While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's second town hall meeting this week was reportedly less heated than a Monday meeting where Emanuel was briefly booed by laid-off city workers, the general mood was still one of agitation at a Malcolm X College meeting Wednesday evening.
While the meeting was, again, intended to discuss residents' ideas to address the city's massive budget shortfall, laid-off traffic aides and aggravated teachers were again successful in stealing attention away from Emanuel's intended focus on "ideas, not insults" because "[i]nsults don’t solve $635 million deficits," as the Chicago Sun-Times reports the mayor said Wednesday.
One teacher in attendance questioned how Emanuel plans to fund his long-promised longer school day when "when we don’t have money for Kleenex in my school," according to the Sun-Times. In response, the mayor pointed out that he and Chicago Public Schools head Jean-Claude Brizard had actually offered 2 percent pay raises to elementary school teachers in exchange for their longer work day -- an offer the Chicago Teachers Union declined -- while "school systems in Detroit literally cut salaries" by 10 percent. This point elicited boos from the audience.
Oft-controversial tax-increment financing (TIF) districts were the subject of another question offered by a representative of the Chicago-based Grassroots Collaborative. According to WBEZ, the collaborative's Ashley Moy-Wooten asked the mayor why TIF funding is often awarded to larger corporations and whether he would "commit to shutting down these downtown TIFs?"
Emanuel reportedly made no promises in response, but said it was "wrong" for large corporations to receive the funding while other neighborhoods struggle. The mayor pointed to his TIF reform task force as an example of how he "created a new standard that we finally have," WBEZ notes.
"I can’t reverse the past," the mayor noted, not so subtly referencing the TIF policies of past city leadership. "I have to shape the future."
Union activists representing SEIU on hand at the town hall were not amused when their signs cut in the shape of a set of lips -- reading "Read our lips. Let's work." -- were confiscated at the door, according to NBC Chicago.
The packed meeting attracted some 700 attendees, plus another 300 people who watched the event from an overflow room, WGN reports.
Emanuel is due to release his city budget in mid-October and is still taking ideas through ChicagoBudget.org, a site which has attracted just over 2,000 submissions to date.