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Afternoon Edition: Oct. 21, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivers the 2021 budget address during a virtual Chicago City Council meeting this morning.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 56 degrees. Tonight will be rainy, with a high around 48 degrees. Tomorrow will be rainy and warm, with a high near 74 degrees.

Top story

Lightfoot’s pandemic budget includes annual increase in property taxes tied to inflation rate

Chicago homeowners and business owners struggling to hold onto their property will have to endure not only a $94 million property tax increase but also an annual property tax hike every year forward tied to the rate of inflation.

That was among the unpleasant surprises today as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $12.8 billion “pandemic budget” for 2021 landed like a thud in an otherwise empty City Council chambers.

Lightfoot called the property tax increase “modest” in her prepared remarks.

“Some had predicted that this budget would be predicated on hundreds of millions of dollars in new property taxes. Not so. And for the average Chicago home valued at $250,000, you will pay just $56 additional dollars a year. That’s right, just $56 new dollars per year. “

Chicago aldermen weren’t in their seats to show their discontent to a budget that rivals former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2015 plan to raise property taxes by $588 million for police and fire pensions and school construction.

“During this horrible pandemic, every time that we have shown strength as a city is when we have worked together as partners, making shared sacrifices and facing the challenges head-on, together,” the mayor said in her prepared remarks.

The shutdown forced by COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the economy, creating an $800 million gap in this year’s budget and a $1.2 billion hole in the city’s 2021 budget.

Lightfoot outlined some of the damage: a 77.5% decline in the hotel tax; a 49.5% decline in the amusement tax; ground transportation tax down 47.8%; parking taxes down 48%; motor vehicle fuel tax down 48.5%; and the city’s share of the sales tax down 35%.

Without naming Emanuel, the Lightfoot administration is pointing to that doubling of Chicago’s property tax levy as evidence for why the city now needs an automatic escalator tied to the consumer price index to avoid massive jumps. City sticker fees and water and sewer rates already are tied to the rate of inflation.

The document states that Chicago’s property tax levy was frozen “for the greater part of two decades” and, therefore, did not “proportionately grow with the city’s economy. And even with the massive 2015 increase for police and fire pensions and school construction, Chicago still has “the lowest residential property tax rate in Cook County, with an effective tax rate of 1.74 percent.”

“In an effort to avoid another sudden, large property tax increase, the city has included a consumer price index (CPI) increase to begin with the 2021 levy and for each year thereafter,” the city’s supporting document states.

In all, the mayor’s budget includes $185 million in tax increases.

Read Fran Spielman’s report for a full budget breakdown.

More news you need

  1. The coronavirus claimed more lives than it has on any other day in Illinois over the past four months, as public health officials today attributed 69 additional deaths to COVID-19. The previous high was 84 deaths recorded June 17, as the state was descending from the pandemic’s initial peak.
  2. A Frankfort dentist who’d been flying for 40-plus years died after the single-engine plane he was piloting crashed yesterday evening in the south suburbs. Lawrence Jagmin, 70, crashed on the ramp from Illinois 394 to Lincoln Highway in Ford Heights.
  3. Fourteen years after Kazakhstan journalist Borat came to America to make a documentary about our great nation, he’s back in the USA — older, dumber, far more famous and arguably even more politically incorrect and offensively funny than he was in 2006. Read film critic Richard Roeper’s full review of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”

A bright one

Stripped of citizenship in Myanmar, Rohingya immigrants find new home in Chicago — and a chance to vote for the first time

On Tuesday, Abdul Jabbar Amanullah completed a long journey that he said he could never envision as a Rohingya child growing up in Myanmar — at the ballot box as an American voter.

In 1982, a few years before Amanullah was born, Myanmar stripped the Muslim-minority Rohingya of citizenship, rendering them effectively citizens of nowhere. They also were stripped of their rights to vote, work and seek education and health care.

Growing up in that atmosphere — the United Nations describes the Rohingya as among the most persecuted people in the world — Amanullah’s goal was to escape. In neighboring Malaysia, he fared poorly, getting arrested 10 times after entering illegally.

Rehana Ahmed, right, helps Abdul Jabbar Amanullah, left, who is voting for the first time, navigate the voting machine at an early voting site in West Rogers Park.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

But his fortunes changed in 2012, when, with the help from the U.N., Amanullah, 35, legally moved to Chicago, now home to about 2,000 Rohingya, making the city home to the largest Rohingya population in the United States.

Shortly after, Amanullah began working at the Rohingya Cultural Center in West Ridge, where he is now a senior case manager. In 2018, Amanullah became a U.S. citizen, paving the way for Tuesday, when he voted for the first time in his life.

Before voting, however, Amanullah drove about a dozen other Rohingya community members in a van to the polling station at Warren Park, so all of them could vote for the first time, including his wife, Rehana Ahmed, whom he married two years ago in Chicago.

“I’m so excited and proud of this country,” Amanullah said after casting his vote and walking out of the polling place. “I feel like I have a future now.”

Read the full story here.

From the press box

The Blackhawks may be entering a rebuild, but they expect to keep Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith for the ride. GM Stan Bowman said he recently had a Zoom call with those three and Brent Seabrook about the direction of the franchise.

And Bears kicker Cairo Santos was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after making three field goals, including a 55-yarder, against Carolina. Santos recently spoke with Patrick Finley about the changes he made to get his derailed NFL career back on track.

Your daily question ☕

What do you think of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “pandemic budget” announced today?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What’s your favorite Chicago building, and why? Here’s what some of you said…

“The ‘Sears Tower’ or Willis Tower. It’s where I had my first real job in 1979. Some floors weren’t occupied then and I would go to vacant areas to eat my lunch on the upper floors and on a clear day I could see all the way to Milwaukee! It was the tallest building in the world at that time and it was always bustling with activity in the entrance lobby.” — John Owens

“The Wrigley Building is the most beautiful building in the city. I love its classic design.” — Judy Gerretsen

“Carbide and Carbon by a long shot.” — Sam Eadie

“Monadnock. Like stepping back in time, but looks pristine.” — Will Baro

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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