Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd), Michele Smith (43rd) and Ameya Pawar (47th) in delivering copies of the annual city audits to Garcia’s office in the Cook County building, along with a calculator — so he can get to work, they said.
The point of the show-and-tell news conference was to accuse Garcia of stalling and remove the challenger’s “excuse” for failing to be “straight” with Chicago voters.
The Emanuel surrogates further noted that Inspector General Joe Ferguson has conducted 25 performance, program and follow-up audits since 2011, all of which are available on the Internet, and that all 147 tax-increment-financing (TIF) districts are also subject to annual audits.
“It is disingenuous for Mr. Garcia to say, ‘Trust me. Elect me. And we’ll figure out all of that tough math later,’ ” said Reilly, vice chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee.
“This is really an election about who is gonna best manage the city’s fiscal crisis. It’s is not a referendum on personalities. It’s who is gonna protect our city and our investments to keep us moving forward. And I could tell you, based on the lack of specifics by Mr. Garcia, I don’t have the confidence that he knows how to balance a budget. Platitudes do not balance budgets.”
Andrew Sharp, Garcia’s campaign manager, had no immediate comment on Thursday’s political stunt, the second this week on the same subject by the mayor’s allies.
Emanuel’s plan to solve the pension crisis and avert a post-election property tax increase relies heavily on the Illinois General Assembly.
The mayor wants an elusive, publicly owned Chicago casino with all of the revenue used to shore up city and school pensions. He wants to resurrect his 2011 proposal to broaden the sales tax to an array of services not now covered.
And he wants the Legislature to lift the hammer hanging over the city’s head — a state-mandated, $550 million payment to shore up police and fire pensions due in December — and give taxpayers more time to “ramp up” to that balloon payment and similar relief from payments to the teachers pension fund.
“Is it all city-focused solutions? No. Frankly, the city of Chicago will need some help from Springfield in order to avoid this fiscal cliff. And [Emanuel] is being very honest about that. But we have nothing — NOTHING — from Mr. Garcia,” Reilly said.
Obviously referring to Garcia’s promise to hire 1,000 additional police officers and eliminate red-light cameras, Reilly said: “While Mr. Garcia is a good man with a big heart, that big heart is writing checks that we can’t cash.”