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Library cuts and TIF surpluses

Is protecting TIF dollars more important to the chairman of the Chicago Public Library Foundation than protecting branch libraries?

After Mayor Emanuel restored $3 million of a $10 million library budget cut under pressure from aldermen last week, CPL Foundation board chairman Robert A. Wislow issued a statement endorsing the remaining $7 million reduction.

Wislow termed the budget cuts “necessary” and praised Emanuel for “coming up with a thoughtful and creative plan to reduce the impact.”  The “thoughtful and creative plan” was to raise auto sticker fees.

Emanuel’s plan “is the right balance for our children and the city’s budget,” Wislow said in a statement.

At branch libraries, neighborhood supporters were less sanguine.

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Traffic camera concerns

Chicago now has one of the best red light camera deals in the country – and should be careful to maintain that distinction as it adds speed detectors to cameras around schools and parks, according to a new report from Illinois PIRG.

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Alternatives to cuts

With Mayor Emanuel’s budget proposal expected to emphasize austerity with heavy cuts to city services, proposals to bolster revenues — and ensure that sacrifice is truly shared — are gaining traction.

“We’re afraid [the budget] is going to be heavy, heavy, heavy on cuts” including public safety and other city services, with the main impact “on working families and public sector workers,” said Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative, which is holding a “corporate welfare tour” Wednesday morning (see below).

The group’s initiative to return hundreds of millions of TIF funds to the city and other taxing bodies has the most momentum right now.  Seventeen aldermen cosponsored the Responsible Budget Ordinance – which would return 50 percent of surplus TIF dollars from all TIFs with balances over $5 million – and more have signed on since it was introduced last week.

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Mental health groups oppose cuts, privatization

Mental health activists concerned about potential service cuts and privatization will hold a town hall meeting Friday with Chicago Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair.

Mental health providers and consumers will join Choucair on a panel, Friday, August 5, 5:30 p.m., in the Joyce Auditorium of Mercy Hospital, 2525 S. Michigan, 2nd floor.

The groups are demanding to be included in a task force on city-county collaboration formed by Mayor Emanuel and County President Preckwinkle.

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On TIF reform, Bronzeville has ideas

Bronzeville residents turned out in impressive numbers for last Thursday’s public forum of the Mayor’s Task Force on TIF Reform, which was held at the Bronzeville Chicago Military Academy.

Other communities were represented, but more forums in additional communities would certainly offer the task force greater breadth of public input.  But last week’s was the only hearing that is planned.

Bronzeville is one of the city’s most heavily TIFed communities, with thirteen TIF districts covering 80 percent of the area, many created to finance CHA redevelopments – with more in the works had Mayor Daley won the 2016 Olympic games, according to Housing Bronzeville.

Sheila Carter testified on behalf of the group that TIFs have “failed local taxpayers” in their lack of transparency and accountability.  It’s been “virtuallly impossible for local residents to understand how TIF monies were being raised and spent in our area,” she said, suggesting “this confusion and lack of documentation was intentional.”

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Government by sound bite

“This is about sound bites, not good public policy,” AFSCME’s Henry Bayer tells David Moberg at Working In These Times, discussing Mayor Emanuel’s campaign against city workers.

A couple other things it’s not about: actually negotiating with unions over work rule issues, and actually collaborating with city workers on increasing efficiency.

What it does seem to be about, besides bashing unions, is generating headlines; that’s the area where Mayor Emanuel has proven himself particularly adept in his first months in office.

The headlines don’t always correspond to reality.  Read the rest of this entry »

People’s City Council: community perspectives on fiscal crisis

Fifteen hundred community activists from neighborhoods across the city will gather tomorrow evening for a People’s City Council to make sure that the needs of Chicago residents – jobs, housing, education, services and safety – aren’t sacrificed for an agenda driven by corporate greed.

Twenty or more aldermen are expected to attend.

Sponsored by the Grassroots Collaborative and twenty community, labor, and civic groups, the event takes place at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, July 7 at the UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt.

“With all the talk about ‘shared sacrifice,’ we want to make sure that it’s not just community residents sacrificing in terms of service cuts and job losses and their ripple effects,” said Eric Tellez of Grassroots Collaborative.  “We want to make sure the banks and corporations are sharing in the sacrifices and not taking more resources than they need.”

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Place your bets

Renewed talk of a casino in Chicago “appears to be just that – talk,” according to a statement from the Task Force to Oppose Gambling for Chicago.

State Representative Lou Lang of Skokie told Crain’s Greg Hinz that he’s introducing yet another version of legislation to expand gambling; WBEZ reports Mayor Emanuel is lobbying legislative leaders for a casino; and a Sun Times editorial is in favor.

“We have lots of talk from a neophyte mayor and a couple suburban legislators, but it’s the same legislators and the same talk we’ve been hearing for years” said Doug Dobmeyer of the task force.

Now they “want to jam a casino down Chicago’s throat” in the final days of the legislative session, he said.  “That move is a joke that will only undermine the new mayor.”

The politically influential casino industry backs a Chicago casino but not four additional casinos around the state which Lang has proposed, Dobmeyer said.  Leave out the additional sites (as the Sun Times suggests) and you lose downstate support, Lang argues.  In addition, a brand new casino opening in Des Plaines just three weeks from now is not going to look favorably on unexpected competition from Chicago.

“This talk is diverting the city and state from finding legitimate ways to plug deficit holes in their budgets,” Dobmeyer said, enumerating a range of proposals including a financial transaction tax and a city income tax.  He points out that New York City has both.  (More here.)

He said a survey during the recent election campaign showed 28.8 percent of aldermanic candidates supported a casino and 42.8 were opposed.  Some 78 percent of candidates supported a referendum on gambling in Chicago before any legislative action.

A Chicago casino would “draw low-income people and problem gamblers to support the gambling business,” Dobmeyer said. “This disrupts a family’s efforts to educate its children and provide the basics of family life, especially during the recession.”

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        By Stephen Franklin Community Media Workshop   A 3-year-old child died on a plane from Chicago to Poland. This, Magdalena Pantelis instantly knew, was a story her readers would care about. But she needed more detail to write about it for the Polish Daily News, the nation’s oldest daily newspaper in Polish, founded Jan. […]




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