Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel scored a major victory Wednesday afternoon as his first city budget was passed unanimously by the City Council.
All 50 aldermen voted to pass the $6.3 billion budget plan, which includes layoffs, fee hikes and police station closures. Though some residents and aldermen were initially angered by many of the cuts and fee hikes, Emanuel was able to get all of them on board after a few tweaks. During the vote process, many aldermen thanked Emanuel for being willing to negotiate with them on the budget, implying that former Mayor Richard M. Daley had not been so easy to work with.
Though most aldermen expressed reservations about the library cuts, 385 layoffs, mental health clinic closures and increased city sticker and water fees, they ultimately called Emanuel's plan "honest" and many stood to praise the mayor's plan.
Former firefighter and 36th Ward Ald. Nick Sposato told NBC Chicago that he was concerned about cuts in the 911 center and police district closures. As of early Wednesday, he was unsure of how he was going to vote.
"I just think they're spreading them out too thin and they're just going to be too short and we're just opening ourselves up for lawsuits," Sposato said. When it came time to vote, however, Sposato got on board.
"I have never seen a more cooperative effort between the executive and legislative branches of municipal government," longtime 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke said during Wednesday's meeting.
Not everyone is pleased with the new budget, however. A group of protesters gathered outside of Mayor Emanuel's office for several hours Wednesday night, voicing their opposition to the budget, which would close six of the city's 12 mental health clinics and partner the city's neighborhood health clinics with a federal program.
The Chicago Tribune has more on how proposed fee hikes will impact Chicagoans:
Chicagoans who abide by city rules face higher fees for water, vehicle stickers and garage parking.
And woe to city residents who run afoul of the law. Not only are they on the hook for all of the above, they'll also face steeper fines.
Get caught tampering with a water meter? You'll pay as much as $750 instead of just facing the prospect of having the spigot turned off.
Fail to cut your high weeds? Expect to pay up to $1,200 a day instead of $1,000, assuming the inspector is on the lookout.
"No budget anywhere in the world is without controversy or pain," 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post Wednesday. "Chicago is undoubtedly an exceptional city, but not in this case. I voted yes today because it's my responsibility to make tough decisions. We're going to have to grit our teeth and persevere."
Emanuel's budget was also praised by the national media and bond rating agencies, but the Civic Federation, a non-partisan budget watchdog group, has repeatedly expressed concern over the city's underfunded pensions.
“Chicago is not yet out of the woods, but this budget moves the City’s finances in a positive direction,” Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the pain is not over for taxpayers, City workers and public officials."
Read Emanuel's 2012 budget overview here.
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