Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 22-year aversion to raising property taxes kept them unrealistically low compared to surrounding suburbs and laid the groundwork for Chicago’s $28 billion pension crisis.
Now, the former mayor’s brother is promising more of the same, at least for one year, maybe more, even with a looming, $1 billion spike in pension payments.
The pledge to freeze property taxes is the cornerstone of Bill Daley’s first television commercial of the mayoral campaign.
Daley has taken an overwhelming lead in fundraising, with $2.7 million; the next-highest is Gery Chico’s nearly $1.2 million.
Now, Daley’s putting it to use by becoming only the second candidate to hit the television airwaves, joining millionaire businessman Willie Wilson.
“All I can deal with right now is the first year. … I’m not gonna give you a blanket guarantee that it’s forever,” Daley said Thursday.
“A lot of people say, `In the end, you can go to property taxes. That’s not where we should start here, folks. … Hopefully after the first year, the legislature will have acted.”
Richard M. Daley had a phobia to property tax increases. He raised them only twice in 22 years; the total increase was under two percent.
Meanwhile, a report he commissioned outlining the magnitude of the pension crisis that pushed Chicago to the financial brink sat on a shelf, gathering dust.
On Thursday, Bill Daley acknowledged his brother’s decision to steer clear of raising property taxes and punt the pension crisis set the stage for a $1.2 billion avalanche of property tax increases under Emanuel made worse by skyrocketing assessments.
“He obviously kept them low for reasons that he had. The City Council and the unions and everyone went along with it, OK? We’re in a different situation today. We have to approach things differently. Decisions made 10, 20, 30 years ago — God bless all the people who were in those decisions. That’s not my interest right now,” he said.
“Those who wish that property taxes had been raised for the last 50 years, that’s their business. I’m saying at this point going forward, here’s what I believe. … If you want to deal with the past every time we talk, that’s fine. All I’m saying is this is what I believe. This is what I want to do.”
Ever since his speech last week to the City Club of Chicago, Daley has been hammered by mayoral rivals and newspaper editorials alike for opening the door to a commuter tax on suburbanites to solve the pension crisis.
Emanuel has emphatically and repeatedly ruled out a commuter tax for fear it would put the kibosh on his widely-acclaimed efforts to lure corporate headquarters downtown.
Richard M. Daley also opposed a commuter tax.
Bill Daley didn’t flinch, in spite of the heat he took.
“Fine, I’ll get hammered for a lot of things. I don’t mind being hammered if we make some progress on some of these issues that are presenting some enormous problems for the city going forward,” he said.
He added: “There’s a whole host of reasons why we’re in the mess. Every mayor, every governor, every legislator through the whole history. The pension problem today is worse than it was eight years ago [when Emanuel took office]. So it’s nobody’s fault. It’s everybody’s fault. Now’s the time we’ve got to all see this as a crisis and deal with it.”
Chico accused Daley of following an “ill-conceived” commuter tax proposal that would “spark a guaranteed commuter war” with an “irresponsible property tax freeze” that would “hurt low-income and working families” by locking in a tax structure that benefits the rich and super-rich.
“We shouldn’t be freezing property taxes for everyone. We should be forcing the wealthiest and owners of skyscrapers to pay their fair share, while lowering taxes for low-income and citizens living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Chico said in a statement.
Daley’s TV commercial is part of what he calls a “healthy” pre-Christmas buy.
The spot features Daley talking to white, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters in both video and still photos. The words, “PROPERTY TAX FREEZE” appear twice in capital letters. The words, “Stop GUNS. Stop GANGS,” appear once.
“Let’s get real, Chicago. Crime and taxes are up while fancy buildings rise inside the Loop. Families are being driven out of our neighborhoods every day,” an announcer says.
“Bill Daley has spent his whole life in Chicago. It’s in his blood. He knows Chicago only thrives when all our 77 neighborhoods thrive. Bill will put a moratorium on tax hikes to keep families in our homes. And he’ll make getting guns and gangs off our streets priority number one. Bill Daley. No more excuses.”