Mayor Emanuel has restored $3,300,000 to the Chicago Public Library (CPL) budget from the larger reduction he initially proposed with the result that 184 people will be laid-off instead of 284 and the branch closures he proposed on Monday and Friday mornings will not apply during the nineteen weeks when schools are not in session. Fran Spielman covered this in the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday, November 5, 2011 (“Rahm to ease library cuts, raise all city sticker fees”).
This is still a terrible blow to the CPL staff. Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey previously indicated that Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget cuts would lead to the layoff of 284 people and the elimination of 268 vacancies. The lay-off would entail twenty-four librarians (including four branch managers and eleven children’s librarians); 112 clerks; and all 146 of the remaining pages.
The mayor’s restoration of some of the funds he proposed to cut means that Library Commissioner Dempsey can save 100 jobs, but 184 of her staff members will be out looking for jobs. Of course, this comes at a time when a lot of other libraries are in similar positions. Maybe some of them can find work at Barnes & Noble or smaller bookshops, but they can’t turn to the other big bookstore chain, Borders, anymore because it’s gone. The CPL staff members lucky enough to keep their jobs will presumably be at least somewhat demoralized to see so many co-workers gone and will have to work harder to pick up the slack.
In the past few years, public sector workers have begun to feel the pain private sector workers have known for decades. There was only so long short-sighted, avaricious politicians could help short-sighted, avaricious businessmen ruin the economy before the ruination of the tax base had the same effect on bureaucrats that wrecking or hollowing out companies had on industrial, service, and retail workers.
Mayor Emanuel is making several other concessions. He is restoring $1,000,000 of the funds he proposed to cut from graffiti removal and the cleanup of vacant lots.
Ms. Spielman noted, “To address aldermanic concerns about struggling parish churches, the mayor is softening the impact of the water and sewer fees he plans to impose for the first time on hospitals, universities, churches and other non-profits. ” Emanuel is still introducing the levy of water and sewer fees on churches, hospitals, universities, and other non-profit organizations that were previously exempt, but now he is planning to phase it in by giving them a 60% “discount” in 2012, a 40% “discount” in 2013, and a 20% “discount” in 2014 so they gradually become acclimated to it until they pay the full amount in 2015.
He will reduce rather than eliminate “the $75-a-year refuse removal rebate paid to condominium owners.” Lakefront aldermen had complained that condo owners pay property taxes, but because city garbage men do not collect their garbage, they have to pay private contractors to haul it away.
Initially, Mayor Emanuel also planned to raise the city vehicle sticker fee by $15 for large vehicles, and to lower the weight threshold for what constitutes a large passenger vehicle from 4,500 pounds to 4,000 pounds, which would have increased the number of vehicles classified as large passenger vehicles by 184,000. City Clerk Susanna Mendoza had objected to this because it would mean mothers and other owners of minivans would see a $60 fee increase when minivans began to be considered large passenger vehicles (whereas people who were driving vehicles already considered large passenger vehicles would be relatively un-phased by a $15 fee increase).
Emanuel no longer plans to lower the weight threshold for large passenger vehicles. Instead, he proposes to increase the fee $10 to $85 for small-to-medium-sized vehicles and $15 to $135 for larger vehicles.
All of the city’s 1,260,000 vehicle owners will have increased sticker fees, with the exception of senior citizens and motorcycle owners. This alternative does not please City Clerk Mendoza, who does not want anyone should be charged higher vehicle sticker fees at the moment. One of her ideas that Emanuel is adopting is her proposal to raise the fine for failure to display a city vehicle sticker from $120 to $200, and the late penalty fee from $40 to $60.
Emanuel made these concessions to win over twenty-six “rebel” aldermen he needed to pass his 2012 budget. Last week, a group of twenty-eight aldermen signed a letter that protested Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget cuts that would affect the CPL, Office of Emergency Management & Communications (OEMC), the Department of Health, and graffiti removal. Fran Spielman wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times last Friday the “mavericks are letting the big stuff slide” (“Aldermanic backlash may help Emanuel”).
They could have focused instead on his proposed closure of three police stations or his proposal to eliminate 1,252 police vacancies or his proposal to double water and sewer fees over a period of four years. They might equally as well have opposed his proposal to raise the hotel tax or his proposal to raise the parking taxes downtown and in River North by $2 a day during the workweek. Emanuel describes the last measure as a “congestion fee.” Ms. Spielman wrote, “Instead of focusing on those big-ticket items, the 28 aldermen drew their line in the sand in areas where Emanuel can compromise more cheaply.”
One alderman told her, “These guys are just being realists. They’ve picked out the things they can influence.” Mayor Emanuel had already restored $200,000 he had proposed to cut from the budget to transport homeless people to shelters on winter nights.
Ms. Spielman noted that Emanuel could find $10,000,000 to $20,000,000 to restore some of the library, healthcare, 911 dispatch, and graffiti removal budget cuts he proposed “by declaring a higher tax-increment-financing surplus; restoring less money to the city’s reserves, or raising fines for a laundry list of offenses even higher than he’s already planning.”