Blaming political “shenanigans,” progressive aldermen on Monday struck out in their last-ditch attempt to prevent Mayor Rahm Emanuel from giving the CTA and Chicago Public Schools a “blank check” without City Council oversight.
Monday’s Finance Committee’s agenda did not include the amendments championed by Aldermen Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Brendan Reilly (42nd).
When Waguespack demanded an explanation, Finance Chairman Edward Burke (14th) blamed the city clerk’s office.
“I’m told by the chief administrative officer that we did not receive the documents from the clerk’s office in sufficient time to put them on the agenda,” Burke said.
“I can only tell you what my staff is telling me. I don’t have any personal knowledge.”
Waguespack demanded to know where the breakdown occurred.
“Are we assuming that the city clerk’s office is not doing their job to get that on the agenda?” Waguespack told Burke.
“I heard it read into the record at the City Council meeting. I assume that it automatically goes to the committee that was designated . . . Is there a failure to transmit? . . . Would that be an error by the city clerk?”
Reilly was equally frustrated after overcoming an earlier breakdown just to get one of the amendments introduced.
“We were told the clerk’s office had lost one of these in their piles of paperwork and, therefore, was unable to read it into the record, despite the fact we submitted it 30 minutes before the end of Council. That was rectified after some conversations with the clerk’s office,” Reilly said.
Kate KeFurgy, a spokesperson for the clerk’s office, denied that the breakdown, if there was one, occurred in the clerk’s office.
“The Committee on Finance picked up the documents last Thursday, which included the two amendments,” LeFurgy said.
“All the information was posted on our website and readily available for pick up from our office within 24 hours of” last Wednesday’s Council meeting.
Emanuel wants to raise ride-hailing fees by 15 cents a ride next year and by another nickel in 2019 and ship the $16 million and $21 million in annual revenues during those years to the CTA to bankroll $180 million in capital improvements.
And he wants to send $80 million to the Chicago Public Schools to pay for security, Safe Passage and after-school programs, with $66 million of that money coming from a tax-increment financing surplus.
The remaining $14 million would come from the corporate fund.
The amendments championed by Waguespack and Reilly would have stricken from the budget language empowering the mayor to enter into intergovernmental agreements with those agencies needed to execute the fund transfers.
The move was an attempt to force Emanuel to grant aldermen “oversight and some type of input into how the money at both CPS and CTA would be spent,” Waguespack has said.
On Monday, Reilly acknowledged that the amendments were long-shots. But, they deserved a chance to be debated.
“Today was the last opportunity for aldermen to consider changes to the 2018 budget and…we were denied that opportunity. I’d like to know who we can thank for that,” he said.
Burke told Reilly, “I apologize, alderman. I don’t know what to tell you.”
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) joined in the “disappointment”–no matter who was to blame.
“These types of shenanigans that go on [are] very suspect and, I do believe, politically motivated,” Hairston said.
“How convenient it is to lose something that should be debated by the Council that does deal with taxpayers’ dollars.”
Emanuel has called the ride-hailing fee hike a bold and innovative way to fill the void created by the Illinois General Assembly’s failure to approve a capital plan.
Reilly has countered that the city could raise the fee, keep the $16 million and use it to hire more inspectors, offer “more competitive salaries to finally fill” psychiatrist vacancies and add “mental health professionals” to the team assisting the chronically homeless.
Or, the city could “bank the money and keep it in reserve” for the dramatic increase in pension payments due to “ramp up” in a few years, he said.