Alderman Passes Budget
Aldermen in Chicago on Monday adopted Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $16.4 billion spending plan for the 2023 election year. It was in a vote that was closer than anticipated and demonstrated lingering skepticism about her ability to manage.
They voted 32-18 on the spending plan but divided 29-21 on Lightfoot’s property tax levy after hours of remarks in favor of and against her budget. Many of these focused on the ongoing concern over crime and discussion over the best use of money to prevent city violence.
Lightfoot’s administration created her budget to be as uncontroversial as possible and without a property tax levy rise since municipal elections are now less than four months away, yet in typical Lightfoot administration form, it ended with a series of disputes.
She included a property tax hike in her budget that would have increased with inflation but later withdrew it in an apparent effort to avoid a contentious vote during election season.
Aldermen concentrated on minor points of disagreement after the property tax was removed from the discussion. For instance, Lightfoot came under fire for a proposal she made that would have automatically increased the next mayor’s salary each year in line with inflation, with the option for the mayor to reject the pay increase.
Lightfoot also encountered opposition from aldermen who disapproved of her choice not to establish a Department of the Environment, even though she strongly promoted the notion in 2019. She has praised funding in the budget for a significantly scaled-down Office for Climate and Environmental Equity that only has a few posts.
When Lakeview Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, spoke on the City Council’s floor, it was one of the more notable moments. Tunney is a potential mayoral candidate. He stated he was “pained” that he had to vote no but that he had little alternative due to the city’s capital improvement bonding program being administered poorly and long-standing public safety issues.
Tunney claimed, “My residents don’t feel safe. They don’t believe their investment is worthwhile, and morale among my police personnel is at an all-time low. No matter if it’s on the West Side, South Side, or North Side, you and I both know it.”
One of the aldermen who dissented on Monday used his time to address Lightfoot’s comments from the previous week, in which she said that some aldermen weren’t sufficiently “pro-police” because they didn’t support her budget.
To that, Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward, said the mayor was being “intellectually dishonest and wrong” because he believes he is one of the strongest pro-law enforcement voices on the council. He also described the Chicago Transit Authority as a “dumpster fire” in explaining his “no” vote Before
Before Monday’s vote, Southwest Side Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th Ward, was criticized by Lightfoot on the radio for not supporting her budget and for questioning his support for law enforcement. Reilly is one of the “downtown” aldermen that came under fire from Lightfoot.
In response, O’Shea, who ultimately voted against the measure, scoffed at the idea that he didn’t support law enforcement and countered that her budget proposal doesn’t go far enough to prevent police from stopping work at extravagant rates.
Chicago Tribune: Aldermen pass Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $16 billion election-year budget; crime and policing prominent issues in the debate