Newly elected Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo said Wednesday he’s hopeful he can work with the city to resolve the pension crisis and deliver a new contract for Chicago Police officers after breaking the ice with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel and Angelo met for breakfast Tuesday, their first face-to-face meeting since Angelo’s victory in a runoff election to replace ousted FOP President Mike Shields, who was a constant thorn in Emanuel’s side.
The two men never talked about the retroactive pay raise that Angelo wants Emanuel to put back on the table as a show of good faith to rank-and-file police officers who don’t trust the mayor.
Instead, they laid the groundwork for a personal relationship to replace the bitterness between Emanuel and Shields that could go a long way toward resolving contract issues and the city’s pension crisis.
“This wasn’t a contract negotiation. This wasn’t a `let’s make a deal’ meeting. It was two guys sitting down, having a cup of coffee and talking about what’s important to them. It was more about the city, our families, his constituents and my constituents,” said Angelo, a third-generation detective on disability.
“I was born and raised here. This town is very important to me. We need to make sure Chicago stays an attractive place to live and visit. We can’t have that international crime-ridden reputation. We’ve got to get a handle on these things. It’s my members who are on the front lines of that separation between the positive and negative as far as crime statistics and reputation of the city go. The mayor told me he respects what police do, their involvement and commitment. I was glad to hear that.”
Emanuel was equally pleased with the personal tone of the meeting with Angelo and the trust that might have been built.
“We talked about our families. [He’s] an immensely proud individual of his four children. . . . He talked about his father, who was a police officer, and the badge number being passed on and his son, who is a police officer, what his daughters are doing in education. I talked about my kids. Then he gave me a book on children,” the mayor said.
“Our first breakfast wasn’t about our contract. And I’ve got to be honest, that’s not where I wanted to start. And I’m proud that Dean came to that meeting with the same spirit of learning about each other first. . . . The one thing we did agree on is, if there was ever an issue, feel free to call each other, work with each other. We both love the city of Chicago. We both are committed to solving our problems, and the spirit of cooperation is very strong.”
Next year, Chicago is required by state law to make a $600 million contribution to stabilize police and fire pension funds that now have assets to cover just 30.5 percent and 25 percent of their respective liabilities.
The mayor wants the General Assembly to put off the balloon payment until 2023 to lift the sword hanging over Chicago taxpayers and give him time to negotiate pension reforms with police and fire unions.
On Wednesday, Angelo again refused to comment on Emanuel’s share-the-pain plan to raise property taxes by $250 million — and increase employee contributions by 29 percent — to shore up the Laborers and Municipal Employees pension funds.
Nor would he say whether he would be willing to let the city ramp up to the $600 million payment, instead of making it in one fell swoop.
He simply said it’s “time to get to work” to deliver the new contract that rank-and-file police officers have been waiting for since June 30, 2012.
“I’m hoping we can reopen lines of communication that were closed before. I got a sense that was a very good possibility when I left the mayor. I got the sense he was willing to meet us and discuss everything. I don’t know what the mayor’s ultimate decision is going to be. But, I’m very hopeful. I’m not gonna close any door. I want every door to be open,” he said.
“I want to get this thing done in a reasonable amount of time, but I’m not gonna rush it, either. There’s a lot at risk. Our members are very concerned — and they should be. The public sector is not being shown in a very positive light here. If taxes go up and the raise is minimal, our members are going backward. So, everything has to be connected. Increased health care. Increased property taxes. We don’t want to lose our raise to increased medical expenses and increased taxes.”
Now that Emanuel is hitting the property tax so hard to save the Municipal and Laborers pension funds, aldermen want a guarantee that he won’t go back to the property tax to save the police and fire pension funds that are in even closer to going belly up.
On Wednesday, Angelo was asked what new revenue ideas he has in mind.
“Let’s get the casino. That would be nice,” he said.
Obviously referring to retroactive pay and the $600 million pension payment, he said, “I’m just hoping we can get a fair shake and take what was off the table before and get it back on the table. I don’t think my members would be very pleased with me if we forgive anything at this stage without seeing what’s on the other side of that forgiveness.”