Chicago aldermen are expected to give Mayor Rahm Emanuel his first budget vote victory Wednesday, but it doesn’t come without protest.
A sit-in that developed outside the mayor’s fifth floor office capitalizes on both the Occupy movement and those upset with proposed cuts to mental health centers in Chicago.
The mayor plans to eliminate six of the city’s 12 mental health centers over the next year.
The City Hall protestors are holding signs that read: “Rahm’s Psych Ward” and “Rahm Have a Heart." The group wants to meet with the mayor before Wednesday’s budget vote to discuss ways to save the mental health centers.
Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) said he doesn't like the idea of eliminating social services.
"I'm concerned with those that are the most vulnerable of our citizens ... and we've got to make sure that they're cared for, accounted for, and we have to be responsible for [them]," Fioretti sad. "Government's taking a change in terms of the economic headwinds that we're faced with, and we have to still preserve what government does for people, and at the same time we have to streamline what government should be doing for the future."
In a statement, Emanuel's office said it "supports the rights of the protestors to exercise their First Amendment rights and voice their opinions."
"The Administration is firmly committed to providing Chicago residents with the highest level of patient care across all of our programs, including mental health services. The budget proposal would allow the City to partner with community providers, delivering needed services at a lower cost while still maintaining a high level of care for uninsured patients and those most in need within their own neighborhoods and communities, and the Administration is putting an additional $500,000 towards psychiatric services, a top priority expressed by mental health providers," said spokeswoman Tarrah Cooper.
While the mayor's budget is expected to pass with the same rubber stamp as previous administrations, some aldermen who are new to the budget process aren't toeing the line.