Watch CBS News

Mayor Gets An Earful At Relatively Calm Final Budget Forum

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There were no disruptions Thursday night during the last of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's three town hall meetings on next year's Chicago city budget, but there wasn't time for much else, either.

Seventy people spoke in 100 minutes during the meeting, at Wright College in the Dunning neighborhood on the Northwest Side. Those who couldn't be succinct were cut off before they had a chance to make their point; but plenty did so, mostly airing a variety of complaints.

A handful of people voiced outrage about a proposal to fill most of next year's budget gap through a $500 million property tax hike.

"You raise the taxes, you'll see a mass exodus of people getting the hell out of this goddamn city," one man shouted.

Earlier in the day, the mayor defended his push for a major property tax hike, acknowledging it would be a tough pill to swallow for taxpayers, but saying it's necessary to shore up police and firefighter pension funds, restore the city's worst-in-the-nation bond rating, and solve the city's long-standing financial crisis.

"This will be, obviously, difficult. And I don't underestimate the difficulty. That's why it's going to be done in the most fair and progressive manner," the mayor said.


The tax increase would mean the average owner of a home valued at $250,000 would pay an extra $500 a year in property taxes.

The property tax hike was not the only source of anger for those who attended Thursday's town hall meeting. Special education teachers and students protested Board of Education budget and staffing cuts.

Only a handful of speakers mentioned the Dyett High School controversy, which predominated at the first two hearings, although special education teacher Sarah Chambers told the mayor, "What that tells me is that the black students of Chicago can shuck and jive for the city of Chicago, but they can't create green technology innovation."

Earlier Thursday, Emanuel announced an art-based solution. Hunger striking parents have demanded a science-based school and vowed to continue their strike.

A handful of 38th Ward residents voiced objections to O'Hare International Airport's new flight patterns, calling on Emanuel to relent and allow diagonal runways to remain in operation. Several speakers said said the sharply-increased taxes and fees expected to be in the 2016 budget would force them to move out of the city.

Speaker Paul Hermann commiserated, saying, "I'm here to tell you, Mister Mayor, that I don't envy you your job."

A few even offered money-raising ideas. One man, a city retiree, suggested using tax increment financing to build a plant that would bottle and sell Chicago tap water.

"It's worth more than gasoline right now," he said.

Emanuel addressed several specific questions and comments, but did not make a general statement on the budget. He delivers his 2016 budget address on Sept. 22.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.