Mayor Rahm Emanuel has once again invited aldermen to share their ideas for generating new revenue to bridge a budget gap approaching $260 million because of his promise to assume $80 million in security costs for the Chicago Public Schools.
On Wednesday, rookie Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) answered the call, but in a way that will require the city to spend $4.5 million upfront to get millions more in return.
Lopez wants to hire enough new employees to give every one of the city’s 50 wards its own officer to enforce quality-of-life violations that routinely go unpunished.
Chicago has a ton of laws on the books that cover everything from home-sharing, illegal parking and panhandling to noise violations, street peddling, failing to shovel snow from the sidewalk in front of your home and operating a business without the proper license.
But the problem is that most of the laws that aldermen pass are unenforced or seldom enforced.
If each ward had one employee assigned to do nothing but write tickets, Chicago neighborhoods would be cleaner and safer and the city could potentially generate many more millions than it costs to hire the new super ticket-writers, Lopez said.
“One of the things expressed to me by my residents time and again is, `Why don’t we enforce the laws on the books? Why don’t we hold individuals in our neighborhoods who flagrantly disobey the law, refuse to pay stickers that apply to everyone else accountable,’ ” Lopez said Wednesday.
“Acting on the laws we’ve created is a better way to generate revenue. The last thing any of us want to do is enact more fees, more tax increases. Especially after residents have voiced their outrage over what they feel is nickel-and-diming them, particularly with the county’s sweetened beverage tax.”
Last year, Chicago faced a $137.6 million shortfall — the city’s smallest in a decade — that did not include the cost of saving the largest of four city employee pension funds.
Six weeks later, Emanuel lowered the boom on Chicago taxpayers by slapping a 29.5 percent tax onto water and sewer bills to shore up the Municipal Employees Pension Fund.
Now, yet another round of tax increases is virtually guaranteed for taxpayers who have already endured a $1.2 billion avalanche of increases for police, fire, laborers, municipal employees and teacher pensions and face an additional $125 million property tax hike for teacher pensions.
Emanuel has promised to seek City Council approval for a 28 percent increase in the monthly tax tacked onto Chicago telephone bills — both cellphones and land lines — to free up money to shore up the Laborers Pension fund well into the next decade.
Other “targeted” taxes and fees are expected. But sources said the mayor plans to tread softly for fear of being targeted by the same taxpayer revolt that has caused County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s approval ratings to plummet.
Preckwinkle is the architect of the sweetened beverage tax, and she cast the tie-breaking vote to pass it. Now, she’s trying to fend off a repeal vote by the Cook County Board scheduled for Oct. 11.