'Illinois Rising' hosts rip self-satisfied Chicago City Council's budget
Two Chicago-area talk radio hosts offered a bitterly comical take on City Council's celebration of its recently passed balanced budget, saying some serious issues weren't mentioned the day it passed.
"We could talk to death about all the problems Chicago has," Austin Berg, writer for the Illinois Policy Institute, told Illinois Rising host Dan Proft. "Even if Chicago was this gleaming metropolis, you would have a serious problem with the way that these budgets get passed year after year."
Berg also was the screenwriter of the recently released documentary "Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics," released earlier this fall.
"And you know I know it's great news because Tiny Dancer said so," Proft quipped, referring to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel by a popular nickname the mayor reportedly hates.
"'You can say Chicago tomorrow is better because of the work you have done over the last five years', Rahm Emanuel told the assembled trained seals," Proft said. "A very touching moment: Alderman Ed Burke, the dean of the city council, if you will, said, 'I'm even seeing smiles on the faces of my colleagues, which makes us feel very, very confident that this is not only a good budget, but that it is looking very, very good for Chicago's future.'"
Burke was a guest on the Sept. 16 edition of Chicago's Morning Answer, on which Proft is a co-host. Burke, 73, is the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history, first elected to City Council in 1969. Burke represents the 14th Ward in the city's southwest section. The Chicago Sun-Times calls him the city's most powerful alderman. Burke chairs City Council's Finance Committee, presides over the Cook County Democratic Party's judicial slate-making and is the husband of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.
Chicago City Council passed its budget in a celebratory mood on Nov. 16, saying little about the consequences from this budget, the duo said.
"The average family is going to pay about $1,700 more a year in taxes than they did before Mayor Emanuel took office," Berg said.
The new budget also includes a water and sewer rate increase, in addition to a new garbage hauling fee, a 911 phone tax hike, a vehicle sticker fee increase and a cable TV tax.
Not all of the city's aldermen were ready to celebrate.
"We shouldn't be running around giving high-fives until we're clearly on a path to solvency," Alderman Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward was quoted as saying in the Chicago Tribune’s coverage after the budget vote.
Proft responded with a more comedic observation.
"Can you really put a price, though, on a happy alderman?" Proft said. "Smiles on the faces of Ed Burke and his colleagues -- isn't that what's important?"
Proft also provided a list of other items he didn't hear about in the city's new budget. Proft said he heard nothing about police and fire pensions, which he said are less than 30 percent funded and headed toward insolvency.
"I didn't hear anything about the state of public safety in Chicago that has more murders, in raw numbers, than L.A. and New York combined in 2016," Proft said. "I didn't hear anything about the Chicago Public Schools system, other than Chicago public school property taxes will increase by $245 million in 2017, with most of that money not going to the classrooms, but to the Chicago teachers pension fund. I did hear that. So that's what I heard, but is the quality of life in Chicago getting better as the result of all of these noblemen and magistrates coming together to agree on the way in which Chicago denizens will be fleeced?"
"Among aldermen, I think the quality of life is as high as it has ever been," Berg said.
"I don't think so, and I would submit exhibit A: They did not get face-value World Series tickets," Proft said, referring to some aldermen's complaints during the World Series that they had to pay more than face value for tickets during the World Series at Wrigley Field games.