Ward Room
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Emanuel Demands "Ideas, Not Insults" at Second Budget Town Hall

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood his ground Wednesday evening in a sometimes tense town hall meeting with residents on the city's budget.

    Emotions were high even before the meeting began at Malcolm X College, with throngs of SEIU members sporting purple T-shirts to show solidarity for the 72 city traffic aides who were laid off earlier this month.

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    While meeting with his Mayoral Youth Advisory Council, made up of 16- to 23-year-old youths from communities across the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel quickly directed the conversation toward longer school days.

    Many of the members brought red and pink signs cut into the shape of a set of lips. They read: "Read our lips. Let's work."

    The signs never made it inside the sports arena building. They were confiscated at the door, leading some to wonder if the move was a sign of things to come.

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    "The mayor wants us to stand down, and we won't stand down," said SEIU member Shirley Howard.

    Once the second of two town hall's finally got started, the mayor called for calm.

    "I want ideas, not insults," he said. "Insults don't close a $637 million deficit."

    Throughout the evening, Emanuel discussed crime, economic development and potholes. The audience -- with about 700 in the main room and another 300 in an overflow room -- was, for the most part, attentive and respectful.

    But the heat was turned up as teachers took to the microphone.

    "I was at school until 5:30 tonight. I didn't get paid to be there until 5:30," she said, eliciting applause.

    An unphased Emanuel rattled off education victories he's already achieved during his brief time in office.

    And then came the question that many came to hear: why were the traffic aides laid off?

    "I didn't relish the notion of 72 people [losing their jobs], but I had to say, "What is the right choices? What can we accomplish? Can we still do something and accomplish our goal of providing a service to the people that either walk or drive downtown?'" said Emanuel.

    After the meeting, a few dozen supporters crowded the podium and asked for autographs of photos with the mayor.

    The first meeting, held Monday at Kennedy King College, was packed with an estimated 700 people crowding into an overflow room to hear the debate. 

    Emanuel says his intent with the meetings and the ChicagoBudget.org website is to collectively, creatively and openly find ways to fill the city's projected $635 million deficit.

    So far, more than 1,800 ideas have been sent in.

    The mayor presents his 2012 budget in October.